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 cageside, the undefeated Ilia Topuria dominated Josh Emmett for the biggest win 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) victory. The 50-42 scorecard is one of the most lopsided in MMA history.
ESPN had Emmett ranked No. 7 and Topuria ranked No. 10 in the world at featherweight coming in. With the incredibly impressive win, Topuria vaults himself into the title conversation. Alexander Volkanovski will look 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, without any doubt,” Topuria said in his postfight interview. “…I want Alex to defend that belt [against Rodriguez] and show to him and the whole world that his [reign] is gonna end and mine is gonna start.”
Topuria worked beautifully behind his jab and landed big combinations throughout the fight, including dropping Emmett with a combo in the second round. By the fourth, Emmett’s left eye was completely swollen, nearly shut, and he was bleeding badly from several facial lacerations. Topuria dropped Emmett twice in the fourth round with punches and nearly finished him. But Emmett survived and came out swinging hard in the fifth round. Topuria, who also featured good leg kicks throughout, took Emmett down and weathered the storm.
“I showed once again no one can match my level of skill inside the cage,” Topuria said.
Judge Chris Lee issued Topuria the 50-42, giving him 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 round, the first.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, there have only been three other 50-42 scorecards in UFC history: Max Holloway’s win over Calvin Kattar in 2021, Rich Franklin’s victory over David Loiseau in 2006 and Dave Menne’s win over Gil Castillo in 2001.
Topuria outlanded Emmett, 152-87, in significant strikes. He has scored knockdowns in three straight fights and four of his last five, per ESPN Stats & Information. This was Topuria’s first UFC main event.
Topuria is extremely well-rounded, courtesy of a diverse background. He was born in Germany but moved back to his parents’ homeland of the Republic of Georgia as a kid, where he learned high-level Greco-Roman wrestling. When Topuria was 15, his family moved to Alicante, a palatial city on Spain’s Southeastern coast. There, he started training in Climent Club, the first-ever MMA academy in the city.
Topuria is still based out of Climent Club and had coaches from the gym in his corner. He also did part of his training camp at Kill Cliff FC in Florida.
The UFC has never had a big star based in Spain and has never held a card there. Topuria told ESPN last week that UFC president Dana White told him that if he makes it into the featherweight top five, the UFC will hold an event in the country. Topuria has already developed a major fan following in Spain and La Liga, Spain’s prestigious soccer league which has a partnership with the UFC, is fully behind him with its marketing muscle.
Topuria (14-0) is 6-0 in the UFC and won his previous four fights via finish before Saturday. “El Matador” was coming off an eye-opening win over fellow up-and-comer Bryce Mitchell at UFC 282 last December. Topuria, still just 26 years old, seems 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 Team Alpha Male product was on a five-fight winning streak before the Rodriguez defeat. Emmett, 38, has only been knocked out once in his 12-year pro MMA career.
“I was expecting to knock him in the first round, but the guy is really, really tough,” Topuria said.