UFC Fight Night Talking Points: Ilia Topuria is the real deal

UFC Fight Night travelled to Jacksonville, Florida as the undefeated Ilia Topuria backed all the hype with a masterclass performance over Josh Emmett.  

Maycee Barber also continued her own resurgence- stopping favourite Amanda Ribas in the second round to close the gap to champion Alexa Grasso and number one contender Valentina Shevchenko. 

An enthralling event was marred by the premature stoppage between Austin Lane and Justin Tafa after the former struck his opponent with an accidental eye poke less than 30 seconds into the first round. A rematch is necessary as this one desperately got away from fans. 

David Onama recorded a resounding knockout over Gabriel Santos to creep into contention for an official ranking, Brendan Aleen keeps on winning as he declared himself a player at 185 pounds with a first-round submission over the clinical striker that is Bruno Silva. And also, the main event for the prelims saw Neil Magny’s record-breaking win over Daniel Rowe as the veteran took his UFC win tally to 21. 

Is Topuria ready for Volk already? 

“I wouldn’t have a problem with Ilia fighting Volk next.”  

Those were the words of Daniel Cormier on commentary as Ilia Topuria swarmed all over a battered Josh Emmett in the closing stages of the final round having put on a boxing masterclass to overcome his toughest challenge yet in the featherweight division. 

Topuria won the bout at a canter and displayed his expert boxing credentials- bobbing and weaving around Emmett’s gung-ho approach and landing a consistent jab in the pocket that Emmett simply had no answer for. 

The first serious hurdle presented to the Spaniard has been obliterated and some are already calling for a date with Volkanovski or Rodriguez- depending on the winner of their bout at UFC 290 in two weeks. 

Maybe a championship fight is slightly premature but judging off what we saw in Jacksonville, it’s hard to ignore this kid. 

“In reality, I was expecting to knock him out in the first round, but the guy is really, really tough,” Topuria said inside the Octagon following his lopsided victory. 

Emmett certainly is tough, and despite a doctor’s intervention before the final round he was still full of drive and determination to get a finish. A true testament to Emmett’s resilience. The man genuinely could have gone another three rounds. 

Topuria was “surprised” that he could not get the knockout but there can be no shame in what he produced. His performances are parallel with his confidence and his voyage through the featherweight division has just entered hyperdrive with this win. 

Topuria’s top ten assignment is over and the prospect of his next bit of action inside the Octagon has already got fans hatching up their own intriguing narratives and blockbuster matchups. Keep an eye on this guy.  

Barber looking to make the cut 

How about Maycee Barber then? Coming into her co-main event clash with Amanda Ribas, she was the underdog, and many were suggesting that the step up in quality would be too much for her to cope with.

Seemingly unfazed, Barber went to war with Ribas and emerged victorious following a brutal head kick and subsequent ground and pound that stretched her streak to five and in doing so registered the biggest win of her career to date. 

It was such a significant win given how Barber’s title credentials have been questioned since her arrival to the Octagon. Back-to-back defeats to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso stagnated her trajectory but her new lease of life in the women’s flyweight division has been illuminated in Jacksonville. 

Barber has always displayed the hallmarks of a champion through her savagery and heart but tonight she advertised a part of her game we’ve never seen. Technique, patience and composure to overcome what was a tough test in Ribas. 

She now also has the second most TKO/KO wins in UFC women’s flyweight history behind Valentina Shevchenko. 

Barber is chasing down the former champion and Alexa Grasso in more ways than one and with the recent shakeups in the flyweight division- she is now another consideration for Dana White.  

Onama’s inspired performances and Allen keeps on winning 

David Onama’s emphatic win over Gabriel Santos was not followed by the usual assured rhetoric we hear from potential contenders after a resounding performance. 

Instead, Onama remained modest- heaping praise on his new training camp Factory X and seemingly adopting a humble approach to his ascent through one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC. 

“My whole fight camp was just staying patient and not brawling,” Onama said. 

“Why brawl when I have all these skills I can use? Training out of Factory X with Coach Marc Montoya…, those guys are money. 

Dana White highlighted this bout in his usual “if you don’t know now you know” Instagram post and highlighted the danger of both men- with White labelling it “100% finishing rate versus 70% finishing rate”. 

Onama prevailed and improved his record to 11-2 and despite overcoming a tough obstacle in Gabriel Santos, he asserted his focus and remains aware of the challenges ahead as he looks to break into the featherweight rankings. 

Then there’s Brendan Allen, who also just keeps on winning. He welcomed a stand-and-bang affair with the dangerous Bruno Silva and rocked him to the canvas before executing a rear naked choke for the win. 

Allen then declared his intentions to fight current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya next year. 

“I will be the next champion. I’m the only guy to be able to threaten the actual champion everywhere. So, with that being said, Izzy, ‘And New’ in 2024, I’m coming”, he said following his statement win. 

It’s hard to falter his words. As mentioned, Silva is an expert striker and is renowned for his kickboxing attributes and his devastating knockout power. Allen was more than content to exchange with him before executing a devastating finish and improving his record to five on the trot. 

So, let’s see what Allen can do in the next year. 

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