Morning Report: Coach says Ilia Topuria had ‘puncher’s chance’ vs. Alexander Volkanovski ‘and he got that punch’

There has been a changing of the guard at featherweight. If Alexander Volkanovski has it his way, it will only be temporary.

UFC 298 got bigger and bigger by the day of its fight week in Anaheim, Calif. The undefeated first-time title challenger Ilia Topuria’s growing confidence only boosted until pressure seemingly was getting the better of him at the energetic pre-fight press conference this past Thursday.

In the end, Topuria made good on his predictions and knocked out the reigning featherweight champion in round two with a perfectly placed right hand against the cage. The loss was Volkanovski’s second in a row via strikes and his first at 145 pounds in his 30-fight career (16 at featherweight, 26-4 overall). However, it was a better performance than his previous loss against lightweight champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 in October.

Per all three judges on the night of UFC 298, Volkanovksi won round one and the Aussie’s coach Joe Lopez liked the way things were playing out overall.

“Alex was going through the gameplan, was finding his range and starting to touch him up,” Lopez told Daily Mail. “I was disappointed [by the result], knowing that Alex has a much better skill set … We knew coming into this fight he (Topuria) had a puncher’s chance — and he got that punch.”

Volkanovski, 35, was undeniably one of the best featherweight champions in MMA history with his five-defense stretch of dominance. Arguably the greatest of all time in the division to some, an immediate rematch wouldn’t be unjustifiable against the new title holder.

Ultimately, the 27-year-old Topuria isn’t against the idea but would like to “move on” and keep things fresh atop the division. In defeat, Volkanovski was nothing but graceful and had no excuses to be made.

Don’t expect that potential rematch to look the same though, says “The Great.”

“We knew he would be fast,” Volkanovski said in his post-fight scrum after UFC 298. “We knew he would be powerful, obviously. We knew not to be on the cage there and let him catch us there, so again, he did a great job there, so there’s not much I can say other than congrats to him.

“Obviously, I’ve been a champ for a long time and I want that rematch, so that’s something that needs to happen. I’ve been reigning champ for how long? I’ve been a bit of a company man. Went back up on short notice, I fought Max [Holloway] three times, you name it, I’ve done it individually for a long time so I think I deserve that and it’s going to be different next time.”

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Thanks for reading!


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