Cleaning out a weight class is perhaps the greatest accomplishment in any champion’s career, as it truly proves the title belongs to its rightful owner. Conversely, that same accomplishment can be a detriment to fan interest.
Unless there is a compelling case for a rematch, trilogy, rubber match ... whatever you want to call it, it’s still just reruns. Or worse, you have the best fighter in the world recycling cans because the promotion can’t drum up any viable contenders.
I thought we might be in one of those two places, perhaps both, when Max Holloway beat the brakes off Brian Ortega at UFC 231 last December. “Blessed” made it look easy against “T-City,” in much the same way he did in consecutive knockout wins over former division kingpin, Jose Aldo.
High-profile losses by Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano were enough to send the Hawaiian up a weight class, where he was summarily dismantled in his Dustin Poirier do-over at UFC 236 last month in Atlanta.
Now that he’s back to work in his appropriate weight class, Holloway is likely to be looking over his shoulder if Alexander Volkanovski proves to be as dangerous as advertised. Racking up a 19-1 record is impressive, but not unheard of, and running the table on the regional scene is not the same as surviving the UFC’s 145-pound gauntlet.
That’s why it was understandable how some mixed martial arts (MMA) fans (present company included) remained skeptical of Volkanovski ... right up until the UFC 232 pay-per-view (PPV) event, where “The Great” retired former title contender, Chad Mendes, by way of second-round technical knockout.
Sounds like he’s just getting started.
“Three ranked fighters in the last year and I’m about to take out the number one,” Volkanovski told MMA Fighting about his path of destruction. “I always thought I was a bad match up for (Holloway). A lot of people would have disagreed, but I think after the Poirier fight maybe people are saying, ‘Oh, well he’s not invincible.’ I can keep a pace and I’m not gonna break and he knows I won’t break, so it’s gonna be a hell of a fight.”
He’s not across the finish line just yet.
After jumping out to six straight wins under the UFC banner, Volkanovski will take on his most dangerous opponent to date when throws hands with Aldo on the UFC 237 main card, scheduled for this Sat. night (May 11, 2019) inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Despite a rocky stretch over the last few years, Aldo (28-4) has only lost to Holloway and former champion Conor McGregor, the two best featherweights in the world, so it’s not like he’s been getting his clock cleaned by the middle of the pack.
While that makes this a very perilous fight for Volkanovski, a victory — particularly a stoppage — proves he’s as “Great” as his nickname implies, and cements his place as the most deserving candidate for a crack at the 145-pound crown.
We’ll find out in less than 48 hours.