Crooke’s Cage: UFC 284 Review and Takeaways


Illustration by Kellyn Taylor

UFC fighter Islam Makhachev defended his belt at UFC 284.

By Aidan Crooke, Staff Writer, Sports

The night before Superbowl LVII, the UFC delivered one of its greatest main events in history: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski. 

The UFC 284 champ vs. champ super fight the Mixed Martial Arts community had been eagerly awaiting both delivered and exceeded expectations. Islam Makhachev defended his lightweight belt against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in what could set up a rivalry where the pound-for-pound king spot is gambled alongside the belts. However, the rest of the main card certainly carried their weight as well.

Now that the dust has settled in Australia, here are my takeaways from UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski.

1: Champ vs. champ sent a message during an astounding fight

When I watched Volkanovski challenge Makhachev for the 155 belt, I realized we had something incredibly special on our hands. Volkanovski put his pound-for-pound king status on the line to get a shot at being a double champion.

Fast forward to 12:45 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Feb. 12, and Makhachev defended his belt on his opponent’s home turf in Western Australia. In just under an hour, RAC Arena went from one of the rowdiest the UFC has seen in the past six months to being filled with silence and shock. While Makhachev doesn’t get a Lombardi trophy for winning, he now shares the pound-for-pound king spot with Volkanovski and keeps his belt—which was the case until the UFC kept Volkanovski at the #1 pound-for-pound spot despite Volkanovski’s gamble at UFC 280. If you consider a pound-for-pound ranking shareable, then Makhachev and Volkanovski should share that title. However, the upcoming rematch between these two champions will settle that dispute in five rounds or less.

However, the festivities are certainly over for both the featherweight and lightweight divisions. 145 interim champion Yair Rodriguez will fight to unify the belt likely within the next six months per Volkanovski’s octagon interview. The lightweight division also has some contenders for Makachev to fight: Charles Oliveira can call for a rematch to avenge his loss at UFC 280. Beneil Dariush may get the fight for a title shot that his injury held him back from. Justin Gaethje will likely take aim as well, and we’ll see how Michael Chandler and Conor McGregor hold up in the Ultimate Fighter. The lightweight division has a lot of fighters to choose from, and the message from both champions is simple: “We’re not going anywhere.”

2: Not all draw decisions are bad

Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield surely didn’t expect their fight to end in a draw. Based on their reaction, the crowd didn’t either.

Unlike the Blachowicz v. Ankalaev draw decision at UFC 282 that robbed Ankalaev of what fans thought was clearly his fight, we got a back-and-forth thriller that could have gone on longer and still be exciting. Crute and Menifield went to war to start the card, and while fans might’ve been caught off guard for a moment, this fight was certainly an appetizer for what was to come.

3: Jens Pulver’s Hall of Fame announcement was well done

I’m sure that Dana White and UFC management planned these things well in advance, but Jens Pulver’s UFC Hall of Fame announcement was a great way to introduce a newer audience to a legend of the octagon.

If you were watching the show as seen on pay-per-view, you didn’t realize that Jens Pulver was streaming on the UFC Twitch channel. Audiences probably also didn’t realize that the UFC could pull Pulver’s camera feed to the broadcast, allowing those watching from home to see his reaction. This was a wholesome moment and a great way to re-energize the crowd in Perth as well.

4: So … are we getting a sequel?

Makhachev vs. Volkanovski is what you could consider an “instant classic” fight on the levels of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor and Griffin vs. Bonnar 1—the latter of which saved the UFC and resulted in The Ultimate Fighter series getting extended. 

Khabib vs. McGregor at UFC 229 was also an instant classic because of how the promotion was handled and its infamous post-fight brawl between Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s corner—which would be described by UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier as “what you’d see on a Saturday night in a bar.” 

We likely won’t have to wait long for a sequel, as Volkanovski indicated during his post-fight press conference that he could have a rematch very soon. Instead, we’ll see a couple of title defenses from Volkanovski and Makhachev in their respective divisions before building up to a very exciting rematch for everyone.

5: On the note of Khabib vs. McGregor …

Khabib vs. McGregor was a super fight for a couple of reasons—Khabib was an undefeated fighter at 26-0, and McGregor was the UFC’s biggest star at the time. This fight was marketed and promoted effectively, but there were quite a few out-of-pocket comments from McGregor towards Khabib and his team—especially about religion and nationality. 

These are lines that we’ve only seen crossed by the likes of McGregor and Colby Covington, but this fight’s build was different. Volkanovski and Makhachev both treated each other with loads of respect and sportsmanship which is certainly a much-needed look for the UFC after Dana White’s slap scandal on New Year’s Day as well as the bad press of UFC 282’s split draw in the main event. We’ve hit the point where “it’s just business” isn’t an excuse for bad sportsmanship, and Makhachev and Volkanovski’s show of professionalism highlights that.

I predicted that the main event would go one of two ways—Makhachev would finish in the fourth round or Volkanovski by decision. Clearly, I was wrong on both parts, which should serve as a reminder that the UFC is unpredictable and you never know what to expect when the cage is locked behind the fighters and referee. 

This pay-per-view was excellent and set the tone for what to expect at UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane in Las Vegas. If the UFC gives the fans what they want, we could see another Makhachev vs. Volkanovski fight before the end of 2024, with what could be a sequel fight that is even better than this one—even if this one was an instant classic.

Yair Rodriguez should expect a title unification bout by June at the latest, and whoever Makhachev picks will need to be on their A-game if Dana White sends out a contract. Both Makhachev and Volkanovski are incredible fighters and we’re likely going to get quite a rivalry out of them—not out of hatred or malice, but pure respect from both sides.