No one ever said that attempting to please everyone was easy, let alone a necessary or fair responsibility.
Yet it was hard to ignore the celebratory vigor in Alexander Volkanovski's voice on Saturday following his thrilling featherweight title defense over Brian Ortega at UFC 266 when he grabbed the microphone during the post-fight interview and implored the remaining MMA fans who were holding out to finally put some respect upon his name.
The reality is both supporters and critics alike should've already been high on Volkanovski (23-1), the 32-year-old native of Australia, even before the second defense of his 145-pound title this past weekend in Las Vegas. Volkanovski entered unbeaten in the UFC including wins over Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway (twice).
But Volkanovski also had two strikes against him from some in the court of casual public opinion, in that: 1) his biggest win to date in his rematch with Holloway was disputed and 2) Ortega's pre-fight trash talk that Volkanovski was a "decision fighter" echoed what many believed that he's a technical magician whose style is built upon avoiding two-way conflict rather than walking into it.
Again, no one ever said public criticism, particularly what is peddled on social media, is either fair or accurate. Yet Volkanovski certainly benefited from not only taking part in an exciting thriller for once but for largely dominating it as he set the pace and delivered the majority of the damage in a wide decision win.
Of course, the final scorecards were anything but indicative of what Volkanovski was forced to endure in order to get there and that's why this performance against such a determined opponent who is capable of scoring dramatic finishes was so impressive. Volkanovski was dropped in Round 3 and twice worked free from deep chokes before doing the same once more in a similarly precarious position the following round.
Volkanovski's preparation from a game-planning standpoint was already second to none yet this time he showed off his insane cardio, paired with a championship level poise to calmly work free from the type of positions where any level of panic would bring doom.
This victory was the perfect summation of everything Volkanovski brings to the table as a dominant champion whose resume is slowly creeping toward historical relevance. It was also good enough to cement him in the conversation among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport today.
For CBS Sports' updated divisional rankings,.
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
| 1. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||18-1||--|
|"The Nigerian Nightmare" has become just that to the competition at 170 pounds. His knockout of Jorge Masvidal in their UFC 261 rematch proved Usman could fill the void left by Khabib Nurmagomedov as the UFC's most dominant champion. Up next is a rematch with Colby Covington on Nov. 6.|
|2. Israel Adesanya||Middleweight champion||21-1||--|
|A hiccup at light heavyweight in March while attempting to become a two-division champion did nothing to question whether Adesanya is still the best 185-pound fighter in the world today. His UFC 263 shutout of Marvin Vettori in their rematch was masterful, setting the stage for a another rematch with former champion Robert Whittaker. |
|3. Alexander Volkanovski||Featherweight champion||23-1|
|The wizard of 145 pounds appeared to quiet any remaining skeptics by how fiercely he defended his title against Brian Ortega at UFC 266. Unbeaten in 10 trips to the Octagon, Volkanovski is on his way toward creating a historically relevant career resume at featherweight. |
|4. Jon Jones||Heavyweight||26-1 (1 NC)|
|Jones' longtime hold atop the P4P top 10 continues to slip due to inactivity and recurring troubles outside the cage. Yes, "Bones" is still regarded by many as the greatest fighter to ever enter the Octagon. But at 34, entering a long-awaited move to heavyweight, the competition has caught up. |
|5. Francis Ngannou||Heavyweight champion||16-3|
|How do you properly frame how scary and dangerous this man is? If Ngannou's knockout streak hasn't fully convinced you, the evolution shown during his rematch with Stipe Miocic to seize the title should be enough. The 35-year-old is improving at a terrifying rate. |
|6. Dustin Poirier||Lightweight||28-6 (1 NC)|
|After choosing a pair of high-profile rematches against Conor McGregor over fighting for the lightweight title, Poirier will finally get his chance in December to prove he's the best lightweight of the post-Khabib Nurmagomedov era. Defending champion Charles Oliveira awaits him. |
|7. Charles Oliveira||Lightweight champion||31-8 (1 NC)|
|Nine straight victories culminated with the Brazilian stopping Michael Chandler to capture the vacant lightweight crown at UFC 262. Oliveira is the most prolific finisher in UFC history and is expected to make his first title defense against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269. |
|8. Max Holloway||Featherweight||22-6||--|
|A shutout of Calvin Kattar in January might just be the most dynamic performance of the future Hall of Famer's career. Holloway returns in November against Yair Rodriguez where a win likely secures a fresh shot at his old 145-pound title. |
|9. Robert Whittaker||Middleweight||23-5||--|
|A three-fight win streak, all against elite competition, has the former middleweight champion set for an early 2022 rematch against Adesanya. Whittaker has used the time since his 2019 TKO loss to rebuild himself from a technical standpoint and appears as dangerous as ever. |
|10. Jan Blachowicz||Light heavyweight champion||28-8||--|
|Talk about an unlikely career surge. The 38-year-old slugger has been on a renaissance over the past full year by stopping Dominick Reyes for the vacant 205-pound title before making an impressive title defense against Adesanya. A battle with another veteran, Glover Teixeira, is next in October. |
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Brandon Moreno, Justin Gaethje, Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, TJ Dillashaw
Women's pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||20-4||--|
First-time parenthood did nothing to slow "The Lioness" in her dominant finish of Megan Anderson in March to defend her 145-pound title. Nunes moves back down to bantamweight in December to welcome challenger Julianna Pena.
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||22-3||--|
|Despite holding a pair of close defeats to Nunes at bantamweight, Shevchenko is making a run of her own toward P4P greatness following a move down to 125 pounds. Six dominant title defenses have followed, including a TKO of Lauren Murphy at UFC 266. |
|3. Rose Namajunas||Strawweight champion||10-4||--|
|Meet the new boss of the 115-pound division; it's the same as the old one. "Thug" Rose cemented her comeback with authority by finishing Weili Zhang at UFC 261 via first-round knockout. Their high-profile rematch is set for November. |
|4. Weili Zhang||Strawweight||21-2||--|
|Despite her complains regarding an early stoppage, Zhang's return from a 13-month layoff turned out be disastrous when the native of China yielded her 115-pound title. Zhang seems fortunate to get an immediate second chance at UFC 268. |
|5. Carla Esparza||Strawweight||18-6|
|Five straight wins and a dominant finish of contender Yan Xiaonan has the UFC's first women's champion at 115 pounds on the verge of a possible shot at regaining her crown. "The Cookie Monster" is currently the most dangerous and confident version of herself to date at 33 and riding a ton of momentum.|
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Jessica Andrade, Germaine de Randamie, Holly Holm, Aspen Ladd