Ilia Topuria stops Alexander Volkanovski to win UFC featherweight title

ANAHEIM, Calif. — On Saturday night at UFC 298, undefeated Ilya Topria stopped Alexander Volkanovski in the second round to win the featherweight title and end the Australian champion’s four-year reign.

Topria (15-0), a Georgian who lives and trains in Spain, controlled the first round of his first UFC title fight with sharp strikes, then sensationally finished Volkanovski with the same strikes.

Topria staggered the 35-year-old Volkanovski to the cage with a left-right combination, then placed him on the canvas with a perfect right hand followed by a hard left.

Ilya Topria (right) punches Alexander Volkanovski after winning their UFC featherweight title match. Zuffa LLC (via Getty Images)

Topuria grounded out the stunned champion with 1:28 remaining, improving his record to 7-0 since joining the UFC at the end of 2020.

“I feel very happy now,” Pria said. “They said I couldn’t do it. … Anything is possible if you just believe in yourself. Look at me now.”

Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker defeated Paulo Costa by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of the UFC’s first pay-per-view show in Southern California in over two years.

Volkanovski (26-4) had successfully defended his title five consecutive times since winning the belt in late 2019, but his reign ended with his first loss in a featherweight bout in a UFC bout. Ta.

Ilia Topria celebrates her UFC featherweight title victory over Alexander Volkanovski. Zuffa LLC (via Getty Images)

Volkanovski also lost twice to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in the past year, failing in his bid for a two-division championship, and although he didn’t show his usual relentless work against Topuria, the fight suddenly finished.

Topuria perfectly captured a moment that was years in the making. His decision victory over Josh Emmett last summer gave him six straight UFC wins in less than three years and vaulted him to the top of Volkanovski’s list of contenders for the belt.

Topria didn’t lack confidence in the promotion of this fight. He repeatedly spoke about Volkanovski’s reign in the past tense and even brushed the title belt off the table right in front of Volkanovski at Thursday’s press conference.

Volkanovski showed up to the event dressed like an old man and scoffed at the idea that he was too old to compete with the 27-year-old Topuria.

Ilya Topria celebrates her knockout victory over Alexander Volkanovskiy. Zuffa LLC (via Getty Images)

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg came out with Volkanovski, wearing champion cornerman gear with a front row seat at a packed Honda Center.

Whittaker (25-7) bounced back from his loss to future middleweight champion Drikas de Plessis last summer to score a come-from-behind victory over Costa (14-3), using a brilliant spinning attack near the end of the first round. A head kick staggers Whittaker.

Whittaker was left with a bloody face, but he controlled the next two rounds almost on his feet against Costa, and his lack of conditioning may have limited his ability to land a large amount of blows.

Earlier, former UFC two-division champion Henry Cejudo lost a unanimous decision to Merab Dvalishvili, dropping to 0-2 in his return bout. Cejudo previously said he would retire again if he lost the fight.

Cejudo, a former U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist and UFC champion in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, miraculously retired in 2020 at the height of his MMA career. The 37-year-old made his comeback last May with a loss to Aljamain Sterling.

Cejudo went over the cage in one embarrassing moment against Dvalishvili, a Georgian who is training on Long Island. It was Dvalishvili’s 10th consecutive win, and his 9th in the bantamweight division.

Chinese light heavyweight Zhang Minyan delivered one of the most impressive finishes on the undercard, knocking out Blendson Ribeiro with a dynamite combination in the first round of his UFC debut.