Ilia Topuria KNOCKS OUT Alexander Volkanovski with huge right hand to dethrone featherweight champion in second round of UFC 298 main event in California

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Ilia Topuria is the new UFC featherweight champion of the world after brutally knocking Alexander Volkanovski out cold. 

El Matador became the bull and the 145-pound king delivered on his pre-fight promise to end it early. His concussive power was the difference against a man eight years his senior, who had ruled the roost so dominantly in the division and had tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg in his corner on the night.  

Spain has a first UFC champion and he upset the odds in fine style. In the opening round, Volkanovski looked sharp, working on the outside and conscious of the threat posed by his opponent’s heavy hands. 

Topuria was patient and both men landed heavy calf kicks, as is the current trend, with fighters trying to destabilise the base of their rival. 

Volkanovski’s jab was firing like a piston and cut Topuria on the bridge of the nose but when the challenger landed, it was clear to see it had a much greater impact. 

Ilia Topuria is the new UFC featherweight champion after a stunning knockout of Alexander Volkanovski

Ilia Topuria is the new UFC featherweight champion after a stunning knockout of Alexander Volkanovski

Topuria produced exactly what he said he would, knocking out Volkanovski early on and he will be hard to stop

Topuria produced exactly what he said he would, knocking out Volkanovski early on and he will be hard to stop 

This was the telling blow that ended it, crumpling the Australian to the mat before the referee intervened

This was the telling blow that ended it, crumpling the Australian to the mat 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

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 smarts and crafty movement, he was exiting exchanges every now and again in a straight backwards line. 

For Topuria to have 25 minutes to land a huge shot on the man Islam Makhachev knocked out only last October seemed more of an inevitability. 

He did just that, backing his man up against the fence, sneaking a heavy right just over the shoulder and onto the chin of ‘The Great’, who crumpled to the canvas, where he remained for at least a couple of minutes. 

Even though Topuria had been supremely confident all week and told anyone who would listen how it would go, El Matador still looked almost overwhelmed at the magnitude of his achievement. 

Afterwards, he said: ‘Guess what, the only person you need is yourself, trust yourself and work tirelessly and anything is possible.

‘I know my skills, I work so hard. I worked so hard for this one. One day I knew I would be UFC champion. It doesn’t matter what’s behind you, it’s what’s in front of you. 

‘Cold, cold,’ he said while looking up at the big screen replay of his finish.

‘I just had to throw a lot of combinations in this fight and that’s what I did. It’s time to take the UFC to Spain!’

Topuria and his entourage celebrated in the octagon, with his young son able to watch on too

Topuria and his entourage celebrated in the octagon, with his young son able to watch on too 

Volkanovski jabbed and moved to great affect early on but was far less powerful and explosive than his opponent

Volkanovski jabbed and moved to great affect early on but was far less powerful and explosive than his opponent

The Australian could have a long break now before he dusts himself off and prepares to go again

The Australian could have a long break now before he dusts himself off and prepares to go again 

Volkanovski, classy as ever, took the defeat with his usual grace and called for a rematch in Spain. 

That would be a monstrous event given the growing support Topuria has in his adopted home, with famous faces such as Sergio Ramos already on the bandwagon. 

MMA is growing in popularity in Spain and Topuria is the man driving it, already gracing red carpets and rubbing shoulders with celebrities. His story, having been born in Germany to Georgian parents, going back to their homeland and then starting a new life in Alicante is a fascinating one. 

He deserves the acclaim coming his way and looks a champion who will not be easily usurped.  

There’s every chance Volkanovski has an extended break from competition now. He will no doubt want a swift return to action, but with many questioning a quick turnaround from his KO defeat by Islam Makhachev last year, his brain could do with an period of recovery. 

Max Holloway seems a more likely option for Topuria as a first defence, though much will depend on how he fares in stepping up a division to take on the deadly Justin Gaethje at UFC 300. Movsar Evloev, who recently beat Arnold Allen, is another option. 

In the co-main event, fans in Anaheim were treated to a thrilling three rounder between Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. 

Robert Whittaker defeated Paulo Costa in the co-main event after a brilliant three-round encounter

Robert Whittaker defeated Paulo Costa in the co-main event after a brilliant three-round encounter

Ian Machado Garry managed to ignore the boos and defeat Geoff Neal by decision on the main card

Ian Machado Garry managed to ignore the boos and defeat Geoff Neal by decision on the main card 

Whittaker came out on top by decision having absorbed some hellish blows, including a spinning heel kick to the face in the first round. The former champion dug deep to out-strike and out-think his heavy-hitting opponent and put himself back in the title picture. 

Ian Machado Garry defeated Geoff Neal by split decision before calling out Colby Covington. The Irishman, who had been met with boos all week from the crowd, was greeted by the same reaction during his post fight speech. 

He remains undefeated and a hugely impressive striker. If sanctioned, the Covington match-up would be a huge seller for the UFC and is one to keep an eye on. 

Henry Cejudo tasted defeat by Merab Dvalishvili and appears to be heading towards retirement, with the Georgian destined to face the winner of Sean O’Malley vs Marlon Vera.  

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