Alexander Volkanovski has emerged as one of the most dominant champions in the UFC in recent years. The Australian has already defended his title three times, displaying a level of well-roundedness that makes him a tough stylistic matchup for anyone he goes up against.
In his most recent outing, he dominated 'The Korean Zombie' at UFC 273, coming away with a sensational fourth-round TKO victory.
A number of contenders are on the rise in the featherweight division. The reigning champion has no shortage of challengers to take on down the line as he looks to continue his unbeaten run in the UFC. Some fighters, more so than others, have a real shot at beating 'The Great'.
On that note, here are five UFC fighters who could potentially dethrone Alexander Volkanovski.
#5. Ilia Topuria – Has one-punch KO power unlike Alexander Volkanovski
Ilia Topuria is regarded by many as a future featherweight champion. The undefeated Georgian has enjoyed a resounding start to his UFC career and those in the know are well aware of his potential.
He joined the UFC in 2020 and made his promotional debut at UFC Fight Island 5, where he came away with a comfortable unanimous decision victory over Yousseff Zalal. In that performance, Topuria displayed brief glimpses of his championship caliber skillset. It was his next three bouts, however, that saw his stock rise tremendously.
His one-punch first-round KO victory over Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 16 was his first statement-win in the promotion. He took on fan-favorite Ryan Hall in his next fight and thoroughly outclassed the popular grappling phenom, knocking him out in the first round. Hall was one of the most avoided fighters on the UFC roster for quite a while, making Topuria’s victory all the more impressive.
In his most recent outing, Topuria silenced a raucous English crowd at UFC London. He knocked out British lightweight Jai Herbert in devastating fashion to further extend his perfect record.
While the fight against Jai Herbert Herbert was a lightweight bout, Ilia Topuria will be looking to return to featherweight next time around. He is currently ranked No.15 in the division.
Considering 145-pound champion Alexander Volkanovski has already beaten three of the top five contenders in the division, the UFC may look to fast-track certain fighters up the rankings. Despite being only 25, Topuria's skills are incredibly mature and he could find himself in more high-profile bouts down the line.
Check out some of Ilia Topuria's best finishes below:
If he does eventually get a crack at the title, Ilia Topuria will have the tools to emerge victorious over whoever he goes up against. In a bout with current titleholder Alexander Volkanovski, the Georgian will fancy his chances considering the stylistic matchup. Both fighters have similarly short and stocky frames, as well as solid skills on the mat. The key difference between them is that Topuria possesses fight-ending power in his fists.
Additionally, Ilia Topuria has finished 11 out of 12 opponents so far in his professional MMA career, while Alexander Volkanovski has never been known for his one-punch knockout power or submission skills. On the flipside, the Australian champion's durability, accuracy and volume could stifle 'El Matador'. It's a highly intriguing matchup that could go either way.
#4. Henry Cejudo – Has a wrestling advantage over the reigning UFC featherweight champion
Henry Cejudo arguably owns the best resume in combat sports history. At just 21, he became the youngest American Olympic gold medallist in wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Cejudo transitioned to MMA in 2013 and has since emerged as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world after becoming a two-division UFC champion.
Cejudo became the UFC flyweight titleholder following a spectacular fight against the greatest flyweight of all time, Demetrious Johnson. He subsequently defended his belt against then-bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
Dillashaw tested positive for PEDs after the bout and was stripped of his bantamweight belt after getting a two-year suspension. Cejudo moved up in weight and competed for the vacant 135-pound title, beating Marlon Moraes to become a two-division titleholder.
Cejudo retired and vacated both his belts following a successful title defense at UFC 249 against arguably the greatest bantamweight of all time, Dominick Cruz. ‘Triple C’ has since made it clear that he would only return for a bigger paycheck or an opportunity to compete for the featherweight title.
Cejudo has been clamoring for a fight against the reigning UFC featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, for quite some time now. Speaking to ESPN MMA, the former double champion had this to say:
“I still think about winning that third belt. I really think its attainable. I really think anybody is crazy to count me out! Yeah, hate the persona, hate the cringe! But dude, facts are facts, man. I’m an accomplished athlete. If you can name someone who has accomplished more than me in combat sports, I'll bend the knee. But there isn’t. He’s right here. I believe that I am entitled to skip the whole damn line and fight Alexander Volkanovski, you know? I deserve it.”
Watch Henry Cejudo discuss a potential bout with Alexander Volkanovski below:
It’s safe to say that Henry Cejudo has a real chance of beating Alexander Volkanovski. The former champ-champ has always found a way to win a fight despite being undersized.
Cejudo's high-level wrestling pedigree, coupled with his crisp striking and meticulous approach to preparation, will give Volkanovski a lot to think about if the duo ever lock horns.
If this matchup comes to fruition, the UFC could potentially crown their first-ever three-division champion – Henry Cejudo.
#3. Arnold Allen – Has a similar skillset to Alexander Volkanovski
Arnold Allen is an ominous presence in the 145-pound division. The understated Englishman has struggled with injuries and inactivity in recent years. Nevertheless, his potential and skills are undeniable.
