UFC: Mindset switch helps Volkanovski cements status as indisputable king of the lightweight division with brutal TKO of Rodriguez

Australian scores third round victory over Mexican rival to retain UFC crown

By Reuters

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Alexander Volkanovski (red gloves) throws a counter punch as Yair Rodriguez lands a deadly leg kick during UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. - UAE Today
Alexander Volkanovski (red gloves) throws a counter punch as Yair Rodriguez lands a deadly leg kick during UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. - UAE Today

Published: Sun 9 Jul 2023, 3:02 PM

Australia's Alexander Volkanovski refused to let a considerable size difference put him off as he pulled off a brilliant knockout win over Yair Rodriguez to retain his featherweight title at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.

The 34-year-old Volkanovski stunned his Mexican opponent with a stunning right hand and followed it up with devastating ground strikes to end the fight with 41 seconds left in round three, before saying he planned to step up a division and claim a new crown.

"I still want that lightweight belt, I'm still coming for that, whoever's next," he said in a post-fight interview.

Volkanovski's previous attempt to add the lightweight title to his featherweight belt ended in a unanimous decision loss to Islam Makhachev in February, but it appears there is no featherweight in the world at the moment who can threaten his dominance as he made his fifth successful defence of that title.

With Rodriguez enjoying considerable advantages in height and reach, Volkanovski was careful to stay out of range in the first round before taking the fight to the ground, where he controlled his Mexican opponent with relative ease.

Rodriguez had some success early in the second round with some lightning-fast kicks but he was rocked with a punch that allowed Volkanovski to take the fight back to the mat, where he opened a cut over the Mexican's eye with a vicious elbow.

Though he looked dangerous on the feet, Rodriguez had no answer when Volkanovski closed the distance, and a counter-right hook from the Australian signalled the beginning of the end as the fourth round reached its climax.

Sensing victory, Volkanovski poured forward, dumping Rodriguez on the canvas again and raining down blows before referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.

"You've got to expect the unexpected, that's Yair. Everyone who knows the game knows how dangerous he was," Volkanovski said, admitting that he had experienced some fear in the build-up to the contest.

"(But) a couple of days ago, mindset switch - I'm the champ, I'm the king of this division, no-one was ever stopping me," Volkanovski said.


In the co-main event, Brazil's Alexandre Pantoja won a razor-thin split decision victory to dethrone Mexican Brandon Moreno and claim the flyweight crown after an epic five-round battle.

Earlier in the evening, former welterweight champion brought the curtain down on a pro career spanning more than two decades with a devastating left uppercut that secured him a first-round knockout of Niko Price in his final fight.

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