Ilia Topuria dominates Josh Emmett in All-Star win

Marc RaimondiESPN WriterJun 24, 2023, 06:30 PM ET3 minute read

The UFC has one of its next big international stars – and its first from Spain.

With Spanish soccer legend Sergio Ramos cheering him on from the cage, the undefeated Ilia Topuria dominated Josh Emmett for the biggest victory of his MMA career in the main event of UFC Jacksonville on Saturday. Topuria bloodied Emmett behind sharp boxing en route to a one-sided unanimous decision (50-44, 50-42, 49-45). The 50-42 scorecard is one of the most lopsided in MMA history.

ESPN had Emmett ranked No. 7 and Topuria No. 10 in the world at featherweight. With the incredibly impressive win, Topuria gets into the title conversation. Alexander Volkanovski will seek to unify the UFC featherweight titles against interim champion Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 on July 8 in Las Vegas.

“I’m the next guy, definitely,” Topuria said in his post-fight interview. “…I want Alex to defend that belt (against Rodriguez) and show him and the world that his (reign) is going to end and mine is going to begin.”

Topuria worked beautifully behind his jab and landed some big combinations throughout the fight, including dropping Emmett with a second-round combo. On the fourth, Emmett’s left eye was nearly swollen and bleeding profusely from multiple lacerations to his face. Topuria dropped Emmett twice in round four with punches and nearly finished him. But Emmett survived and came out with a bang in the fifth round. Topuria, who also featured good leg kicks, knocked Emmett down and weathered the storm.

“I showed once again that no one can match my skill level inside the cage,” Topuria said.

Judge Chris Lee issued Topuria the 50-42, giving it a 10-8 in the third round and a rare 10-7 in the fourth. Judge Sal D’Amato gave Topuria a 10-8 fourth round. Eric Colon was the only judge to give Emmett a turn, the first.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, there have only been three other 50-42 scorecards in UFC history: Max Holloway’s victory over Calvin Kattar in 2021; Rich Franklin’s victory over David Loiseau in 2006; and Dave Menne’s victory over Gil Castillo in 2001.

Topuria edged Emmett 152-87 in important strikes. He’s scored knockdowns in three straight fights and four of his last five, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This was Topuria’s first UFC main event.

Topuria is extremely well balanced, thanks to a diverse background. He was born in Germany but returned to his parents’ homeland, the Republic of Georgia, where he learned high-level Greco-Roman wrestling. When Topuria was 15, her family moved to Alicante, a lavish city on the southeast coast of Spain. There he began training at the Climent Club, the city’s first MMA academy.

Topuria is still based at Climent Club and had gym trainers in their corner. He also did part of his training camp at Kill Cliff FC in Florida.

The UFC has never had a major star based in Spain and never held a card there. Topuria told ESPN last week that UFC President Dana White told him that if he made the top five featherweights, the UFC would hold an event in the country. Topuria has already developed a large following in Spain and in La Liga, the prestigious Spanish soccer league which has a partnership with the UFC, and supports it fully with its marketing.

Topuria (14-0) is 6-0 in the UFC and has won all four of its previous fights via pre-Saturday finish. “El Matador” was coming off a revealing win over fellow up-and-comer Bryce Mitchell at UFC 282 in December. Topuria, 26, appears to be one of the most promising young fighters on the UFC roster.

Emmett (18-4) was coming off a loss to Rodriguez in an interim title fight at UFC 284 in February. The California resident and Alpha Male product was on a five-game winning streak before Rodriguez lost. Emmett, 38, has only been knocked out once in his 12-year professional MMA career.

“I expected to hit him in the first round, but the guy is really, really tough,” Topuria said.

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