Alexander Volkanovski solidified his reign as king of the featherweight division, unifying the 145-pound crown with a third-round TKO victory over interim titleholder Yair Rodriguez on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The stoppage came at 4 minutes, 19 seconds with Volkanovski raining strikes on the ground as Rodriguez covered up against the fence.
Volkanovski turned this into a wrestling match from the start, scoring three takedowns in the opening round while doing damage with ground and pound. Rodriguez still managed to hurt Volkanovski while on his back, however, cutting the champion with an elbow over the left eye.
Volkanovski took the fight to the mat again with about 3:30 left in the second round. Rodriguez managed to work his way back to his feet twice, but Volkanovski dragged him down again and continued to beat him up with strikes on the ground, including an elbow that sliced Rodriguez open above the left eye. By the end of the round, Volkanovski had already secured six takedowns and Rodriguez’s face was covered in blood..
Rodriguez landed his best combination of the night midway through Round 3, cracking Volkanovski with a head kick and quickly following with a right hook that made the champion nod his head to acknowledge the shots. But Volkanovski came right back and badly hurt Rodriguez with a right hook that made him back up against the fence. The champion smelled blood, following with a knee to the head and a hook to the body before picking Rodriguez up and slammed him to the ground. Vicious ground and pound followed, and referee Herb Dean jumped into call the fight off.
Volkanovski (26-2), tied for No. 1 on ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings, made his sixth consecutive title defense. He was coming off a loss to UFC lightweight champ Islam Makhachev in a fight for the 155-pound title at UFC 284 in February.
Rodriguez (16-4), who is ESPN’s No. 3-ranked featherweight, beat Josh Emmett for the interim title at UFC 284.