LOS ANGELES -- Unbeaten in six UFC appearances, Alexander Volkanovski survived a war with former two-time title contender Chad Mendes and boldly announced himself as a viable contender for the featherweight crown.
Volkanovski (19-1) bounced back from a pair of knockdowns and fought off a submission attempt before stopping Mendes on Saturday in the pay-per-view opening bout of UFC 232 at The Forum in Inglewood.
"I just want to shoot up these ranks," Volkanovski said. "Even though [Mendes] is one of the toughest guys in the division, I knew this would get me into the top five. Tough loss for him and I know he has only lost to the greats but now he has lost to another great, 'Alexander the Great.'"
After an even and tactical opening round, the veteran Mendes (18-5) began to establish himself as the bigger puncher by dropping Volkanovski twice with clean punches. Even after Mendes' vision became impaired by a cut below his left eye, he mixed in timely takedowns to regain control after Volkanovski fought back.
But the 30-year-old Volkanovski, a native of Australia, was just too tough and wouldn't stop coming forward. After Mendes took his opponent down and attempted a rear-naked choke, Volkanovski worked back up to his feet and instantly began to walk Mendes down. A hard left hook to the body was followed by a right hand to the chin that floored Mendes.
Referee Mark Smith instantly jumped in to save Mendes at 4:14 of Round 2.
"I wasn't hurt when he dropped me; I was clear headed and I just kept coming forward," Volkanovski said. "I'm one of the most dangerous guys in this division. I'm one of the most well-rounded and I'm [featherweight champion] Max Holloway's worst nightmare. I have a lot of respect for him and he's a gangster but he hasn't fought a wrestler like me."
Mendes, 33, who had only lost in title fights to Jose Aldo (twice) and Conor McGregor coming in, suffered his first defeat since returning from a nearly three-year layoff following a USADA suspension. Mendes bloodied the eye of Volkanovski in Round 2 but wasn't able to keep the younger and more aggressive fighter away from him.
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