Ilia Topuria
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UFC 298: Ilia Topuria Claims Featherweight Title with Stunning TKO Victory over Alexander Volkanovski

Ilia Topuria shocked the world with a stunning second-round knockout of long-reigning featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in the main event of UFC 298 on Saturday night. Fighting in front of a sold-out crowd at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, the 27-year-old Topuria only needed seven UFC fights to capture promotional gold.

Ilia Topuria Comes Out Swinging

Topuria and Volkanovski came out aggressively in the first round, trading powerful leg kicks that stung their opponent. Topuria started finding his range towards the end of the round, cracking the champion with big right hands. Volkanovski fired back with crisp punches, making it a close opening five minutes.

Clearly, Volkanovski aimed to attack Topuria’s lead leg with hard kicks. But early in the second round, Topuria adjusted his stance and started hammering away at Volkanovski’s left leg instead. Volkanovski tried switching to a southpaw stance to protect his leg but ate a heavy one-two combination from Topuria that backed him up toward the cage. Sensing he had the champ hurt, Topuria swarmed Volkanovski with rapid-fire punches, ending the onslaught with a massive right hand that put Volkanovski flat on his back. A few nasty follow-up shots on the ground forced the referee to wave things off, crowning a new featherweight ruler at 3:24 of Round 2.

New Champion Crowned

Ilia Topuria could barely contain his raw emotions post-fight, overcome by achieving his lifelong dream of becoming UFC champion. When commentator Joe Rogan put the belt around his waist, Topuria burst into tears of joy. After composing himself, Topuria called out Irish superstar Conor McGregor, challenging the former two-division champ to “come out of retirement and fight me in Spain.” Volkanovski was unusually flat in his first title defense loss, later admitting that Topuria’s fight strategy threw him off guard early on. But he was already asking for an immediate rematch with Topuria, ideally wanting to regain his belt on the new champ’s home soil.

By the Numbers

Let’s take a closer look at some key stats from the championship fight:

  • Ilia Topuria landed 58 total strikes over 7 minutes 18 seconds of fight time
  • Topuria connected on 72% of his significant strike attempts
  • 21 of Topuria’s 58 total strikes were aimed at Volkanovski’s legs
  • Volkanovski only managed to land 13 total strikes before being stopped
  • All 3 judges scored Round 1 for Volkanovski: 10-9 across the board
  • Topuria earned his 6th straight UFC stoppage victory

So, while Volkanovski had early success attacking Ilia Topuria’s lead leg, the challenger won the battle of the kicks by Round 2. Once Topuria began punishing the champion’s leg instead, the entire momentum of the about swung in his favor. The numbers show that Topuria’s cage pressure and high-volume striking attack overwhelmed Volkanovski, ultimately ending his 4-year reign atop the division.

What’s Next

UFC President Dana White will be interested in booking an immediate rematch between Ilia Topuria and Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski has definitively earned the right to try and regain his belt after five straight title defenses before last night. And the fans would surely love to see these two elite strikers run things back later this year.

But Topuria also has some very intriguing options for his first title defense. A “champ vs. champ” showdown with dominant bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling would be a blockbuster matchup. Top contenders like Josh Emmett and Arnold Allen also pose stiff challenges for the new featherweight boss. And let’s remember Topuria’s post-fight call out of Conor McGregor. It seems unlikely the UFC could put together Topuria vs McGregor in Spain by the summertime. But if Dana White wants to take the UFC to Spain with Topuria headlining, that’s certainly a main event that would generate fireworks inside the Octagon and at the box office.

Last night, he represented the start of what could be a very long and dominant championship run for Ilia Topuria. At just 27 years of age, most experts consider Topuria to be still improving with each passing fight. Regardless of whether he takes on Volkanovski again next or a different challenger, Ilia Topuria made it crystal clear under the bright lights of UFC 298’s main event that he is indeed the man to beat at 145 pounds.

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