Allen is currently riding an astonishing 11-fight win streak in his professional MMA career and has never tasted defeat in the UFC. Unfortunately for the Brit, his inactivity has been detrimental to his popularity among casual fans. Even so, hardcore fans are well aware that 'Almighty' is a legitimate threat to the featherweight belt and is likely just a couple of victories away from a shot at gold.
In his most recent appearance in the octagon, Allen made a resounding statement in the co-main event of UFC London. He put away perennial lightweight contender Dan Hooker in the very first round, putting himself in a strong position in the division.
Allen's all-round game makes him a challenging stylistic matchup for any fighter he goes up against. Training with the likes of Georges St-Pierre, one of the most well-rounded MMA fighters of all time, has undoubtedly rubbed off on him. Still just 28, 'Almighty' has all the tools to make it to the top and stay there.
Interestingly, Allen and the reigning featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski are very similar. Both fighters are seemingly stronger than their peers, largely owing to Volkanovski's rugby background and Allen's powerlifting regime. They have slick striking, solid takedowns and cerebral approaches to fighting. Moreover, the blueprint to beating both featherweights hasn't been properly laid out, considering their near-perfect professional records.
A potential Alexander Volkanovski vs. Arnold Allen matchup down the line will certainly be a sight to behold. Considering how evenly matched they are, this will likely be a war of attrition. It will be a test of durability and willingness to win, which could produce an absolute barnburner.
#2. Max Holloway – Has already fought Alexander Volkanovski twice, came close both times
Who is the UFC featherweight GOAT?
Jose Aldo reigned over the 145-pound weight class for a very long time before being beaten by Max Holloway twice. Holloway held the belt for two years before suffering a somewhat similar fate to the former titleholder, Aldo.
The Hawaiian champion was dethroned at UFC 245 in 2019 by Alexander Volkanovski, who skillfully outpointed 'Blessed' to earn a unanimous decision victory and a rematch was subsequently booked for UFC 251 in 2020.
In their rematch, Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway engaged in yet another closely-contested affair. The Hawaiian clearly won the first two rounds, dropping the Australian champion twice. However, Volkanovski turned the tide later on, clearly outstriking Holloway in the final two rounds. The third frame was a tight affair and could’ve gone either way.
Strip away all the debates as to who won both bouts, and one thing becomes apparent – They are so evenly matched. Arguably, Volkanovski might just have Holloway’s number.
However, it wouldn't be fair to rule out Max Holloway's chances against Alexander Volkanovski. Holloway is one of the best volume strikers in MMA, having broken numerous striking records in his storied career so far.
Moreover, he is seemingly in the best form of his life at the moment. Following the back-to-back decision losses to Volkanovski, Holloway produced two incredible performances inside the octagon. He obliterated Calvin Kattar in January 2021 and picked up another win ten months later, against Yair Rodriguez.
Holloway is an incredibly smart and experienced fighter, and after spending 50 minutes in the cage with the reigning champion already, he will certainly be aware of what he needs to do to reclaim his throne. A trilogy bout between the featherweight duo is inevitable. With no clear No.1 contender in the division at the moment other than 'Blessed', expect them to lock horns in the near future.
#1. Zabit Magomedsharipov – The worst stylistic matchup for Alexander Volkanovski
Perhaps the toughest matchup for Alexander Volkanovski in the featherweight division is none other than Zabit Magomedsharipov. UFC fans are eagerly awaiting the return of the Russian, who's been out of action since his unanimous decision victory over Calvin Kattar in 2019.
Earlier this year, his coach Mark Henry revealed that the Russian's return shouldn't be too far away.
Magomedsharipov is a very unique fighter. He has sensational striking skills and throws wild kicks with no hesitation as he isn't afraid of being taken down. If he is taken down, the dynamic Dagestani is a lethal submission specialist and has a plethora of finishes on his record.
It wouldn't be wise to throw Magomedsharipov straight into the deep end upon his return. An immediate title shot against Alexander Volkanovski is out of the question as the Russian lost his spot in the rankings as a result of his extended hiatus. However, a win over a top contender could see him take on the reigning champion soon after.
Watch a compilation of Zabit Magomedsharipov's highlights below:
If and when he does eventually lock horns with Alexander Volkanovski, Zabit Magomedsharipov has a real chance of dethroning the Australian champion. The Russian will have a distinct size and reach advantage over 'The Great'. His devastating kicks will prove to be a real problem for Volkanovski, who'll be at a disadvantage on the mat as well.
Also, there's clearly something special about fighters from Dagestan. Those who have fought the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev have unilaterally described the incredible toughness that is built into the fighters from the caucauses. This is evident in all of their impeccable professional records.
While Volkanovski is worthy of championship status, Magomedsharipov could emerge as the new long-reigning titleholder at 145 pounds.
Poll : Will Alexander Volkanovski remain the champion till 2023?