LAS VEGAS— Alexander Volkanovski is coming off a combat by which he misplaced — and was congratulated for it.
He wasn’t all that comfy at first about listening to the kudos for transferring up a weight class to return shut in a combat that Volkanovski stated even many near him didn’t assume he had a lot of an opportunity to win.
Now he’s again in his extra acquainted featherweight division, the place he received 5 title fights, to tackle interim champion Yair Rodriguez (16-3) on Saturday for the belt in UFC 290.
Having gone up in weight and are available again down, Volkanovski (25-2) stated the expertise of making an attempt so as to add extra bulk ought to serve him properly.
“It feels good to be at featherweight once more and being as sharp as ever,” Volkanovski stated. “Positively, that bulk made me stronger. Rising to that problem, to that event, put my abilities on a complete different degree.”
He moved as much as light-weight to face Islam Makhachev on Feb. 11 for the championship. The combat went 5 rounds, with Makhachev profitable by unanimous determination. That loss, earlier than a pro-Volkanovski crowd in his house nation of Australia, ended his 22-match profitable streak.
Even in dropping, the 34-year-old Volkanovski took a giant step in solidifying his popularity as one of many UFC’s high pound-for-pound fighters, buying and selling blows and coming shut on the scorecards at 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 regardless of going through an opponent 4 inches taller and 15 kilos heavier.
“So many individuals thought I’d get manhandled and didn’t assume I stood an opportunity, and there are most likely individuals near me that thought that,” stated Volkanovski, second within the official pound-for-pound rankings to Jon Jones. “The loss did assist me.”
He’s a considerable favourite at minus-400, in accordance with FanDuel Sportsbook, to recapture the light-weight belt towards Rodriguez, a 30-year-old from Mexico. A convincing victory will assist cement the declare that Volkanovski is the best featherweight in UFC historical past.
Rodriguez stated he can’t add a lot to the superlatives which have already been connected to Volkanovski.
“He can type of maintain the identical tempo for 5 rounds, which is absolutely vital on this recreation,” Rodriguez stated. “He’s in a position to determine his opponents, the model or the little errors they (make) and takes benefit of these conditions.”
That stated, Rodriguez isn’t coming into the combat to be simply fodder for Volkanovski to make a triumphant return.
“I simply assume it’s going to be actually troublesome for him to beat me,” Rodriguez stated. “He most likely thinks it’s going to be simpler. My model is totally completely different to what many individuals assume. Being in entrance of me within the cage is troublesome. It’s laborious for anyone.”
Their bout headlines the Worldwide Struggle Week card that additionally features a second title matchup when Mexico’s Brandon Moreno (21-6-2) places his flyweight championship on the road towards Brazil’s Alexandre Pantoja (25-5).
Moreno, 29, is a minus-205 favourite, however the 33-year-old Pantoja has crushed him twice.
“I can really feel he’s motivated, like ‘I can do it once more.’ I can see it in his face and his physique language,” Moreno stated. “I’m simply modified. I’m simply completely different. I simply wish to present that to the world this Saturday. I don’t wish to speak that a lot about it, however man, I’m prepared. I’m able to shine this Saturday.”
Pantoja stated he isn’t relying simply on historical past in making an attempt to win for the third time. The final one was 5 years in the past, and Pantoja acknowledged that Moreno is a distinct fighter.
“Possibly he’s holding that in his head,” Pantoja stated of the prior losses.
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Supply: sports activities.inquirer.internet