Analyzing Volkanovski v Makhachev: Did the Judges Make the Correct Decision?
The UFC roadshow headed to Perth in Australia for its 284th edition. The RAC Arena was the location for a spectacular night of world class Mixed Martial Arts, and a number of top fighters were on show.
At the top of the bill was a lightweight championship battle between the defending title holder Islam Makhachev and the challenger Alexander Volkanovski. The battle ended in victory by decision for Makhachev but not everyone was on board with the outcome.
As the defending champion, there was a lot of support for Islam Makhachev in the build up to the fight on February 12th. While a tough challenge was expected, the Russian started as the favourite in the UFC betting markets.
Both men went into the contest with exceptional records and a tight battle was always going to be on the cards. Champion Makhachev approached the contest with an almost perfect record of 23 wins from 24 previous MMA fights.
Prior to this UFC title showdown, Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski was looking forward to the support from a noisy home crowd. He had also lost just one contest in an MMA career that stretched back over 26 fights.
The bout was as close as it had promised and that was reflected in the judges’ scoring. Although the decision was unanimous, there was little to split the two men on the final cards.
The first two judges declared at 48-47 in favour of Makhachev. The final judge also came down on the side of the defending champion, but the margin was greater at 49-46. The verdict was confirmed, and Islam Makhachev had successfully retained his title, but the story was far from over.
(UFC 284 Fight Highlights)
An Unfair Advantage?
There was discussion over the final decision, but the controversy concerning Volkanovski v Makhachev appears to have started before the fight. The defending champion has since been accused of using an illegal hydration method in his preparation.
The claims come from another UFC lightweight fighter Dan Hooker who stated that the Russian had used IV therapy which has been banned since 2015. The story originally circulated from Hooker’s Twitter account and the doubts have subsequently been echoed by Alexander Volkanovski.
That story will continue to do the media rounds, but that’s only the beginning of the controversy concerning the Volkanovski v Makhachev fight.
Not a Crowd Pleaser
When the decision was announced, the RAC arena descended into a crescendo of boos. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that Volkanovski is Australian and was fighting in front of his home crowd.
However, concern over the outcome has extended to neutral MMA fans who believe that the judges picked the wrong man. UFC legend Nate Diaz was one of those who publicly denounced the verdict. Diaz said that Makhachev was getting whooped, and he later went on to Twitter to congratulate Volkanovski on his performance.
Nate Diaz wasn’t the only dissenting voice. Others simply felt that the challenger was the better fighter and that the judges had come down on the side of the wrong man. Across the bout, the champion was certainly on the back foot. Perhaps the 48-47 scorecards are understandable, but it’s tough to see how the third judge could possibly have given Alexander Makhachev a 3-point advantage.
In the immediate aftermath of the title fight, the disputes will continue. The judges’ decision is, however, final and there’s only one way to end the debate moving forward.
Second Time Around
The disputed conclusion to the Volkanovski v Makhachev fight means that there will almost certainly be a follow up. In the wake of his loss, challenger Volkanovski called for an immediate rematch and his opponent seemed willing to take up the gauntlet.
Assuming that the second contest between these two fighters is confirmed, could we expect to see a different outcome?
Any future contest should certainly be a tight one and the scoring may be as close as the UFC 284 showdown. Both men now have virtually identical records with just three defeats between them over substantial MMA careers.
As the champio, Islam Makhachev is likely to start as the favourite once again, but he can expect another serious challenge.
If, as many neutrals believe, Alexander Volkanovski was the true winner of the initial contest, he should do little to change his approach. Another attack from the first bell could put his opponent on the back foot and then it’s up to the judges.
The issue with that strategy lies in those judges and their ability to make the right call. Volkanovski may not want to leave it to chance next time, and, in all probability, he’ll aim for an early finish via knockout or submission.
It’s a rematch that all MMA fans will want to see and the controversy surrounding the original fight will make Volkanovski v Makhachev II unmissable.