Alexander Volkanovski said he feels better than ever. He said his confidence is at an all-time high. He said he would stop Chan Sung Jung. And that’s how it turned out on Saturday night in Jacksonville.
The Aussie put on a thoroughly dominant display, feeding Jung a series of heavy shots to the head and body and even working on a takedown for good measure.
Young had no answer.
Now is the time for Volkanovski to defend on home soil. It has been over four years since he had the pleasure of fighting in Australia, the last time in Perth in February 2018 and his star power is as bright as ever. This is a fighter at the absolute top of his game, one of the best pound for pound in the UFC, and he now deserves a chance to fight on home soil where he is among Australia’s elite athletes.
Volkanovski told ESPN beforehand that he had talks of another event in Melbourne later in the year, and there’s no one left who deserves the headline spot for an event that would be attended by over 50,000 fans.
Could the occasion reach him? Unlikely. Hard work and discipline are the cornerstones of Volkanovski’s success, a trait that endears him to his countrymen.
“It’s just about getting better, being better all the time, everywhere,” he said after the fight in the Octagon. “You can get better at anything.
“Have that drive, that motivation and keep looking for ways to improve, it’s that simple… I’m not the most athletic guy, hard work and drive got me where I am and look what I do .”
Hopefully that includes fighting Down Under before the year is out. That and the UFC finding a worthy contender for the 145-pound throne. – Sam Bruce
Sterling won fair and square, but the boos are unlikely to stop
Aljamain Sterling is the legitimate UFC Bantamweight Champion. Nobody can take that away from him. Sterling was panned as not a true champion for more than a year. He only won in March 2021 because Petr Yan hit him with an illegal knee and was disqualified. Sterling won in fair and honest on Saturday night at UFC 273. He went five rounds and beat Yan by split decision. That’s what the rule book says.
Technically, this counts as a title defense for Sterling. But for many, Saturday April 9th will be the night he was truly crowned champion. Sterling did it after throat surgery and more than a year of boos and abuse on social media. And he and his team should be proud of a strong performance against Yan, the favorite and the man many believed to be the best in the world at 135 pounds.
With all this, Sterling won’t be able to shake the boo birds. It was a close fight – a split decision – and some thought Yan had won. The Jacksonville crowd booed the decision and booed Sterling throughout. When he had Yan’s back on the ground, the crowd jeered. Meanwhile, when Yan had Sterling on the ground, there was no such reaction.
Sterling may have firmly established himself as the MMA equivalent of a “heel” by leaning into fan grudges. It doesn’t matter for Saturday night. He’s a UFC champion and very few are allowed to say such things. But moving forward, Sterling will likely continue to take the gall of fans. — Marc Raimondi
Dern’s rise makes the women’s strawweights as good as any division in the UFC
Mackenzie Dern reminded the world that her grappling ability can transform a fight. Tecia Torres was brave on Saturday night and proved she’s impossible to finish, but she failed against Dern, who was just a little bit better. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu star struggled to find an opening for a takedown or submission attempt in the first round, but found success in the second round using the fence. In the third round, her punch and pressure helped her earn a narrow split-decision win.
Yes, Torres was able to maintain her usual high pace and stroke volume, but Dern was never really in any danger as her standup game continues to evolve before our eyes. After losing to Marina Rodriguez, it was a big win for Dern, even if she didn’t achieve her goal of finishing.
With Rose Namajunas defending against Carla Esparza in May and Joanna Jedrzejczyk returning for a former champions rematch against Zhang Weili in June, the 115-pound division’s best fighters can compare to any other weight class in the claim promotion. Dern’s rise means we’ll see a robust string of struggles in the second half of the year.
Pennington reminds the world that she’s still at the top of her class
A suspension temporarily took her out of the rankings, but Raquel Pennington never really left the top of the bantamweight division. She made the best of a last minute call to replace Irene Aldana against Aspen Ladd and won by unanimous decision.
And Pennington will be back in the top five in the division by Tuesday.
Pennington showed solid combinations and looked for a finish in the first two rounds against Ladd, a highly acclaimed prospect who has lost twice in a row and three of his last four.
It was a fine performance at a time when Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes are facing off for the second time and there aren’t many options for the next contender.
A rematch against Aldana, who beat Pennington via split decision in 2019, could make sense in the summer when Aldana could be poised for a comeback following the injury that ruled her out of UFC 273. -Carlos Contreras Legaspi
Garry is right to be patient
Anyone hoping for a quick climb for Ian Garry was likely disappointed to see his performance in a unanimous win over Darian Weeks. Garry, one of the UFC’s top contenders, didn’t come through Weeks in the way many thought he would.
And that’s okay.
It might even be better for Garry’s career in the long run. Garry has said he wants to be patient and slowly work his way up the welterweight rankings. Had Garry come in and smashed Weeks, it might have been tempting for the UFC to throw him to the Wolves. Remember, Garry is only 24 years old. He has the charisma and skills to be a big star in MMA, but he also has the confidence that you don’t want to mess with at this stage.
Garry and his team have been adamant that they want to take their time. He’s not trying to be the champion next week or next year. If he gets to that level one day, and he could, we could look back on that fight with Weeks as a learning moment. Weeks gave him some trouble, although Garry was the clear winner. Garry showed brilliant flashes with his punch, a beautiful jab, lightning quick kicks and a sly right hand. But he couldn’t take Weeks, and he ate a few shots, too. And that’s perfectly fine.
The UFC is said to next give him another opponent like Weeks. Any talk of a ranked enemy should be shelved. Garry idolizes Conor McGregor and what he’s accomplished in the sport, but the McGregor-like rise isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with taking it step by step. “The Future” is Garry’s nickname, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. -Raimandi
https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/33708437/ufc-273-takeaways-anyone-beat-volkanovski-sterling-silence-critics UFC 273 Takeaways – Can Anyone Beat Volkanovski? Can Sterling silence the critics?