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UFC 290: Volkanovski rules supreme in Las Vegas

Australian Alexander Volkanovski defended his featherweight title for the fifth time in brilliant fashion at UFC 290, stopping Yair Rodriguez in a thrilling main event.

The 34-year-old won for the 26th time in his career to ensure he is still the man to beat at featherweight, as he defended his crown and unified the division.

Volkanovski dominated the fight from the outset before ending the contest on the ground in round three with a flurry of punches.

MMA fans were treated to a spectacular night of action as Alexandre Pantoja won the UFC flyweight title from Brandon Moreno, with UFC commentator Daniel Cormier describing it as "the fight of the year to this point".

Robert Whittaker's plans to rematch Israel Adesanya are also over for now after he lost to Dricus du Plessis.

Volkanovski sets lofty targets after latest win

In his MMA career, Volkanovski has only lost on two occasions, and only one of those has come in the UFC.

The Aussie won the UFC featherweight crown in 2019, beating Max Holloway on points. He then defended the belt against Holloway, Brian Ortega, and Jung Chan-sung before defeating Holloway for a third time.

Volkanovski was then given the chance to compete for the UFC lightweight crown, but he lost via decision to Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 in February.

Like a true champion, he did not let that phase him, and his latest defence adds further weight to the claims that he is the greatest featherweight of all time.

After his win over Rodriguez, Volkanovski revealed he will need to take a break to have surgery, but he still has plans to become a two-weight champion.

"You've got to expect the unexpected. I'm being honest with you, through camp, there was fear there with his striking," said Volkanovski.

"But I'm the champ, the king of this division, and nobody is stopping me. I'll be completely honest with you, I need a bit of surgery on my arm.

"But I want that lightweight belt, I'm still coming for that. I'm coming back, watch out."

Pantoja makes history in Las Vegas

In one of the best fights of 2023, Brazil's Pantoja continued his fine record against Moreno. Pantoja had already beaten his rival on two occasions, and even though he was out-struck over five rounds, he managed to get the better of the exchanges.

Pantoja dropped Moreno with a big left hand in the early stages of the fight, and he continued to produce the more eye-catching work, taking the fight to get the ground successfully.

Even though both fighters felt they had done enough, Pantoja was given the win, and he will now be expecting a queue of challengers, although he says his story is only just beginning.

In an emotional post-fight interview, Pantoja said: "If you know my story, you're gonna love me. I worked so hard for that, I can touch it [the belt] now, I can feel it.

"I worked so hard, I brought my family to the United States. I left everything I had. My mum took care of me and my two brothers alone. Now Dad, are you proud of me?"

Du Plessis earns his shot at Adesanya

A new contender in the middleweight division emerged in Las Vegas, with the South African dispatching Robert Whittaker midway through the second round.

Du Plessis made a dent in Whittaker at the end of the first round before sending him to the canvas in the second.

After his win, he moved to 6-0, and "Stillknocks" is now in line to face Adesanya later this year.

The two men came face-to-face in the cage after Du Plessis' win, and there will be plenty to say in the build-up as the South African tries to snatch the title from the dangerous Adesanya.

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