UFC 298: Ilia Topuria Wins Featherweight Gold with Thunderous KO of Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria, UFC 298
Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria, UFC 298 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Returning home to the featherweight division at UFC 298 in Anaheim on Saturday, 145lb champ Alexander Volkanovski looked to turn back the undefeated Ilia Topuria.

He also looked to remind UFC fans why he’s considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, regardless of his losses to lightweight champ Islam Makhachev.

Topuria had played the villain all Fight Week long, snatching Volk’s belt at the pre-fight press conference and making plenty of noise about the champ’s age. The crowd in Anaheim greeted the German-born Spaniard of Georgian descent accordingly, serenading “El Matador” with a chorus of boos while getting firmly behind Australia’s Volkanovski.

Topuria worked to cut off the cage early, while Volkanovski worked his kicks. A low kick from Topuria, however, nearly took the champ off his feet inside of two minutes, however. A lighter kick, again targeting the calf, followed. The kicks were adding up, and a right hand landed for Topuria. It was the kicks, and feints, that were allowing Topuria to be effective when he did connect. The right hand would be there again later in the round, while Volkanovski did find an opening for his left.

Round two opened with a Volkanovski kick to the body; the champ circled around Topuria at center, then beat a hasty retreat when Topuria went on the attack. Topuria was doubling up on his right hand, then mixing it up and firing a left and trailing right. Volkanovski’s jab been finding its mark later in the round — but the course of the fight and the division would shift in a heartbeat.

With roughly ninety seconds on the clock, Ilia Topuria turned out the lights on the man many consider the best featherweight in UFC history. The end of a combo with Topuria coming forward saw a right hand snap Volkanovski’s jaw to the side. That one punch KO put Volkanovski out, though Topuria added a few follow-up strikes until the ref made the save.

To his credit, Topuria had predicted a finish, and on a massive night for Georgia that also saw Merab Dvalishvili winning, “El Matador” closed out the night in style.

Official Result: Ilia Topuria def. Alexander Volkanovski by KO (right hook), Round 2, 3:32