Hot Tweets: Putting a bow on Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski, plus UFC tournaments!


We’re now a week removed from UFC 284, and while a litany of horrific takes emerged during that time, things seem to have cooled off for most now, which is good. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other things to talk about this week as UFC Vegas 69 is… underwhelming. So, let’s put a bow on UFC 284, and then get to a mixed bag of questions.

Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski

Both! We don’t have to choose, we can appreciate both things! And this has been one of the more frustrating things coming out of UFC 284’s main event: how much the narratives has been contorted.

Heading into UFC 284, many people (myself include) thought Makhachev was going to smash Volkanovski, but every single one of them issued the caveat: “Islam is going to kill him, but if Volk can somehow stop the takedowns, then Islam is in real big trouble.” And for whatever reason (I have some thoughts), very few people remember that second part. Volkanovski has received all the accolades for his defense of takedowns. Makhachev scored takedowns at a 45 percent clip. That’s outstanding! But he wasn’t able to accomplish much other than positionally, and that’s a testament to Volkanovski.

BUT, for as good as he was in the grappling exchanges, Volkanovski got beat up on the feet. Makhachev repeatedly caught Volk blitzing in, landing clean counters that snapped Volk’s head back, and he always limited the exchanges to prevent Volk’s combinations from taking over. Volkanovski was able to land leg kicks after exchanges and used some body shots. However, the truth is that he lost every round on his feet until the fifth, when he dropped Islam. NO ONE would have predicted that going into the fight, and so while Volkanovski deserves his flowers, Makhachev does as well.

For this man’s first title defense, he chose to go into the top pound-for-pound fighter’s backyard, and handed that man his first loss in almost a decade. Was he able to take advantage of his size? Undoubtedly. But that’s still damn impressive, and the way he did it makes it all the more so.


I will do one more: I’ll tell you how he won the four.

Stats, while not an ideal way to score fights, are a great tool for determining the outcome of fights. “Significant strikes” can be used to cover a broad range of possible outcomes. In the stat-keeping world, a Francis Ngannou uppercut counts for the same as a Parker Porter jab. Those two things are not the same in nearly any other context. That being said, here are the stats for the main event.

You’ll see that four of the rounds were almost identical in terms of significant strikes count. Rounds one through four are very similar. In rounds one and four Makhachev have a substantial advantage in time control. Even Volkanovski doesn’t argue that he lost those two rounds, because he’s not a moron. He did lose them, and everyone who isn’t pushing an agenda recognizes that. Similarly, round five is undeniably a Volkanovski round, no one disputes it. Rounds two and three are the possible swing rounds.

Now if you believe Volkanovski edged those two rounds, then you have it 3-2 Volkanovski, which is a defensible score card (though I would say it’s wrong), but if you much more reasonably just kind of split the difference between the two, then 3-2 Makhachev, and that’s what we mostly got. But here’s the thing: If you completely remove “Volkanovski will get crushed narrative”, Makhachev is my favorite in rounds 2 and 3. They landed about equally, but Makhachev’s shots are the ones that land cleaner, snapping Volkanovski’s head back and at various points earning an acknowledgment from Volkanovski that he got tagged. You know, dropping him to one knee and forcing him to retreat.

In the simplest terms possible: they landed about the same, but Makhachev landed better shots. He won the four round. But if you score it 3-2 for Volkanovski, that’s not egregious. It was a close fight. It happens sometimes.

The lightweight title picture

No. Openly, I do not know how I could agree with Islam if I were one.

I’ve long been on the record of hating immediate rematches in any context, save for a robbery. This isn’t the NBA, you don’t get a seven-game series to establish who is the best. You have one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted. You have one chance to make it happen. Lightweight is the deepest division in the sport and this was not a title fight we had to have at the time. We don’t need controversy now that the fight is over and only one man won. If Makhachev lost, I would be repeating the same sentiment.

Add in the fact that Yair Rod is a worthy opponent for Volkanovski. Arnold Allen will be able to beat Max Holloway, but both men still have business. If Volkanovski wants a lightweight title shot, drop the featherweight belt, and beat a top 5 lightweight. Then, no one can deny you.

Except, if I’m Makhachev, I would absolutely deny him. Think about this: Makhachev chose to put his lightweight title on the line in Volkanovski’s home country and did so in part because the title of top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport was on the line. Volkanovski himself said it! Then, Volkanovski retorts the pound for pound talk, and his team makes completely unfounded accusations that he is cheating. What’s the point in doing him any favors?

Makhachev and Volkanovski both have other things to do right now. But if they both defend their belts twice, maybe we can run this one back in 2024, when it would be entirely deserved and that much bigger of a matchup.

