Three’s a reign.
And on Sunday (AEST) in Jacksonville, with his third title defence, Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski made one thing clear: he runs the UFC’s featherweight division. And it’s going to take something special to knock him off his perch.
Volkanovski secured his 11th straight win since entering the UFC with a staggeringly-dominant fourth round stoppage of Chan Sung Jung inside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
In a reminder to anyone who needed reminding, Volkanovski carved out three-and-a-bit rounds of absolute perfection before ‘The Korean Zombie’ was finally put out of his misery.
Joe Rogan called it a “seminar” and the best performance of Volkanovski’s (24-1-0) career to date.
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The first round was masterful from Volkanovski, who made Zombie pay for closing the distance, as he eventually dropped his challenger near the end of the opening period.
The second, more of the same; a left hook rocking Zombie early, before a straight right landed flush on the Korean’s chin.
It was all too perfect; a battered Zombie walking forward, despite all the punishment, as Volkanovski danced around, serving up a hellacious beating.
The third saw the same brutal Volkanovski treatment and Zombie drop again, only for the bell to save him. If it was merciful, it would have waited a couple seconds longer, with referee Herb Dean moments away from stopping it.
Dean eventually did step in early in the fourth round; only then was the Korean able to crash on the canvas and try comprehend the beating he’d just taken.
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In truth, it was a non-contest, finally put to bed as Volkanovski secured his first stoppage victory since 2018.
“I told you before this fight all week, I said I’m on another level right now and can’t be stopped and I just showed you,” Volkanovski said.
“He actually took a lot more than I wanted him to. I thought they could have stopped it a bit earlier. I started feeling bad but that is the sport we are in.”
Volkanovski cut a different figure during fight week; one finally ready to own his status as the best 145-pounder in the world. And everything that comes with that.
For Zombie, the softly spoken star out of Korea, securing another title shot — nine years after his first — almost felt like a victory in itself. In some ways, it was.
But once the action got underway, it quickly became evident why it was Volkanovski who was the overwhelming favourite going into the main event.
Volkanovski escaped two near-disasters against Brian Ortega last year, before laying on a historic beating.
Before that, he came out of two chess matches with Max Holloway with his king still standing.
Against Zombie, there was no such resistance.
“Tonight, he came out and made a statement,” UFC boss Dana White said, “that ‘I’m the baddest dude in the division.’
“He made the Zombie look like he didn’t even belong there.
“The fight probably could have been stopped the round before it did, but he couldn’t have looked better than he did tonight. He looked incredible.”
In the lead-up to their fight, Volkanovski suggested his opponent had a ‘puncher’s chance’, and that’s it; needing to land a lucky shot if he were to stun the UFC world.
That shot never came.
As for what’s next, it almost doesn’t matter to Volkanovski who equalled Max Holloway for the second most title defences in featherweight history.
“There was a fight that was meant to be scheduled for this one [against Max Holloway],” Volkanovski said.
“We will see what the UFC has to say. Everyone in my division, I’ve been saying it for a while. Get your shit together, earn that No.1 spot and you get it. If not, you’re going to miss out, it’s that f***ing simple.”
In the co-main event, Aljamain Sterling became the undisputed bantamweight champion after a split decision victory over Petr Yan.
Sterling won it 48-47, 48-47, 47-48, to put to bed any doubts over his champion status.
Yan called for an immediate rematch, claiming he was “robbed”.
Before that, it was Khamzat Chimaev and Gilbert Burns who stole the show, as Dana White, with dollar signs in his eyes, could only stand, smile, and applaud after 15 minutes of pure violence.
Chimaev got the win after a war that appeased on Jacksonville fan’s demand: “Show me blood. I want blood.”
