Featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski and interim champion Yair Rodriguez will meet to decide the outright title-holder on July 8 in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena in the main event of UFC 290, UFC president Dana White announced Wednesday. The co-main event will be a rematch between flyweight champion Brandon Moreno and long-time rival Alexandre Pantoja.
White also announced that former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, who will fight Niko Price in the featured preliminary bout, will retire after the fight. The UFC had previously announced that Lawler will be inducted into the fight wing of the Hall of Fame for his classic bout with Rory MacDonald, but will now be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame as a fighter. The ceremony is going to be held on July 6, two days before the card.
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2023
In addition to the two title fights, the main card will feature a middleweight battle between ex-champion Robert Whittaker and Dricus du Plessis, with the winner getting the next shot at the belt held by Israel Adesanya. Rounding out the card will be a lightweight bout between Jalin Turner and Dan Hooker and a middleweight match between Bo Nickal and Tresean Gore.
White announced that the preliminary card will be broadcast on both ABC and ESPN.
Rodriguez won the interim title on Feb. 12, at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia. Volkanovski challenged Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title that night and lost a close decision that he felt he'd won. The UFC put Rodriguez on that card against Josh Emmett and he responded with a brilliant performance. Rodriguez submitted Emmett at 4:19 of the second with a triangle choke.
That set up the bout with Volkanovski, whose 22-fight winning streak ended with the loss to Makhachev. That was Volkanovski's first loss at featherweight after suffering his other other loss at welterweight in his fourth pro fight to Corey Nelson.
Moreno and Pantoja will meet for the second time, this time with the flyweight belt on the line. Pantoja won a unanimous decision over Moreno on May 19, 2018. It was Moreno's second consecutive loss. He was cut by the UFC after the fight and fought once in the LFA. He won that fight and returned to the UFC a different fighter. He's 6-1-2 since then and will look to avenge the loss to Pantoja.
Whittaker has already lost twice to Adesanya, but will get a third crack at him if he defeats du Plessis. Du Plessis has been on a roll and has won seven in a row, including five in a row in the UFC, to improve to 19-2.
If du Plessis wins, it will set up an interesting battle with Adesanya, who was annoyed at comments du Plessis made in March. Du Plessis is from South Africa and was making the point at the UFC 285 media day that he is a true African. He suggested Adesanya is a New Zealander and not an African.
After he knocked out Alex Pereira at UFC 287 in Miami on April 7 to win the belt, Adesanya said, “If he does work, and I pray to God he keeps winning, I will gladly drag his carcass across South Africa.”