3 possible next opponents for Ilia Topuria

  • Ilia Topuria defeated Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298
  • The new champion will have a lot of options for his first title defense
  • Here are three potential opponents for Topuria

Feb 17, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Ilia Topuria celebrates his championship victory against
Feb 17, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Ilia Topuria celebrates his championship victory against / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

Ilia Topuria knocked out longtime featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in the second round of their UFC 298 main event on Feb. 17, 2024.

The new 27-year-old world champion is 15-0 and has one of the most elite skill sets in modern MMA. His pocket-boxing, hand speed, and power propelled him past Volkanovski and into stardom. He moves to 7-0 in the UFC and will likely find himself in the men's pound-for-pound rankings. Topuria's confidence, ability, and desire to prove he is the new standard for greatness all supply intriguing options for him going forward.

Volkanovski seemed unstoppable at featherweight. He captured the title in 2019 and cleared the division of all veteran challengers up until taking on the top prospect, Topuria.

Many of featherweight's best contenders have already received title opportunities. Despite desiring new blood, Topuria can truly prove MMA's previous stars are fading by collecting scalps of all the division's mainstays.

Given Topuria's preferences, Volkanovski's legacy, and how the UFC may choose to proceed, here is a possible list of matchups.

1. Alexander Volkanovski

Volkanovski was one of the most dominant featherweight champions of all time. He had five consecutive title defenses and was undefeated in the UFC until losing his first bid for the lightweight title against Islam Makhachev in 2023. If anyone has a claim to an immediate championship rematch, it’s Volkanovski.

However, Volkanovski will likely need to sit out for a bit after suffering another nasty knockout, this time at the hands of Topuria. He is still arguably Topuria’s best possible contender. He swept the judge's scorecards in the first round and was very competitive up until being caught by Topuria’s right hand. 

If Volkanovski is indeed next despite needing a break, featherweight could be held up for a little bit. But, this could give the UFC time to set up a potential rematch in Spain. 

Topuria indicated in the post-fight press conference that he would be willing to give Volkanovski a rematch saying, “At this point, I’m like okay I’ll give him the rematch…whoever they tell me I have to face and fight next, I’ll be there.”

Volkanovski favors a rematch as he said, “Obviously, I’ve been champion of this featherweight division a long time. He keeps mentioning Spain, maybe we’ll do a rematch over there in Spain,” in his immediate post-fight interview.

2. Movsar Evloev

Movsar Evloev is the featherweight dark horse. The 18-0 grappler is currently ranked No. 5 in the division. He is the only fighter in the top five yet to receive a title opportunity and appears due. 

Evloev’s style is smothering and wrestling-heavy. His approach has led to a lot of decision victories. Though this has been a point of contention in terms of his title viability, there is little doubt he has a style conducive to an interesting matchup with Topuria. 

The two have a history. They were originally booked in 2022, but the matchup never materialized. A fight certainly makes sense as Evloev is part of the new generation of competitors Topuria is interested in battling. 

Evloev took to X shortly after Topuria’s victory, called his shot, and said, “My congratulations to the new champion. I’m coming for you and taking that belt from you.”

Though Topuria seems willing to accept a matchup with Evloev, he would like to see the potential challenger demonstrate more killer instinct in his fights and truly capture a signature win. Topuria said, “Movsar is a good fight for me. I would love to fight him. But the guy has eight fights in the UFC. Eight decisions. Zero submissions. Zero knockouts…he needs to finish someone…he needs to do something,” in his post-fight press conference. 

Evloev’s next move remains in question. He certainly has a good claim for the No. 1 contender’s spot, but this greatly depends on how the UFC decides to market and match Topuria. 

1. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor’s specter looms high over the UFC. Everyone wants their shot at a potential massive payday opposite McGregor. Despite his recent record, the name value a victory over him brings can make or break superstardom. Topuria is on the verge of being a huge name and he has been insistent on fighting McGregor. 

The fact remains McGregor and Michael Chandler are still in limbo over their potential matchup. It wouldn’t be unlike the UFC to bypass Chandler completely and set up a massive European card with a McGregor and Topuria headliner. 

It’s been years since McGregor made featherweight and it’s unlikely this fight could work unless a catchweight is agreed upon. Topuria is willing to take McGregor at any weight class, once again expressing in the post-fight press conference that he's willing to fight McGregor, "without any weight limit."

Topuria is an elite talent and can dominate the 35-year-old, recently inactive McGregor. The fight makes all the sense in the world for Topuria, while McGregor has much to lose. 

Everyone has a price, and no doubt, an event of this magnitude would be huge for everyone involved. Topuria mentioned McGregor’s name at every opportunity and said, “Conor McGregor, if you still have some b*lls, I will be waiting for you in Spain,” during his post-fight interview. 

McGregor for his part took to Instagram and responded, "I have huge b*lls. I've 4 kids."

Though Dana White seems hesitant to make any kind of confirmation or denial on this potential fight, he did say, “Money complicates things,” about McGregor at the UFC 298 post-fight press conference. 

Topuria’s win massively changes the featherweight landscape and creates several unique scenarios whichever way the UFC decides to match him up. 

manual

Next. Top 10 knockouts that ended a UFC career. dark