Alexander Volkanovski unleashes barrage of shots to finish Yair Rodriguez and defend title at UFC 290

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Alexander Volkanovski continued to exert his dominance over the featherweight division while vanquishing yet another foe after putting Yair Rodriguez away in the UFC 290 main event.

It was a ground heavy attack early as Volkanovski mauled Rodriguez in several grappling exchanges but the end came after the connected with a stiff right hand late in the third round that led to the stoppage. With Rodriguez rattled, Volkanovski tossed him to the floor and just unloaded a barrage of shots until referee Herb Dean had no choice but to stop the fight.

The official time of the stoppage was 4:19 into Round 3 as Volkanovski defended his featherweight title for the fifth consecutive time.

“You’ve got to expect the unexpected. That’s Yair,” Volkanovski said. “Everyone that knows this game knows how dangerous he was. I’ll be honest with you, through camp there was a bit of fear. Fear of his striking, knowing how dangerous he was.

“This week, I flipped the switch. I prepared how I did because of the man I respected. I’m the champ. I’m the king of this division. No one is ever stopping me.”

The path to close the distance for Volkanovski at the start of the fight involved taking Rodriguez to the ground and hammering away at him with a suffocating top game. It was a methodical attack from Volkanovski as he measured every punch thrown, continuing to advance his position and ensuring that Rodriguez stayed stuck underneath him.

When he got back to his feet, Rodriguez was displaying his typical creativity with a variety of kicks that were coming at the featherweight champion from every angle. Rodriguez was finally settling into a rhythm when Volkanovski rushed forward, cracked him with a hard punch and took the fight back to the ground again.

Volkanovski was setting a grueling pace as he punished Rodriguez, who had a nasty cut opened over his eye that was just leaking blood down the side of his face. Again and again, Volkanovski was biding his time until he decided to unleash his ground and pound with Rodriguez lost to do much of anything except play defense.

It wasn’t until the third round when Rodriguez finally got a little bit of room to work and he connected with several stinging kicks that definitely got Volkanovski’s attention. Volkanovski acknowledged the strikes as he looked to come back over the top on Rodriguez with his punches.

Just as Rodriguez was starting to find some comfort on the feet, Volkanovski surged forward with a stinging right hook that wobbled the Mexican. Volkanovski followed up with an emphatic takedown and Rodriguez never got back up again.

With Rodriguez just covering up, Volkanovski continued to rain fire down from above until the fight was eventually stopped.

“I knew that right hook would be pretty good,” Volkanovski said. “Even though he was very dangerous on the feet, I knew I could go on the feet or on the ground. I’m really coming for all them records. I’m pretty close to knocking off a few of those. The sky’s the limit.”

Volkanovski’s win knocks off yet another contender at 145 pounds and the Australian continues to cement himself as one of the top champions across any weight class in the UFC. While he still hopes to eventually return to lightweight for another shot at claiming that title, Volkanovski also turned his attention to undefeated featherweight Ilia Topuria, who was watching at cageside.

“There’s a few options,” Volkanovski said about what’s next for him. “I’ll be completely honest with you, I need to get a little bit of surgery on my arm. I’ll make sure I stay fit in recovery and I’ll be back soon. I want that lightweight belt. I’m still coming for that. Whoever’s next.

“Ilia [Topuria] has been running his mouth, if he wants to keep going, I’ll show him what’s up. I’ll squash him, too.”

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