There’s no question that Aussie fans brought the energy to UFC 284. The first show for the world’s largest MMA promotion ‘Down Under’ in two-and-a-half years (the UFC also had a show in New Zealand in 2020), meant fans sold out the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia at lightning speed. There was lots of cheering, more than a few shoeys, and some raucous celebrations for Jack Della Maddalena, Justin Tafa, and Joshua Culibao among others.
When things got to the main event, however—and an extremely closely contested five round fight between lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and Aussie featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski—it seems the crowd got a little more hostile. Alexander ‘The Great’ wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision loss to the Dagestani 155 lb. king. The bout that mostly came down to a difficult to parse second round, where both men landed the exact same number of strikes and had almost the same amount of control, but where the New South Wales native also got wobbled by a heavy hook to tip the scales toward his opponent. It didn’t help for fans, though, that after four razor thin rounds of competitive fighting, Volkanovski ended the fight dominating Makhachev for the last couple minutes with brutal ground and pound.
When Bruce Buffer read out the final decision, things got a little hairy. Not just for the fighters in the Octagon, but even for the UFC broadcast team—as Jon Anik revealed in a recent interview with MMA Fighting.
“After the decision was announced is the first time that I’ve ever—I’m sure it’s not the first time people have thrown stuff in our direction—[but] it’s the first time I’ve ever been hit with a burger and fries on the back. And it certainly felt a lot heavier than french fries,” Anik said of the post-fight fan reactions.
“On the Anik & Florian podcast, we tried to lead the dance with the technical stuff and the fight itself as opposed to the scorecards. But, when so much is at stake, I understand why people who are emotional and passionate have their opinions. And I think the sport, at its highest level, is so close. And the elite fights between elite fighters oftentimes are the ones that are the most hotly contested.
“There’s any number of different directions in which we could go. The pound-for-pound discussion is largely a cosmetic one. I do believe that the next fights for Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski are bigger, and I would say in terms of the [UFC 284 fight’s] heightening expectations, you could argue it exceeded them.”
As for what’s next? Even though Volkanovski and Makhachev both appear to have strong no. 1 contenders waiting in the wings right now, Anik admits that he would “strike while the iron is hot” and go for the rematch.
“You can sort of split hairs when it comes to the weight and the size and everything else, but I think it’s gonna be a very competitive rematch. I think the betting line is going to be significantly closer the second time around; I think the stock for both gentlemen goes up certainly.”
That’s absolutely the drum that Volkanovski has been beating, telling Ariel Helwani shortly after the event that Yair Rodriguez can “hold that flag until I’m there,” and defend his interim title if he wants to stay active. Whether or not that’s the way the UFC decides to go in the face of other fight opportunities remains to be seen.