Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, wasn’t about to give Max Holloway an immediate rematch because he felt their first bout at UFC 245 back in Dec. 2019 “wasn’t even close.” But, here we are tonight (Sat., July 11, 2020) at UFC 251 on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, with Volkanovski motivated to prove that his win over “Blessed” months ago was no fluke.
And he did ... by the skin of his teeth (watch highlights).
Both fighters came out and touched gloves, with Max putting on the pressure early and Volkanovski stopping him in his tracks with a crisp overhand right. Volkanovski connected with an inside leg kick, which was a key ingredient to his success in their first encounter. Volkanovski barreled in looking to land a combination, but Holloway beat him back with a combination of his own. Volkanovski went back to the leg kicks, with Max shrugging them off with a head shake and a smirk. Volkanovski connected with a nice left hook, then more leg kicks as Max tried to play off their effectiveness. Max drilled him with a straight right hand that immediately created swelling under Volkanovski’s right eye. With 10 seconds remaining, Max connected with a high kick that dropped Volkanovski to a knee. It clearly hurt him but he seemed fine between rounds.
Max was eager to pick up where he left off, stalking Volkanovski around the cage early and landing a solid combination to get things going. Volkanovski tried to get things going, but he seemed flustered with the Hawaiian’s defense. The inside leg kicks were still there, though, which Volkanovski was more than willing prescribe. Max landed with a nice jumping knee as tried to once again close the distance. Max with another spinning attack at the end of the second round, trying to steal another. And he did moments later with an uppercut that once again dropped Volkanovski to a knee before the round came to a close.
More inside leg kicks from Volkanovski, but down two rounds he needed to do something much different in the remaining three rounds. Max landed another jumping knee, while Volkanovski charged in trying to get some combinations together. Volkanovski connected with a hard straight left hand that appeared to hurt Max, and while he was distracted with it, Volkanovski was finally able to rush in and secure a clinch along the cage. Max was able to work his way out quickly, though, landing a solid knee on the break. Volkanovski connected with a sweet jab late, clearly his most effective round.
Volkanovski seemed to dial up the pressure to start the championship rounds, likely aware he was down at least two rounds (possibly three) with just 10 minutes remaining to make something happen. Volkanovski continued to target Max’s lead leg and was able to get inside with more effectiveness. Max connected with another beautiful uppercut, but moments later found himself on his back thanks to a body lock. He got right back to his feet, though, and the duo went back to trading shots in the center of the cage. Volkanovski went for another takedown to try and steal the round, but Max beat him back with short, annoying uppercuts. Max landed with a looping right at the bell, this time Volkanovski stayed upright.
Fifth and final and it was a super close fight, with Volkanovski definitely needing to finish strong. He ate a kick early, but responded with a hard jab that he used to press Max against the cage. He spun out of it, but Volkanovski connected with a nice right on the break ... then he drilled him with a much harder shot seconds later. Volkanovski continued to connect with the straight left, while Max continued to find a home for his sneaky uppercuts. Volkanovski tripped Max with less than two minutes remaining in the fight, but Max got back to his feet quickly once again. Left hook landed for Volkanovski once more, then another takedown attempt that didn’t go anywhere this time. Both fighters threw caution to the wind as the seconds melted off, with Volkanovski securing another trip that probably won him the round. However, it was a ridiculously close fight (see official scorecard here), with Max getting out to a big lead and Volkanovski trying to claw his way back into it down the stretch.
Final Result: Alexander Volkanovski defeats Max Holloway via split decision
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 251: “Usman vs. Masvidal” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.