Fight fans were tuned in Saturday night for the main event at UFC 284. Sambo expert and UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev faced off against Jiu-Jitsu black belt and UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski. Alex “The Great” stepped up to face Islam at lightweight but fell short of becoming a two-division champion after a controversial judges decision victory.
Similar to when Islam fought Charles Oliveira in October, submission grapplers wanted to see if their particular discipline would prevail. Locked inside a cage, a Sambo expert faced off against Jiu-Jitsu black belt at the highest levels of fighting.
The Sambo crew from Dagestan aimed to continue to make a mockery of Jiu-Jitsu. As they have not been silent about their thoughts on Jiu-Jitsu black belts’ abilities. Islam stated “we have to cancel many black belts” in an interview with Daniel Cormier last year. And we all know the notorious quote from Kabib on BJJ.
If Sambo was easy, it would be called Jiu-Jitsu.Kabib N
Islam may have won the fight on Saturday, but we also saw Alex “the Great” prove that Jiu-Jitsu belonged. Alex trained his grappling with ADCC silver medalist Craig Jones in preparation for the fight. Craig was hopeful his fellow Aussie could pull off a submission victory but was satisfied with Alex’s performance.
So proud of this guy. Win or lose he just proved everyone wrong. Australians can wrestleCraig Jones, Instagram
The Sambo guys from Dagestan aren’t the only ones with views on submission grappling arts. Craig recently expressed his views on Sambo as well.
A lot of Sambo guys are terrified of heel hooks. In Sambo, you can only kneebar, and I believe you can do it like a straight ankle Achilles lock, no heel hooks. Terrified of it. So, I could definitely see Volk submitting him very quickly with a heel hook.Craig Jones, Submission Radio
Makhachev, who has struggled with making weight in the past, weighed in at 155 pounds on the scale for his first scheduled title defense. Makhachev’s journey to the weigh-in scales was not an easy one, as he was visibly overcome with emotion when the officials declared he had made weight. Islam literally had tears streaming down his cheeks as happiness and relief hit hard when he officially made weight.
Volkanovski was 154.5 pounds for his move up in weight to challenge for a second belt. Alex did not have to cut much, as his normal fight week walk-around weight is usually around 162 lbs. Anyone who has grappled with a larger opponent understands the advantage that extra weight and muscle can provide. Islam certainly won the size category as he was clearly the much larger opponent.
Islam is a prodigy student of Kabib Nurmagoedov who was not in his corner having announced his retirement from coaching last month. However, it was reported Kabib was very much involved from a distance throughout the entire camp and even on fight day. The Dagestani fighter trains alongside some of the greatest names in the world of mixed martial arts at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, CA. There’s no denying Makhachev’s grappling abilities. Daniel Cormier has even stated that Makhachev is a better pure wrestler than Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The fight started slow, with both fighters measuring timing, and distance and showing respect. Volkanovski switched stances several times, potentially to confuse Makhachev and keep his takedowns at bay. Alex had a near knockdown of Makhachev but he recovered quickly and the fight resumed as normal. With about two minutes remaining in the first, strikes were traded and Volkanovski briefly dropped to a knee. He popped back up but Makhachev capitalized, put him against the fence, and took him down. Makhachev then took the back but wasn’t able to get the submission before the round ended with Alex all smiles at the end.
Similar start to round one, but more urgency from Alex. Volkanovski knocked Makhachev down but it didn’t last long. Makhachev got right back to his feet and had Volkanovski against the cage. Volkanovski was able to escape, and they briefly traded before clinching. Once separated Makhachev landed several strikes, leg kicks, and body shots.
Makhachev clinched and shoved Volkanovski to the cage, wanting to secure the submission he lost in the first round. Volkanovski was able to get out of the hold easily and they went back to the center of the Octagon. Makhachev slipped with just 30 seconds left and Volkanovski took advantage ending the round in a flurry of punches.
They started the round with trading strikes. The hesitation and respect were clearly gone. Makhachev peppered Volkanovski with strikes before taking him to the ground. As we’ve seen before, Islam then moved Alex against the fence. With three minutes in the round and the back of Volkanovski, he went looking to end the fight. Despite the terrible position that Volkanovski was in, Makhachev wasn’t able to get the submission.
Alex was likely down three rounds to the champion. It was do-or-die time for the Aussie. They touched gloves to start the round and quickly hugged. Then the violence started. Both fighters traded leg kicks, knees, and body shots. Volkanovski took a knee to the face and it opened a cut on his eye. They briefly went to the canvas with two and a half minutes remaining. Volkanovski took Makhachev’s back but they were back on their feet in a moment. Vokanovski, knowing he needed something special, went for a takedown but Makhachev popped back up quickly. A quick right hand from Alex dropped Makhachev with just over a minute left. Volkanovski got on top of Makhachev and landed massive ground and pound to end the round.
UFC 284 was much-needed justice for Jiu-Jitsu. Although Alex did not get his hand raised, he showed that he and Jiu-Jitsu belonged. Sambo was not superior. Jiu-Jitsu was not superior. Both fighters respected each other skills in their arts and put on an amazing fight.
Islam Makhachev defeated jiu-jitsu specialist Charles Olivera in the 2nd round at UFC 280 with a head and arm triangle submission. After the bout, even Brian Ortega, who is a BJJ black belt and UFC top featherweight, asked if Kabib would train him.
Perhaps Ortega jumped on the Sambo wagon too soon. The talks of warm weather, beaches, and acai being inferior to harsh cold, family, and vodka bear wrestling may be no more.
It looks like the Sambo vs Jiu-Jitsu match ups will not be going away inside the Octagon anytime soon. And we are here to witness all of them.