UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski underlined his dominance at 145 pounds with a one-sided beatdown of interim champion Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290.
The pair faced off in a featherweight title unification bout in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with Volkanovski completely dominating the Mexican en route to a third-round TKO victory.
After a cagey opening period where both men tried to assess range and timing, Volkanovski caught a Rodriguez kick and turned it into a high-amplitude takedown. With the fight on the mat, the Australian completely dominated as he achieved top position and connected with big punches and elbows. Whenever the fight made it back to the feet, Volkanovski was able to shoot for a takedown and bring the action to the mat once more. That pattern continued through Round 2 as Volkanovski continued to beat up Rodriguez on the mat, leaving the Mexican busted up as he returned to his corner at the end of the round.
At the start of Round 3, Rodriguez started to enjoy some success with his striking, including one shot that slapped across the left cheek of Volkanovski, drawing a nod of appreciation from the champion. After an accidental clash of heads paused the action mid-way through the round, Rodriguez attempted to make his strikes pay as he turned up the output and connected with punches and kicks.
But, just as the Mexican appeared to be enjoying his best period of the fight, Volkanovski connected with a huge right hand to stun Rodriguez and send him backwards across the cage. The Aussie then took him to the mat and hammered him with ground strikes until referee Herb Dean waved off the bout.
The win gave Volkanovski his fifth featherweight title defense, as the 34-year-old extended his unbeaten record at 145 pounds with one of the most dominant performances of his championship reign.
Pantoja edges Moreno to capture flyweight title after five-round thriller
The co-main event served up an instant classic as Brazilian contender Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Moreno went back and forth for five high-octane rounds, with Pantoja edging a split decision verdict to dethrone Moreno and capture the undisputed flyweight title.
Pantoja started fast and stunned Moreno in the opening round as he pushed the pace hard in search of a first-round finish. But, despite being in big trouble, Moreno survived the round, albeit with a nasty cut on his right eyebrow.
Pantoja looked to continue the high-pressure approach in Round 2, but he slowed noticeably, and Moreno started to take over as he landed with big shots of his own. With the large Mexican contingent in the T-Mobile Arena roaring on, Moreno started to settle into his striking as he started to make the challenger miss. It seemed Pantoja’s early blitzes had taken their toll on the Brazilian’s gas tank, and Moreno took advantage as he took Pantoja to the mat and immediately took his back. Eventually, the action returned to the feet, and Moreno stunned Pantoja with two solid left hooks before the end of the round.
Moreno seemed to be on top, but Pantoja found a second wind in the third round as he mixed takedowns and grappling into his attack. His ability to take the champion to the mat would prove to be crucial to his success, as he scored takedowns on Moreno in each of the three remaining rounds.
With the striking now virtually even, Pantoja’s takedowns proved to be the differentiating factor as he scored takedowns, established top control, and chased submissions after taking Moreno’s back. But, on each occasion, Moreno defended stoutly to avoid Pantoja’s rear-naked choke – a technique the Brazilian used to defeat Moreno back in The Ultimate Fighter Season 24.
After five breathless rounds, the judges returned their split-decision verdict, with Pantoja getting the victory with scores of 46-49, 48-47, 48-47 before giving an emotional post-fight speech.
Du Plessis demolishes Whittaker to set up titanic title scrap with Adesanya
One of the most heated rivalries in the UFC looks set to come to a head after Dricus du Plessis earned himself a shot at middleweight champion Israel Adesanya
Du Plessis crushed former champion Robert Whittaker with strikes mid-way through the second round of their main card bout to leave no doubt about the South African’s credentials as a title challenger. And, after “Stillknocks” defeated the Australian and paid tribute to his opponent with a classy post-fight interview, the tension ratcheted up as reigning 185-pound champ Adesanya entered the cage.
An angry faceoff followed, with Adesanya questioning du Plessis’s heritage, before claiming that the title fight would be “easy”. Despite Adesanya’s pointed invective, du Plessis kept his cool, and eventually withdrew from the confrontation to celebrate his victory with his team.
It means that, if du Plessis is free of injuries and able to make the turnaround, he’ll almost certainly face Adesanya in the main event of UFC 293 on September 10 in Sydney, Australia, where the heated rivalry between Nigerian-born Adesanya and South African du Plessis come to a crescendo, with the undisputed middleweight title on the line.
Hooker edges Turner after wild battle
The featured lightweight bout of the night saw Kiwi 155er Dan Hooker produce a performance full of heart to come back from a tough opening round to defeat rising star Jalin Turner via split decision after three action-packed rounds.
Turner started well and appeared to edge the striking on the feet as he used his range to good effect early on. But as the fight wore on, Hooker began to get a foothold, and after turning the tables on Turner with his hands, came within seconds of submitting “The Tarantula” with a rear-naked choke as the horn saved Turner at the end of Round 2.
It meant the third round would be absolutely crucial, and Hooker pushed the pace, eventually taking an exhausted Turner to the mat and landing some solid ground strikes to ensure he got the nod from two of the three Octagonside judges, with the overall scorecards reading 28-29, 29-28, 29-28.
Nickal showcases striking with 38-second TKO
In the night’s opening bout of the main card, Bo Nickal was widely expected to win his bout with short-notice debutant Val Woodburn, but few predicted that he would serve up a spectacular display of striking to claim yet another first-round finish.
Woodburn didn’t bullrush Nickal as many expected, with the newcomer instead looking to bide his time in the opening moments of the bout. But, once the fists started to fly, Nickal made “The Animal” miss, then made him pay.
A clean counter stunned Woodburn to a standstill, then a follow-up shot sent the debutant down to the canvas as he picked up a 38-second finish to add even more hype to his considerable reputation.
Nickal’s win took his perfect professional record to 5-0, with all five wins coming in the first round, and three coming in less than one minute.
After his victory, Nickal revealed he and his wife were expecting their first child, and stated that being a good husband and father was even more important than being a good fighter. A wholesome message from a fighter who seems destined for UFC superstardom.
Lawler bows out with fairytale victory
The sport of MMA rarely lets its heroes walk away on their terms, but newly-inducted UFC Hall of Famer Robbie Lawler got a dream send-off as he claimed a stunning sub-60-second knockout, then received a memorable tribute from the UFC, and the Las Vegas fans, as a final parting gift.
Lawler locked up with Niko Price and hit him with a succession of left hands, with shots to the temple and the chin knocking out “The Hybrid” in just 38 seconds for a fairytale KO victory.
And, during an emotional post-fight interview, the UFC played a special montage of Lawler’s magic moments as the former welterweight champion of the world brought the curtain down on his legendary career after one of his best performances in recent times.
UFC 290: Official results
- Alexander Volkanovski def. Yair Rodriguez via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 3, 4:19 – for unified featherweight title
- Alexandre Pantoja def. Brandon Moreno via split decision (46-49, 48-47, 48-47) – for flyweight title
- Dricus du Plessis def. Robert Whittaker via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 2:23
- Dan Hooker def. Jalin Turner via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Bo Nickal def. Val Woodburn via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:38
- Robbie Lawler def. Niko Price via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:38
- Tatsuro Taira def. Edgar Chairez via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)
- Denise Gomes def. Yazmin Jauregui via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:20
- Alonzo Menifield def. Jimmy Crute via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:55
- Vitor Petrino def. Marcin Prachnio via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 3, 3:42
- Cameron Saaiman def. Terrence Mitchell via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 3:10
- Jesus Aguilar def. Shannon Ross via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 0:17
- Esteban Ribovics def. Kamuela Kirk via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)