Islam Makhachev declared that he is the best fighter in the world right now after beating Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 and it is hard to argue with him.
The UFC lightweight champion defended his belt against the featherweight champ in a super fight in Perth, Australia, with Makhachev claiming a unanimous decision win in a thrilling contest.
Volkanovski was a distant underdog with the bookmakers as he took on the larger man but acquitted himself brilliantly and pushed the Russian hard throughout, knocking him down and coming close to pulling off the upset in the final round.
It was the 155lb champ that retained his belt, though, with the judges scoring the fight 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 in his favour and he also claims Volkanovski’s spot at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings in the process.
He takes his record to an incredible 24-1 and puts himself at the pinnacle of the sport.
‘Everyone was waiting for an easy fight, but 13,000km from my country, best fighter in the world, in his area. I know it’s not going to be an easy fight but I beat him with an unanimous decision,’ Makhachev told ESPN.
‘I knew it was not going to be an easy fight. Last round he landed a good punch but all other rounds, in my opinion, I win. It was a good fight, I improved a lot, I’ve never fought five rounds, so it’s good experience.
‘This guy is so strong and his style is a little bit different, how he moves, fast and how he’s strong. He’s improved a lot on the ground with his defence. It was a good fight and for sure a big experience for me
‘Right now I am the best fighter. People may like this or don’t like, but I am the best fighter in the world right now.’
Makhachev did get the better of the grappling exchanges, as expected, but he was also impressive on the feet, landing sharp shots which stung the Australian.
Volkanovski did well not to be dominated on the ground, though, getting back to his feet impressively a number of times and always looking to push the pace.
He came up short, but it was a tremendous effort and next for him will be Yair Rodriguez after the Mexican won the interim featherweight title by submitting Josh Emmett.
‘Nothing wrong with challenging yourself, I’m a better fighter because of this,’ said Volkanovski. ‘The featherweights better f***ing watch out because you challenge yourself like this, it only makes you stronger.
‘The reason I had to push myself because I knew how good Islam was, he is as good as you were saying.
‘I pulled up short tonight, congrats to Islam, great fighter, maybe we’ll settle pound-for-pound number one again.’
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