UFC 290: Yair Rodriguez experienced a notable highlight during the fight when he landed a grazing kick that snapped Alexander Volkanovski’s head back. He quickly followed up with a combination, including a powerful left punch that landed squarely on Volkanovski’s jaw.
In acknowledgment of the blows, Volkanovski nodded his head. However, he swiftly retaliated with a punishing right hook that significantly hurt Rodriguez.
Volkanovski capitalized on the opportunity and executed a takedown, unleashing a barrage of heavy punches from the top position.
This relentless assault led to a TKO victory for Volkanovski at 4 minutes and 19 seconds of the third round in the main event of UFC 290, held at the T-Mobile Arena.
With this triumph, Volkanovski successfully defended his UFC featherweight title. It’s worth noting that Rodriguez entered the bout as the interim featherweight champion.
“I am the reigning king of this division,” proclaimed Volkanovski during his post-fight interview in the Octagon. “No one can ever stop me.”
ESPN Ranks Volkanovski Tied for No. 1 Pound-for-Pound; Dana White Praises His Exceptional Talent
Prior to UFC 290, ESPN had ranked Volkanovski tied for the No. 1 spot on its pound-for-pound MMA list alongside UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev. Within the featherweight division, Volkanovski held the top spot, while Rodriguez was ranked third.
Describing Volkanovski, UFC president Dana White hailed him as an exceptional talent, stating, “The guy is an absolute freak.”
Volkanovski admitted that he felt a sense of “fear” during his training camp due to the potency and creativity of Rodriguez’s offense. Rodriguez, known for his striking expertise, attacks from various angles and utilizes all his weapons, including fists, elbows, knees, and whipping kicks.
Adding to the challenge, the crowd at the event strongly favored Rodriguez, with several Mexican fighters on the card in an area with a significant Mexican American population.
Nevertheless, Volkanovski managed to mentally shift gears and concentrate on the task at hand. He acknowledged the need to expect the unexpected, recognizing the dangerous nature of Rodriguez’s style.
During the fight, Volkanovski secured takedowns in the first and second rounds, exerting control on the ground. In the second round, he caused damage to Rodriguez’s left eye and left ear with ground strikes.
In the third round, Volkanovski chose to keep the fight standing and took the risk of engaging in striking exchanges. He eventually landed a significant right hook that inflicted considerable damage on Rodriguez.
White commended Volkanovski for developing an incredible game plan and executing it flawlessly. Volkanovski’s overall record stands at 26-2, and despite his recent loss to Makhachev, he expressed his desire for a future rematch and a shot at the 155-pound belt.
However, he may need to undergo surgery on his right arm before returning to action. Nevertheless, he still aims to compete before the end of the year.
Makhachev’s Potential Opponent Uncertain for UFC 294; Volkanovski Open to October Showdown
Makhachev is expected to headline UFC 294 in October, but his potential opponent, Charles Oliveira, may not be ready in time following his previous win.
When asked about the possibility of facing Makhachev in October, Volkanovski stated that he is not ruling it out and is willing to make adjustments to accommodate the fight.
Volkanovski had an impressive 22-fight winning streak before his loss to Makhachev. He became the UFC featherweight champion by defeating Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December 2019.
This successful title defense marked his fifth in the UFC featherweight division, maintaining an unbeaten record of 11-0 at 145 pounds.
In the bout against Rodriguez, Volkanovski landed 66 significant strikes compared to Rodriguez’s 40, with a substantial 37-2 advantage in ground strikes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
With six title-fight victories, Volkanovski now holds the second-highest number of title wins in UFC featherweight history, trailing only Jose Aldo’s eight.
Rodriguez, who won the interim title earlier this year, had built a solid record with victories in two of his previous three fights. The fighter from Chihuahua, Mexico, had suffered only one loss since 2017 before his encounter with Volkanovski.
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