Ilia Topuria Gives Spain Its Spot on the Grand UFC Stage With Upset Title Victory

February 19, 2024
2 months

Ilia Topuria didn’t quite call his shot. The Spanish star said he would knock out UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in the first round Saturday night during UFC 298 at the Honda Center. Topuria did deliver on his prediction of a knockout.

Topuria caught Volkanovski with a stiff punch along the cage that sat the champion down for good. But it didn’t come in the first five minutes. Topuria scored the knockout in the second round to stop Volkanovski’s reign, which had previously seen the champion defend the title five times. Topuria was born in Germany to Georgian parents.

Topuria spent time in Georgia as a child before the family resettled in Spain.

It was a tough end for Volkanovski, who had poked fun at his age all week. Volkanovski filmed a commercial where he acted like an elderly man and wore the clothes to the pre-fight press conference. But now, there are legitimate concerns about Volkanovksi’s future. He has lost three of his past four fights and has taken back-to-back knockout losses.

But Topuria announced a change in the scenery for the featherweight division. While Topuria was a pick ‘em on the betting line, he was the only underdog to win out of the 12 fights at UFC 298. Topuria is still undefeated and will be a tough challenge for any potential contenders willing to challenge him for the throne.

Just a Flesh Wound

Robert Whittaker took a spinning wheel kick flush on the chin from Paulo Costa in the dying seconds of the first round of their middleweight bout. Whittaker, the former middleweight champion, saw his legs buckle, and Costa swam in. But Costa, a former title challenger, didn’t have enough time to capitalize.

The second round started, and Whittaker settled back into a comfortable, striking affair. Whittaker picked up a unanimous decision to help quell some concerns about his career declining. In Whittaker’s last fight, he was dominated by now-middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis.

Other than getting stung by Costa’s surprise attack, Whittaker wasn’t troubled by another Costa had to offer.

Defiant Garry Does Enough to Win

Boo Ian Machado Garry all you want. Have a weird opinion on his personal life. All Garry wants to do is win fights.

Garry heard it from the crowd Saturday night, but he was able to use his length and speed to score a split-decision win over Geoff Neal. Garry, 26, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Irishman Conor McGregor to become a UFC champion.

Garry is 14-0 in his career and has won seven straight fights in the UFC. Many of the boos Garry faced Saturday night were because his fight was clinch-heavy and didn’t feature a lot of action.

Triple C May be Done Winning Titles

Henry Cejudo retired after winning and defending championships in two different UFC weight divisions. The former Olympic gold medalist wrestler took three years off the sport before returning last year. Maybe Cejudo should have stayed on the sidelines.

Cejudo was no match for the power and spunk of Merab Dvalishvili. The former champion has now lost both of his fights since returning. Dvalishvili called for a title shot against the winner of Sean O’Malley or Chito Vera. Cejudo said before the fight that if he couldn’t beat Dvalishvili, he would retire again.

Let’s see if Cejudo is a man of his word.

Hernandez Does What it Takes

Anthony Hernandez didn’t stray from the plan. During his middleweight fight with Roman Kopylov, Hernandez wanted to avoid the Russian’s dangerous striking. Herandez never wanted to get discouraged if his wrestling failed at first.

Kopylov stopped Hernandez’s first eight takedown attempts. However, once Hernandez got Kopylov down, things were over quickly. Hernandez wrapped Kopylov up around the cage and secured a rear-naked choke victory. Hernandez has picked up five straight wins, three of which came via submission.

Dern Proves to be Unbreakable

Mackenzie Dern may have pulled off one of the more surprising movers of the entire card. The BJJ specialist told everyone she worked on her offensive wrestling before fighting Amanda Lemos in a women’s strawweight fight. Sure enough, Dern was able to land a double-lake takedown that showed significant improvement.

However, Lemos landed a straight right that nearly resulted in a knockout in the second round that stole the fight. Lemos leaned on her superior, striking to take control of the fight. Referee Mike Beltran could have stopped the fight but let Dern attempt to work out of it.

Lemos ended up grabbing a unanimous decision victory, according to MMA news sites.

Tafa Brothers Gain an Enemy

Marcos Rogério de Lima was slated to fight Justin Tafa in a heavyweight fight. However, Tafa withdrew a day before the fight due to an injury. Eager to keep the fight on the card, the UFC allowed Justin’s brother, Junior, to step in and take on de Lima.

De Lima brutalized Junior with leg kicks and secured a second-round stoppage. If Justin is still interested in the fight, MMA latest updates show this could make a solid storyline with the family aspect if the original fight is now rebooked.

Biggest Betting Favorite Cruises

MMA breaking news may show that many people might have hoped for more flash from Japanese star Rinya Nakamura. However, Nakamura was able to fight off the unorthodox grappling of Carlos Vera and cruise to a decision. Vera repeatedly dove for leg locks and made Nakamura scramble to stay out of danger.

Here’s a look at the rest of the fights on the card not listed above:

  • Light Heavyweight, Zhang Mingyang win by KO (punches) Brendson Ribeiro, Round 1 1:41
  • Welterweight, Danny Barlow win by TKO (punches) Josh Quinlan, Round 3 1:18
  • Welterweight, Oban Elliott win by decision Val Woodburn, 30-27 (x3)
  • Women’s flyweight, Miranda Maverick win by decision Andrea Lee, 30-27 (x2) 29-28

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By Dean McHugh.