Ilia Topuria is the new UFC featherweight world champion after brutally knocking out Alexander Volkanovski.
El Matador became the bull and the 145-pound king made good on his pre-fight promise to end the fight early. His shocking power was the difference against a man eight years his senior, who had dominated so dominantly in the division and who had tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg in his corner that night.
Spain has a first UFC champion and he overcame the odds in great style. In the first round, Volkanovski looked strong, working on the outside and aware of the threat posed by his opponent’s heavy hands.
Topuria was patient and both men landed hard kicks to the calves, as is the current trend, with the fighters trying to destabilize their opponent’s base.
Volkanovski’s jab fired like a piston and cut Topuria on the bridge of his nose, but when the challenger landed, it was clear that it had a much greater impact.
Ilia Topuria is the new UFC featherweight champion after an impressive knockout over Alexander Volkanovski
Topuria produced exactly what he said he would, knocking out Volkanovski early on and will be hard to stop.
This was the forceful blow that ended everything, knocking the Australian to the canvas before the referee intervened.
It was a sad end to the reign of Volkanovski, who had never lost in the UFC until he met El Matador.
In the second, the pattern continued but there was an air of inevitability. For all of Volkanovski’s intelligence and shrewd moves, he occasionally came out of exchanges straight back.
That Topuria would have 25 minutes to land a big shot on the man Islam Makhachev knocked out just last October seemed rather inevitable.
He did just that, backing his man up against the fence, throwing a hard right hand just over the shoulder and into the chin of ‘The Great One’, who fell to the canvas, where he remained for at least a couple of minutes.
Even though Topuria had been extremely confident all week and had told anyone who would listen how he would do, El Matador still seemed almost overwhelmed by the magnitude of his achievement.
Then he said: ‘Guess what, the only person you need is yourself, trust yourself and work tirelessly and anything is possible.
‘I know my abilities, I work very hard. I worked really hard for this one. One day I found out that he would be a UFC champion. It doesn’t matter what’s behind you, but what’s in front of you.
“Cold, cold,” he said as he watched the big-screen replay of his ending.
‘I had to throw a lot of combinations in this fight and that’s what I did. It’s time to bring the UFC to Spain!’
Topuria and his entourage celebrated in the octagon, while his young son could also watch
Volkanovski punched and moved with great effect from the start, but was much less powerful and explosive than his opponent.
The Australian could take a long break before dusting himself off and preparing to return
Volkanovski, with class as always, took the defeat with his usual grace and asked for revenge in Spain.
It would be a monster event given the growing support Topuria has in his adopted home, with famous faces like Sergio Ramos already on the bandwagon.
MMA is gaining popularity in Spain and Topuria is the man driving it, already gracing red carpets and rubbing shoulders with celebrities. His story, being born in Germany to Georgian parents, returning to his homeland and then starting a new life in Alicante is fascinating.
He deserves the praise he receives and looks like a champion who won’t be easily usurped.
There is a good chance that Volkanovski will now have an extended break from competition. He will no doubt want a quick return to action, but with many questioning a quick recovery from his KO loss to Islam Makhachev last year, his brain could use a recovery period.
Max Holloway seems a more likely option, although a lot will depend on how he climbs a division to face the lethal Justin Gaethje at UFC 300.