Volkanovski adds to legacy at UFC 290

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sport
Volkanovski dominates en route to retaining UFC featherweight title.

LAS VEGAS – Alexander Volkanovski may have secured his spot as the top pound-for-pound mixed martial artist with a dominating victory over Yair Rodriguez to become the undisputed UFC featherweight champion on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

“It’s just the passion for the sport and the mindset,” Volkanovski said about his ability to remain winning. “It’s not hard for me to find a way to be motivated. …  I’m going to turn up anyway. I’m passionate about what I do. I always switch some things to get me hyped up.

I’m in my peak. Let’s see how it last.

Alexander Volkanvoski, UFC featherweight champion

Volkanovski (26-2) landed a counter right hook which stunned Rodriguez (16-4, 1 NC). He followed it up with strikes and ground and pound to stop Rodriguez at 4:19 of Round 3.

“Total domination. He looked incredible,” UFC president Dana White said of Volkanovski’s performance. 

Volkanovski is currently ranked by the UFC as the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter, trailing heavyweight Jon Jones. Volkanovski has won 23 of his last 24 fights with his only loss coming against lightweight Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 – a rematch he wants.

Ilia Topuria is also a potential fight for Volkanovski at 145, but White said it’s up to Volkanovski on what comes next.

“He’s at one of those places where whatever he says, we’re going to do. Whatever he wants to do, we’ll probably roll with it,” White said.

Volkanovski dominated the first round, taking down Rodriguez and punished him with strikes. It was more of the same in Round 2 as Volkanovski again found a way to take down Rodriguez and hit him with more strikes. He took down Rodriguez seven times and landed 149 strikes (66 significant strikes). 

Rodriguez opened up with strikes in Round 3 and landed some kicks but was caught with a right hook that spelled the end of his night.

“Everyone has a puncher’s chance, and nobody has got a better chance that Yair Rodriguez,” Volkanovski said. “I just had to pick the right moments. You go in a little too aggressive without the right set up, it could be good night. He’s the type of guy you need to be careful and smart. We did the right things.”

Volkanovski will need surgery on his arm but added it’s nothing serious.

“I’ll be training,” he said. “You don’t need to be stressed about. I’ll be back in there before a lot of other champions.”

Pantoja picks up third win over Moreno, claims UFC flyweight title

Jul 8, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Alexandre Pantoja (blue gloves) reacts to defeating Brandon Moreno (red gloves) during UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Moreno put on a five-round classic that Pantoja won via split decision to claim the UFC flyweight title.

The two earned fight of the night honors.

Pantoja (26-5) won two scorecards via scores of 48-47, while Moreno (21-7-2) won Ben Cartildge’s scorecard 49-46.

“We sent both those guys straight to the hospital. Absolute dog fight,” White said. “It’s so good. I don’t know (if we’ll see a rematch soon). I don’t think there is anyone on Earth that wouldn’t want to see it.” 

It marked the third time Pantoja has defeated Moreno. The first time was when the two were on The Ultimate Fighter, where Pantoja won via submission. The two fought again at UFC Fight Night 129 where Pantoja took home a unanimous decision victory.

The bout went back and forth with both men putting on an elite performance in striking and grappling.

Pantoja controlled the fight where he needed by taking down Moreno in key points on the fight. He was 6-for-11 on takedown attempts. He took Moreno’s back on multiple occasions and attempted multiple submission attempts but could not finish Moreno.

Moreno seemingly controlled the damage portion of the fight, doing most of it when the fighters were on their feet. He fired off his jab relentlessly and connected on 63 percent of his total strikes and 60 percent of his significant strikes.

White announced that Moreno broke his hand in the fight.

Other Main Card Results

No. 5 middleweight Dricus Du Plessis (20-2) made a statement and put himself in line for a middleweight title shot against Israel Adesanya with a TKO victory over No. 2 ranked Robert Whittaker (25-7). Du Plessis landed a clean right hand that dropped Whittaker and followed it up with more strikes to earn the stoppage at 2:23 of Round 2.

“Absolutely amazing,” Du Plessis said. “Definitely the biggest win of my career. I knew this was the biggest fight of my career.”

In a thrilling three-round, back-and-forth lightweight bout, No. 12 ranked fighter Dan Hooker (23-12) picked up a split-decision victory (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) over No. 11 ranked Jalin Turner (14-7).  Hooker suffered a broken arm in the fight. 

Highly touted prospect Bo Nickal (5-0) made quick work of late replacement Val Woodburn (7-1), winning via stoppage 38 seconds into the first round. 

“I saw that he was being patient, backing up and dropping his lead hand when I was feigning,” Nickal said. “I came over the top with a hook. I just had to capitalize on it.”

UFC 290 Preliminary Card Results

  • WELTERWEIGHT: Robbie Lawler def. Niko Price via knockout (R1 0:38).
  • CATCHWEIGHT (130 POUNDS): Tatsuro Taira def. Edgar Chairez via unanimous decision (29-27 all scorecards).
  • WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT: Denise Gomes def. Yazmin Jauregui via technical knockout (R1 0:20).
  • LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: Alonzo Menifield def. Jimmy Crute (14) via submission (R2 1:55).
  • LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: Vitor Petrino def. Marcin Prachnio via submission (R3 3:42).
  • BANTAMWEIGHT: Cameron Saaiman def. Terrence Mitchell via technical knockout (R1 3:10).
  • FLYWEIGHT: Jesus Aguilar def. Shannon Ross via knockout (R1 0:17).
  • LIGHTWEIGHT: Esteban Ribovics def. Kamuela Kirk via unanimous decision (29-28 all scorecards).