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Ilia Topuria: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Undefeated Georgian Receives His First Title Opportunity at UFC 298

Ilia Topuria: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Ilia Topuria checks the big screen after knocking out Jai Herbert | Kieran Riley/MI News/NurPhoto

A Savage in the Octagon 😤

Ahead of their championship opportunities, Topuria and McGregor look almost identical…

Following a less-than-desirable UFC Vegas 86 card last weekend, the world’s king of Mixed Martial Arts returns to our screens with a highly anticipated UFC 298 pay-per-view, live from the Honda Centre in California.

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Tupac would’ve told you, “California knows how to party.” Still, this weekend’s main event between the reigning featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, and the No.1 contender, Ilia Topuria, will be an octagon rave you won’t want to miss!

Following a near-two-month absence, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ series returns, and there’s no better place to start than with “El Matador,” the undefeated UFC featherweight who skyrocketed through the 145-pound rankings to receive his first shot at gold this Saturday.

Ilia Topuria: The Good

Well, this is a simplistic start because Ilia Topuria has given us a plethora of good since making his professional MMA debut in 2015. Win, win, and more wins, accompanied by a fight record that hasn’t seen him lose a single round in eight years of competitive action.

Many predicted the come-up, as he displayed fierce aggression and diverse skills during his regional promotion stint. However, to obtain a UFC title opportunity in just six fights and three years spent with the company is a remarkable accomplishment.

As a UFC featherweight, Topuria is 6-0, riding a 14-fight win streak at the age of 27. Do these facts ring a bell?

Yes, you got it. Ahead of their championship opportunities, Topuria and McGregor look almost identical, as reported by ESPN MMA news on socials.

One could argue that Topuria looks even greater than “The Notorious” did because he’s undefeated and possesses some of the strongest grappling skills in the division alongside his knockout power – two factors that Conor lacked before his legendary bout with Jose Aldo.

Win or lose this weekend, it’s safe to say that Topuria will be entangled in top-tier UFC fights for the remainder of his career. Should Volkanovski deliver another polished technical performance as he’s known for and walk out of the Honda Centre as champion, Ilia fans needn’t worry, as he’s only going to progress after already cementing his position atop the featherweight division rankings.

Ilia Topuria: The Bad

‘Talk is cheap,’ or so they say. But try telling that to the aforementioned Conor McGregor, who elevated himself into superstardom with a quick-witted mouth that was regularly backed up inside the cage during his prime.

I hate to keep making comparisons, but the confidence and cheeky nature of Topuria are, again, very similar to McGregor’s rise. From stealing Volk’s belt, talking about the current champ in the past tense, to trolling every high-profile fighter you can think of, the Georgian has been must-see TV thus far, and it’s a persona that could unquestionably place him as one of the company’s most popular champions in the future.

Now, you’re asking, why is this bad? Technically speaking, it isn’t, so long as Topuria walks out there on Saturday night and molly-whops Volkanovski from pillar to post. If not, hopefully, he’s prepared for the trolling. He’s talked a big game, and the internet will relentlessly remind him of an overinflated ego should he suffer defeat.

Ilia Topuria: The Ugly

Fourteen straight wins as a pro combatant, including four knockouts and eight submission victories, with only two of his successes going to the scorecards (Both unanimous decisions, by the way). It looks good on paper, right? But is there more than meets the eye to Topuria’s rise?

Let me be frank for a moment: the featherweight division isn’t brimming with contenders. Between Volkanovski and the No.1-ranked Max Holloway – Who’s already lost three fights to Volk – the top 10 have been cleaned out.

In an alternate universe where certain past results were flipped and a few chess pieces were moved differently, Topuria’s title opportunity wouldn’t have surfaced in UFC news.

Topuria’s path to the title is ugly. I’m sorry to say it, but it is. He’s defeated just two of the top ten featherweights, Bryce Mitchell and Josh Emmett, ranked at 7 and 10, respectively.

Now, I’m not stating that he couldn’t be a worthy champion, and should he take those honors, it’ll be an incredible 12-24 months with the possible opponents available. All I’m saying is that his path to the top has involved more fortunate situations and perfect timing than it has respectable wins; don’t shoot the messenger.

That’s all from me, fight fans. We’ve got such a sick main event this weekend, and I wish you all the best of luck when attempting to pick a money line winner between Ilia Topuria and Alexander Volkanovski – may the betting gods be on your side; you’ll need it. 🙏


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