The No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in the world, Alexander Volkanovski, returns home to Featherweight TONIGHT (Sat., July 8, 2023) at UFC 290, which takes place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a rare loss — albeit at Lightweight — in an admirable legacy-building quest.
While he was away, the 145-pound division continued to move, with Yair Rodriguez claiming the interim crown earlier this year with an impressive submission win over top-seeded contender, Josh Emmett (watch it).
Tonight, the Australian champion looks to re-establish his grip on the title picture and unify the titles once again. However, “El Pantera” is one of the craftiest and most gifted fighters to ever step into the Octagon (just ask Jon Jones). The proud Mexican contender differs wildly from the usual mixed martial arts (MMA) mold — he’s still a bit of a mystery 10 years into his UFC run ... and remains dangerous regardless of how damaged or tired he appears to be.
Live updates will begin to flow below the moment the two fighters make their way to the Octagon ...
“El Pantera,” the interim champion “challenger,” was the first to make the walk:
Then, it was time for “The Great” to enter the cage to his trademark “Men at Work” classic:
Both fighters touched gloves — no animosity needed — and we were off and punching. Volkanovski was the aggressor early, switching stances as he tried to put pressure on the Mexican standout. Yair tried to beat him back with some leg attacks, missing with a questions mark kick out of nowhere. Volkanovski missed with a low kick as both fighters try to gauge range. Yair got lazy with a kick and that was all Volkanovski needed to get the fight to the ground and slide him to the bottom of the cage near his corner. Short shots from Volkanovski from the top as Yair tried to kick him off. The champ started to drop some hard elbows as Yair was finally able to create some space and get back to his feet with 90 seconds remaining on the clock. Volkanovski dragged him back down again, as Yair rolled on the way down to try and escape ... he didn’t. He angled for an arm-traingle choke, but Yair was able to stop him from crossing over. Volkanovski finished the round on top with punches — strong round for the Aussie.
Volkanovski suffered a cut from a sharp Yair elbow when he was on bottom, which the corner did a solid job of treating between rounds. Yair started the second stanza with a display of dynamic kicks, but none of them really landed. Volkanovski eventually bullied his way inside, offloading some hard shots before securing yet another takedown. Yair got back to his feet fast, but Volkanovski has that kung-fu grip and dragged him right back down to the mat, unloading more hard elbows from top position. Yair once again worked hard to get upright, but Volkanovski was just too strong. He then started to open up with even more elbows and punches as Yair moved from side-to-side to try and avoid some of them. Yair tried to throw up a triangle off his back, but Volkanovski continued to just brutalize him, opening up some sort of cut around his left eyebrow. More shots from Volkanovski and Yair was really leaking at this point, which is how the round would end. Another strong round for “The Great,” but Yair can never be counted out.
Before the round started, referee Herb Dean warned Yair about putting his fingers inside Volkanovski’s gloves and grabbing the fence. Volkanovski continued to stalk Yair, but the action seemed to stall a bit ... at least for the first two minutes ... as the pair tried to figure out each other. Yair eventually landed a slick kick upstairs, followed by a nice hook, which Volkanovski acknowledged. That woke up Volkanovski, who once again started to chase his Mexican counterpart. Low kick from Yair kept him at bay, but Volkanovski was able to slam him with a hard right hook to the jaw. Around the two-minute mark there was an inadvertent clash of heads, which Yair took the brunt of. The two literally hugged it out and we were back to the action. Volkanovski whiffed on a low kick on the restart, but Yair once again put together the leg-punch combination that once again had Volkanovski nodding. Not for long, though, as Volkanovski drilled him with a hard counter shot off a failed kick that seriously hurt Yair. Volkanovski noticed he was hurt right away and went to work, swarming Yair with a flurry of shots as he crumbled to the bottom of the cage. He covered up and tried to survive, but Dean had seen enough and rightfully waived off the canvas.
Final result: Volkanovski def. Rodriguez via technical knockout in round three — WATCH HIGHLIGHTS!
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