It is a rarity when the No. 1 and No. 2 pound-for-pound fighters in the world face off in any combat sport. In the modern era of MMA it may have never happened before, with the Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier UFC light heavyweight title fight in 2015 the only one that has come close.
On Saturday, though, there will be no debate. Alexander Volkanovski is the undisputed top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Islam Makhachev is the clear-cut No. 2. And they will fight each other for the UFC lightweight belt in the main event of UFC 284 in Perth, Australia. Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, will make the move up a division and take on the bigger Makhachev, who will have a 4-inch height advantage, and presumably a strength edge too.
Makhachev (23-1) beat Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 last September via second-round submission to win the 155-pound title. The Dagestan native has won 11 straight fights, the past five by finish. Makhachev, 31, is the longtime training partner and friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov, the all-time great former lightweight champion.
Volkanovski (25-1) is a perfect 12-0 in the UFC and has won 22 straight overall. The Australian-born fighter beat Max Holloway to win the featherweight belt at UFC 245 in December 2019. Volkanovski, 34, has four successful title defenses, most recently a unanimous decision win over Holloway last July at UFC 276, his third win over the 145-pound great.
In the co-main event, Yair Rodriguez will face Josh Emmett for the interim featherweight title. The winner is expected to fight Volkanovski next to unify the titles. Rodriguez (14-3, 1 NC), a 30-year-old from Mexico, has just one loss in his past five fights. Emmett (18-2), a 37-year-old California resident, has won five straight.
Follow along with us for live coverage of UFC 284 with analysis from Sam Bruce, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim.