Alexander Volkanovski has fallen short in his bid to become the first Australian to simultaneously hold two UFC titles, losing to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in Perth.
In front of a raucous sold-out crowd at RAC Arena on Sunday, Volkanovski could not overcome Russian grappler Makhachev in a headline fight which went the distance across five rounds.
Makhachev achieved multiple takedowns and withstood a final-round barrage to claim a unanimous points victory and seize the UFC’s No 1 pound-for-pound ranking.
Wollongong-based featherweight champion Volkanovski had been vying to become just the fifth UFC fighter to hold two titles at once. It is his first defeat in the Octagon and just the second in a professional career in which he has notched 25 wins.
Volkanovski was humble in defeat. Although the Perth crowd largely booed the victor after he was awarded victory, Volkanovski urged the fans to pay tribute to him.
“A lot of people are going to be happy with that, because they didn’t give me a chance,” Volkanovski said. “But I gave myself a chance. I was expecting to win.
“But it was a fun fight. Maybe I could have capitalised on some positions a bit more, I left it a little late, but what do you do,” the Australian reflected. “He didn’t respect my wrestling grappling, and maybe I didn’t respect his striking enough either, because he landed some shots.”
Makhachev won the fight fair and square, but the RAC Arena crowd was upset to see the local hero defeated in front of his home crowd and made their displeasure known. A cacophony of boos rang out among the 14,000 fans as the Russian’s arm was lifted to signal the result via unanimous decision.
Although Volkanovski stepped in to ask the crowd to show respect, the jeers only grew in volume when it was suggested Makhachev was now the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
“Thank you Alex, thank you. It was a very good fight,” he said. “I showed why I am No.1. They have to improve more. You like, or you don’t like, I am best fighter in the world right now.”
Hometown welterweight Jack Della Maddalena earlier brought the house down with a first-round submission victory over American Randy Brown.
Rising star Della Maddalena needed just two minutes 13 seconds to claim victory, knocking Brown to the ground with a fierce blow before applying a rear-naked chokehold which forced his opponent to tap.
The 26-year-old has scored first-round victories in each of his first four UFC bouts.
Yair Rodriguez dominated Josh Emmett in an interim featherweight title bout which establishes the Mexican as the No.1 contender to challenge Volkanovski once he drops back down in weight to defend his belt.
Brisbane heavyweight Justin Tafa needed just over a minute to knock out Parker Porter, while light heavyweight compatriot Jimmy Crute fought out an entertaining majority draw with America’s Alonzo Menifield.