Alexander Volkanovski (C) def. ‘The Korean Zombie’ via TKO in the fourht round — featherweight title
Aljamain Sterling (C) def. Petr Yan (IC) via split decision— bantamweight title
Khamzat Chimaev def Khamzat Chimaev via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) — welterweight
Mackenzie Dern def. Tecia Torres via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) — strawweight
Mark Madsen def. Vinc Pichel via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Ian Garry def. Darian Weeks via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) — welterweight
Anthony Hernandez def. Josh Fremd via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) — middleweight
Raquel Pennington def. Aspen Ladd via unanimous decision 29-28 x 3 — bantamweight
Mike Malott def. Mickey Gall via TKO in first round — welterweight
Aleksei Oleinik def. Jared Vanderaa via first round submission — heavyweight
Julio Arce def. Daniel Santos via unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28) — bantamweight
Piera Rodriguez def. Kay Hansen via. unanimous decision (29-28 x 3) — strawweight
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‘F***ING PUSSY’: FIERY END TO MADSEN WIN
The main card opened with Mark Madsen defeating Vinc Pichel via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The opening two rounds were relatively even and uneventful in the sense neither was able to gain the clear upperhand. Pichel opened up the fight with a low kick, with Masden returning and that carried on for the early stages of the round.
Pichel was able to land a pair of leg kicks and then soon after a right hand, yelling at Madsen: “You better watch out motherf***er” in a brutal warning. Madsen though responded with a takedown, although Pichel was able to get back up without much sustaining much damage.
Both went on to exchange punches and kicks before Pichel landed a late right hand at the end of the round. Madsen was able to land a takedown in the second round but again Pichel was able to get out and almost locked in a calf slicer.
That did not eventuate but Pichel was later able to hit Madsen with a flurry of punches, cementing the round late. In the end though, Madsen had the decisive third round after scoring an early takedown and staying in complete control for the remainder of the fight.
Pichel though was not impressed as he left the octagon, yelling: “You’re a f***ing pussy” at Madsen.
PRELIMINARY FIGHTS WRAP:
There was already drama in the preliminary fights, with Mike Malott making an instant impact in his UFC debut.
Malott scored a TKO win in the first round over Mickey Gall with a devastating left hook that sent his rival crashing to the canvas.
In a touching post-fight interview, Malott revealed he would be donating his entire show money ($10,000) to the family of a 15-year-old who is currently battling cancer.
Elsewhere, the Ian Garry hype train has continued to charge along, although this was a much tougher bout for the 24-year-old, winning via unanimous decision over Darian Weeks.
Garry (9-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) said post-fight he obviously would have preferred to have finished Weeks but saw plenty of positives out of going the distance.
“It’s 15 minutes in the cage, I ain’t happy with it. I like finishing fights, but it’s experience. As I’ve said before, I ain’t perfect yet, but I’m getting there,” he said.
Joe Rogan said the same in commentary for ESPN.
“When you have a young prospect like Garry, these are the kind of fights you want to see. You don’t want to all see blowouts,” he said.
“You want to see a guy like Weeks, you is tough as nails, physically strong and presents a lot of problems and you get to learn what this 24-year-old kid is capable of. It’s a very valuable lesson, win, lose or draw.”
Meanwhile, she took the fight on nine days notice but Raquel Pennington showed few signs of rust in a unanimous decision win over Aspen Ladd.
Pennington revealed post-fight that she actually broke her left hand in the first round blocking a kick from Ladd.
It is Pennington’s fourth-straight win in the octagon and means she now owns the longest active UFC win streak in the bantamweight division.
Her 10 wins in the division are also the second-most behind Amanda Nunes (11).
Pennington called out Sara McCann post-fight, telling her: “Sara I have a lot of respect for you, I’ve always admired you as a person and an opponent, but I think we should settle this for a title shot.”
Earlier, Alexei Oleinik proved age is no barrier to dominating in the heavyweight division, submitting Jared Vanderaa in the first round.
Oleinik, who is 44 years old, found early success on the ground and finished the fight early with a ‘Boa Constrictor’ which forced Vanderaa to tap out.
When asked how much longer he can continue, Oleinki cheekily responded: “Not too much. Maybe five or 10 years”.
Oleinik first MMA win came back in 1996 with the latest win his 47th by submission.