Jon Anik was in the best seat in the house to call the main event of UFC 284 between Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski. After five hard rounds, it shouldn’t have been surprising the crowd in Perth, Western Australia, felt a certain way after scorecards were read.
Anik called the action alongside former UFC champions Michael Bisping and Dominick Cruz. While the in-cage action was compelling and of the highest level, the aftermath and the divisiveness of Makhachev’s win was a whole other story.
“After the decision was announced is the first time that I’ve ever — I’m sure it’s not the first time people have thrown stuff in our direction — [but] it’s the first time I’ve ever been hit with a burger and fries on the back, and it certainly felt a lot heavier than french fries,” Anik told MMA Fighting.
“On the Anik & Florian podcast, we tried to lead the dance with the technical stuff and the fight itself as opposed to the scorecards. But when so much is at stake, I understand why people who are emotional and passionate have their opinions, and I think the sport at its highest level is so close, and the elite fights between elite fighters oftentimes are the ones that are the most hotly contested.
“There’s any number of different directions in which we could go. The pound-for-pound discussion is largely a cosmetic one. I do believe that the next fights for Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski are bigger, and I would say in terms of the [UFC 284 fight’s] heightening expectations, you could argue it exceeded them.”
While many are rightfully praising Volkanovski for his performance in defeat, Anik can’t help but notice Makhachev isn’t getting the kudos he deserves. The lightweight champ was able to overcome adversity in the bout and took a risk against the pound-for-pound great.
“People say, ‘Oh, his first title defense [he] should have fought Benny Dariush, instead, he’s plucking a featherweight,’” Anik said. “Plucking a featherweight? He fought the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world who has a one-inch reach advantage against him, who twice backed up to be the guy in a lightweight championship fight. So the road was kind of paved for Makhachev, and he went into the belly of the beast, and did it in Perth, which, in theory, he didn’t necessarily have to do.
“So I would like to lead the dance as far as people who want to give Islam credit for going five rounds for the first time, for going toe-to-toe with his pound-for-pound equal in a lot of respects. You can sort of split hairs when it comes to the weight and the size and everything else, but I think it’s gonna be a very competitive rematch. I think the betting line is going to be significantly closer the second time around; I think the stock for both gentlemen goes up certainly. It would be hard to argue against Volkanovski’s stock going up, but can Islam a get a modicum of credit folks for for his part in all of this? This was not him sort of plucking off somebody from the lighter weight class for [his first] title defense.”
The other big question from UFC 284’s headliner is what’s next for the headliners. Volkanovski has a clear dance partner in Yair Rodriguez, who emerged as the next-in-line 145-pounder after stopping Josh Emmett in UFC 284’s co-main event to win the interim featherweight championship.
For Makhachev, it’s not quite as clear. One would assume Beneil Dariush would be the top name on the list. But with rumors circulating that Dariush could face Charles Oliveira in May, nothing is guaranteed.
Another option is torun the Makhachev vs. Volkanovski fight right back, and if Anik was the matchmaker, that would be his lean. But he believes it will all depend on when Volkanovski is ready to return.
“I would probably strike while the iron is hot, but what a great problem to have if you’re the promoter,” Anik explained. “Featherweight is wicked interesting, obviously in its own right and Arnold Allen, if he gets by Max Holloway, then he is done right — and even at 135, ‘Chito’ Vera is fighting Cory Sandhagen, but if he beats him, he’s done, he’s sitting and that’s exactly what Sean O’Malley’s doing right now.
“So at 155, yes, Beneil Dariush vs. Charles Oliveira obviously is lurking, sometimes it really can just come down to the calendar. I don’t know that Yair Rodriguez is in any great rush to turn around and unify these belts. I think Volkanovski wants to fight in like three months. And if either Islam Makhachev, or Yair Rodriguez can be convinced to fight Volkanovski in short order, that’s what I think is going to be next.”