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THERE is a saying in mixed martial arts; ‘If you’re undefeated then you’re not taking the right fights.’

In a sport where there are so many different ways to lose, suffering a loss becomes practically inevitable.

When you draw up a list of MMA’s greatest champions of all time, all have losses on their records and, in fact, those defeats only add to the legacies by the manner of their resurgence.

So, when an unbeaten prospect starts reaching the upper echelons of the UFC rankings the pressure of that ‘0’ starts to become a burden.


Ilia Topuria is undefeated in 13 fights and currently ranked #9 in the UFC’s featherweight division. He stopped a dozen of those opponents inside the distance and hardly dropped a round.

This weekend the 26-year-old takes on the toughest test of his career, headlining inside the Octagon for the first time in a five-round contest against #5 Josh Emmett in Jacksonville, Florida.

Emmett has faced the adversity beset by defeat twice before in his 18-3 career, and does so again on Saturday after being choked out in an Interim title fight in February.

Aged 38, the Californian has spent 12 years climbing to within touching distance of UFC gold. Losing to a rising prospect now would all but end his hopes of ever fighting for the title.


Topuria has got it all. His standup is progressing with each and every fight, and he’s got accurate hands and precision kicks. His takedowns are well timed and his ground game is a match for anybody at 145lb.

You only have to look at his last two performances to see how dangerous he is everywhere the fight goes.

In London last year he jumped up a weight class yet still found a bonus cheque-cashing one-punch left hook to end striker Jai Herbert’s night early.

Then in December he moved back down in weight to make a statement by first dominating then choking out submission specialist Bryce Mitchell in Las Vegas.

Skill for skill, the Georgian based out of Alicante in Spain has definitely got the edge.

But Emmett is far more a live dog in this fight than betting lines may suggest. His back is against the fence and he knows his career is likely at stake.

He also has the power edge. His overhand right has ended the runs of more than one prospect during his UFC tenure and he’ll be looking to drag the younger man into a dog fight where skill succumbs to will in the cage.

Emmett has to make a dent in Topuria early enough and deep enough to be able to take control of the fight and force his inexperienced rival into making mistakes.

But Topuria has that champion mindset and he consistently not only finds a way to win, but usually in pretty spectacular fashion also.

TIP: Topuria by KO (9/5)

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