Alexander Volkanovski (26-2) earned a TKO victory over Yair Rodriguez (16-4) to unify the UFC featherweight championship at UFC 290 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Volkanovski opened the first by stalking Rodriguez around the cage. The interim champion kept Volkanovski at distance with a handful of headkick shots, but Volkanovski jumped under a kick early in the round for a takedown. Rodriguez was able to fight Volkanovski off on the ground and made his way back to his feet. Volkanovski kept his hands locked on their feet and tossed the challenger back to the ground to maintain his control, then slid sideways into an arm triangle but couldn’t get his hips in position. They finished the round swinging hands at each other on the ground.
The second round started with a more aggressive Rodriguez, who took the fight to Volkanovski with more kicks from range. Volkanovski appeared to hurt Rodriguez with a couple of big right hand shots that stumbled him before the champ picked him up and slammed him to the mat. Rodriguez escaped to his feet, but Volkanovski again showed his strength in taking the interim champion down. On the mat, Rodriguez was a bloody mess as Volkanovski let his hands fly before the end of the round.
The third saw a bit more of a cautious Rodriguez, wary of Volkanovski’s takedown abilities as he attempted to keep the champ at range. Rodriguez began to chip away at Volkanovski with a slew of head kicks and punch combinations. Volkanovski hurt Rodriguez late in the round with a monstrous right hand shot before scooping him up, slamming him and finishing him on the ground.
Rodriguez summited Josh Emmett to claim the interim featherweight championship in February. Before that win, he knocked out Brian Ortega to move into title contention.
Saturday night’s contest was Volkanovski’s return to the featherweight division after dropping a decision loss in his attempt to move up to lightweight against Islam Makhachev.