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UFC 273 recap: Alexander Volkanovski dominates 'Korean Zombie,' forces referee stoppage

Alexander Volkanovski decimated Chan Sung Jung in the UFC 273 main event, fighting at an entirely different level in a bout he won by referee stoppage.
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Alexander Volkanovski made an emphatic statement at UFC 273, loudly proclaiming his place as the world’s best featherweight.

Aljamain Sterling returned to the octagon after a 13-month absence, conquering Petr Yan to crown himself the undisputed bantamweight champion.

And Khamzat Chimaev kept his undefeated streak alive with a unanimous decision victory. But it came at a price, as Chimaev no longer resembled the unstoppable juggernaut he had been in his prior 10 victories as he was forced to overcome all sorts of adversity against Gilbert Burns.

The 273 pay-per-view was full of highlights, but no performance was more one-sided than the main event. Volkanovski (24-1 MMA, 11-0 UFC)) collected his 21st victory in a row, defeating “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung (17-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) after referee Herb Dean mercifully stopped the fight in the fourth round. More than collect another win, Volkanovski may have ended Zombie's career with that convincing victory. Right now, Volkanovski has no peers in the division.

The co-main event was full of tension, and ended in redemption for Sterling. Powered by two dominant rounds, Sterling (21-3 MMA, 13-3 UFC) slayed his greatest rival, Petr Yan (16-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), in a bantamweight title unification bout. Sterling was nearly perfect in the execution of his gameplan. Every time Sterling took a shot, he continued to force Yan to fight a wrestling-based style. That clearly favored Sterling, and his unrelenting, determined approach paid dividends for Sterling, whose 13-month absence from the octagon ended in storybook fashion.

In a vicious back-and-forth battle, Chimaev did just enough to defeat Gilbert Burns by unanimous decision. This bout earned its place as fight of the night, with both Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC)) and Burns (20-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) putting forth the performance of a warrior. After Chimaev won the first and third rounds, the unanimous decision was the right one.

This wasn’t easy. Burns put a major dent in Chimaev's championship trajectory, showing that he is no longer that unstoppable force against elite opponents. The win is certainly important for Chimaev, but he likely needs one more win before he earns himself a title shot. A fight against Colby Covington would be an extremely exciting way to determine the top of the title picture.

After losing her last bout, Mackenzie Dern responded with a victory she desperately needed against Tecia Torres. The victory keeps Dern (12-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) in the top five of the women’s strawweight division, which she would have lost had she been defeated by the No. 7-ranked Torres (13-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC). The tension picked up considerably in the second round, with Dern locking in a kimura that appeared to make the ending inevitable. But Torres has never been finished in her career, and she kept that streak alive here, giving a valiant effort as she lost by unanimous decision.

The main card opened with Mark Madsen extending his undefeated streak against Vinc Pichel. This was either man’s fight entering the third round, which Madsen (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) controlled with over four minutes of ground time. Pichel (14–3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) looked his best in the second round, but he delivered no substantial offense in the final five minutes. Madsen now looks forward to a bout against a ranked opponent.

UFC 273 was a spectacular display of mixed martial arts at its highest level. Through his combination of speed and power, Volkanovski laid out why he belongs on top of the pound-for-pound rankings. Sterling put Yan in his rearview, and he now looks ahead to T.J. Dillashaw. And Chimaev was forced to find a new way to win. A great night of fights was capped off with those three incredible bouts, making 273 a standout night for the sport.

This story first published at SI.com/MMA.