Last week, I did a preview of the UFC 284 main event between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski. I predicted that Islam would win by unanimous decision after dominating Volk on the ground. I was correct, with all three judges scoring the contest in Islam’s favor. But I wasn’t totally spot on with how it happened.
Volkanovski’s Impenetrable Defense
Like I predicted, when Islam got Volk to the ground, he was able to throw in enough submission attempts to keep the Australian on edge. This is how Islam was able to secure the win; taking Volk down and keeping him there. However, Volk was a massive threat to the lightweight champ while standing up, connecting on several significant strikes and seeming to deal more damage than Makhachev overall. But how did he keep Islam on the feet? It was his mastery of defense, which I severely underestimated.
While standing, Volk repeatedly showcased his uppercut. He never threw it, but he kept reminding Islam that the threat was there. This prevented Islam from shooting for double or single-leg takedowns, a move that leaves its user particularly vulnerable to the uppercut. As a result, Islam struggled in finding opportunities.
Even when Makhachev wrestled Volk against the cage, it was extremely difficult for him to gain leverage on the stout Australian. His upper body strength was usually too much for Islam to break through. Of course, Makhachev is at this stage for a reason, and he was able to find ways to get him on the ground. But it happened far less than I predicted.
The Controversy of the Decision
Makhachev won the decision by taking Volk down enough and being a massive submission threat more than once. And yet, many are saying that Volk was robbed. They believe that because he did more damage overall that he deserved the decision. Some were saying it at least should have ended in a tie. Here’s why both of those takes are wrong.
UFC fights are scored by round. If the judges believe you were the better overall fighter in the round, you win that round. What happens in the other rounds has no bearing on the round you won (unless you’re finished, of course). If you win the majority of the rounds, you win the fight. Although Volkanovski did more overall damage, he won too few rounds to take the decision.
Even when Volk did beat Makhachev, however, he wasn’t quite able to dominate like Makhachev did on the ground. He connected on far more strikes than Islam, sure, but the only time the lightweight champ looked in serious trouble was in the fifth round.
Now compare that to Islam’s ground game. He had Volk on the edge of defeat more than once. Volk had to fight Makhachev’s hands with everything he had in order to prevent him from getting a choke in. To the judges, such attempts are comparable to dealing damage on the feet. Makhachev’s scary-close submission attempts were more plentiful than Volk’s truly devastating blows.