Success in defeat

I mean, Volkanovski is probably the right answer at this point. He exceeded my expectations, even if I thought he lost 4-1. And to do that against the guy I thought was the best fighter in the world going into it, well, that’s incredible.

And the rest of them will be fighting in similar situations, isn’t it? Yair Rodriguez’s loss to Max Holloway was sensational (and may prove to be a turning point in that young man’s career), Alexander Gustafsson in the first fight with Jon Jones, Johny Hendricks to Georges St-Pierre, and Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya 2, you know, stuff like that.

The one I think about the most though is probably Dominick Reyes against Jon Jones, because of how sharp he fell off afterwards. We’re talking a Cody Garbrandt-esque collapse, for a guy who should have beaten the best fighter in the sport. It’s impossible to find a top fighter with a margin of victory. It’s one of the things that makes this sport so fascinating.

Jack Della Maddalena

Because he hates people who bet JDM by KO in Round 1, apparently. Still, that young man is showing some promise, huh? Dude is destined to fight for a belt one day.


Yeah, man. Khabib Nurmagomedov never gets the credit he deserves for being a supreme athlete. That was the secret sauce to his game. Y’all remember that right hand that sat Conor down? Wooo buddy. It’s why, for me, Islam can never really catch Khabib. Islam is already a more technically proficient striker, but he’s 80 percent the athlete Khabib is and that limits him. While that makes him superior to every lightweight, it does give me cause for concern about how he will fare in the next weight class. Whereas I always like Khabib’s shot at welterweight and frankly, even middleweight. But I digress.

I’m not sure Khabib is top 5 all-time in terms of athleticism, but he certainly was during his run. Three names are required to make an all-time list: Yoel Romo, Kevin Randleman and Brock Lesnar. Those men are unquestionably the top names in terms of athleticism. Just absolute superhumans.

Jose Aldo makes the top 5 as well. Even at 36 the man still moved different. To complete the picture, I will go with Daniel Cormier. There are many good candidates. Volkanovski and Khamzat Chimaev are all exceptional physical specimens. Jon Jones, Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones are also outstanding. But the list starts with Romero, Randleman, and Brock.


Pretty well. Patchy Mix and the other Bellator bantamweights would be equally pleased. 135 pounds is super deep, and on any given day, any of those guys could hand anyone in the UFC a loss.


For years I have been saying the UFC should do more Grand Prix events. Not with the top fighters in the weight class — they come with too many inherent issues, especially if a belt is on the line — but with the mid-tier guys. Because it is so deep, and because the top can seem so stagnant that it is difficult to break in, lightweight has always been my favorite division. So imagine this for an eight-man grand, 2023 Lightweight Grand Prix:

Terrance McCinney, Jamie Mullarkey and Michael Johnson.

That’s eight of the top 40 or so lightweights in the world. Guys who are very good, but will struggle to make headway at lightweight because you have to have an eight-fight winning streak to get anywhere. More importantly, most of those dudes are exciting, and we’ve just put them all into a year long event with a $500,000 prize at stake (the UFC would never front $1 million). Think of all the things the UFC gains from this!

  1. Long-term star building. The UFC is terrible at star-making. They can make stars out of natural stars but not their own. The only way they’ve even sort of been able to do that has been through The Ultimate Fighter which is what? A tournament! Only these are some of the best guys in the world. We don’t need to see them living in a house together. Let the tournaments run and let the story of one man defeating seven other men do all the work. Then, forever more, Bruce Buffer can announce Jamie Mullarkey as “The 2023 UFC Lightweight Grand Prix winner!” That in itself is valuable.
  2. Ready-made main events. We have to be real, we are being fed garbage Fight Night cards by the UFC these days. *cough* Saturday *cough*. They are contractually obligated to provide 42 events a year for ESPN and they simply do not have enough main events to go around. And while Nasrat Haqparast vs. Jai Herbert would not normally rate as a quality main or co-main event, if the event is simply, 2023 Lightweight Grand Prix Round 1, that would go over much smoother. You can see that most matchups in the PRIDE opening rounds didn’t really blow you away. But it was building to something cool.
  3. The crescendo. The crescendo. A Super Bowl! The PFL Championships, whether you love it or not, are an entertaining and important event. This event combines multiple stories, high stakes and exciting matchups. Although six weight classes seems excessive, what if there were three to four? That’s magic. It would be so much fun to watch one of these eight people become a major commodity and get something at the end. Something to make them standout from the endless mass of monochromatic uniforms the UFC rolls out every week.

There’s really no downside and they already do something similar, only instead of tying up marquee fighters to coach and putting 40 minutes of trashy drivel before it, you can just cut all that s*** out and mainline the good parts.

You’re welcome, UFC.

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Are you looking for answers to questions that are at least partially related to combat sport? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. You can send them to me, and I will answer those I love the most. Let’s have fun.