Volkanovski loses UFC featherweight title

Adrian Warren |

Alexander Volkanovski has lost his UFC featherweight title to Spain’s Ilia Topuria.
Alexander Volkanovski has lost his UFC featherweight title to Spain’s Ilia Topuria.

Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski wants to use years of accumulated credit to secure a rematch with Ilia Topuria, after the Spaniard took his featherweight word title with a stunning second round knockout In the main event on UFC 298 in Los Angeles.

Topuria landed a perfect right hand to settle a previously close contest three minutes and 32 seconds into round two.

Australia’s former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker moved closer to another title shot, with a gritty unanimous points win in an epic three-round encounter with Brazilian Paulo Costa in the co-main event.

Volkanovski, who was making his sixth defence, won his first round on all three judges’ cards, scoring with accurate punches and kicks, though Topuria landed several strong shots.

The 35-year-old from Wollongong enjoyed some telling moments in the second round before he was backed up and Topuria threw four successive punches, the last crumpling the champion and forcing the referee to stop the fight immediately.

“I felt good In there. I felt I was seeing everything early and he ended up catching me,” Volkanovski said.

Unbeaten Topuria had predicted a first round KO win In the lead-up.

 “With his kicks he surprised me a little bit, it took me a little bit of time to study him,” Topuria said.

“I was just waiting to find my timing, he touched me with a couple of punches and he was like celebrating, ‘Ha ha ha’, and I was like, ‘Now its my turn, wait for that’.”

It is Volkanovski’s third loss in his past four fights, but his first at featherweight, following two 2023 defeats from lightweight champion Islam Makhachev.

The champion since. 2019, Volkanovski felt his record and eagerness to help the UFC out made him a good ‘company man’ and merited a rematch.

Alexander Volkanovski.
It was Volkanovski’s third loss in four fights, including this defeat to Islam Makhachev in October. (AP PHOTO)

“I think I deserve it, I’ve been reigning champ for almost five years, defended multiple times,” Volkanovski said.

“Fought (former champion) Max (Holloway) three times when, let’s be real, I didn’t have to.”

“Short notice fights, being active, I’m doing the favours and I just want that rematch.”

Tiporia said while he wanted to fight new challengers rather than the old guard he would be prepared to give Volkanovski a rematch.

“That’s the fight in the division which makes more sense than any fight, so we’ll see,” Topuria said.

UFC boss Dana White said Topuria would have his first defence in Spain but had no date or venue and didn’t guarantee Volkanovski would get first crack at the new champion.

“Who (Topuria) is going to be facing I don’t know yet, but I have a lot of respect for Volkanovski. We’ll see how that plays out,” White said.

“Volk is one of the greatest of all time and he’s definitely the greatest in that weight class ever.”

Robert Whittaker.
Robert Whittaker moved closer to another shot at the middleweight title by beating Paulo Costa. (Michael Dodge/AAP PHOTOS)

The No.3 ranked Whittaker earned the judges approval by two scores of 29-28 and one of 30-27 and kept himself in contention for a shot at champion Dricus Du Plessis, who stopped him In a non-title fight last year.

He was wobbled by a spinning back heel near the end of the first round but recovered well, peppering sixth-ranked Costa with fast punches and accurate kicks in the last two rounds.

White said Whittaker was one of the leading contenders for the title.

“Of course. He is a former champion himself, looked good tonight against a big strong durable guy who you could tell was motivated and wanted to win,” White said.  

Whittaker said he wanted to fight twice more this year and would love to be on any promotion scheduled in Australia,

Brisbane heavyweight Junior Tafa’s gallant effort in replacing his brother Justin at short notice wasn’t rewarded as he was stopped in the second round by Marcus Rogerio De Lima.

AAP