Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight talents Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will collide once more this Saturday (July 11, 2020) at UFC 251 from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Volkanovski flew under the radar until about 2018, when he brutalized Darren Elkins and ended his resurgence. Suddenly, Volkanovski was ranked with a ridiculous record, resulting in match ups with top contenders and former champions. Volkanovski proved his excellence, continuing to largely dominate until he met Holloway in the first bout and soundly out-pointed him to steal the throne (watch highlights). Holloway knows what it’s like to go on a major win streak. After all, “Blessed” won 13 straight inside the Octagon to capture and defend the Featherweight title himself. In fact, Holloway’s dominance as a champion is precisely the reason the two are running it back, as the Hawaiian has earned himself a do-over (or not, depending on who you ask).
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 245), Jose Aldo (UFC 237), Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 133), Jeremy Kennedy (UFC 221)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: It’s truly fascinating just how technical of a fighter Volkanovski has proven to be. Early in his UFC career, “The Great” merely smashed everyone with ease, showcasing a different level of physicality than opponents could handle. Once at the highest level, however, Volkanovski revealed the depth of his kickboxing by nullifying both Aldo and Holloway.
In the first match, Volkanovski was able to do a tremendous job of kicking out the leg each time Holloway attempted to start a combination. Holloway finds his success as a fighter with long, probing straight shots and extended combos. Before Holloway could do either, Volkanovski would punt his thigh and then disappear, clinch, or flurry back.
Holloway just couldn’t get anything going.
Volkanovski must attempt to do that once more, but he should be aware Holloway has likely trained for months on limiting the effectiveness of the low kick. Therefore, it would really benefit Volkanovski to feint the low kick and attack with punches early and often. If he can disrupt Holloway’s check timing and mess up his confidence with a few big punches, it will make establishing the low kick a second time much easier.
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 218, UFC 212), Frankie Edgar (UFC 240), Brian Ortega (UFC 231) Anthony Pettis (UFC 206), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 199), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 15), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 194)
Key Losses: Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 245), Dustin Poirier (UFC 236, UFC 143), Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway is perhaps the best volume-striker in the sport’s history. The Hawaiian drowns opponents in dozens of punches, forcing them into a rate of activity they simply cannot match.
Of course, having an iron chin and solid natural power helps with such a strategy.
In the first bout, Holloway was out-kicked by a shorter opponent and then forced to advance. Not only did moving forward leave him vulnerable to the mentioned low kicks, but it really eliminated his range advantage. Volkanovski was able to kick the leg, back up, and counter repeatedly.
To avoid a similar pattern from emerging in this rematch, Holloway has to kick more often. Holloway had his reasons for failing to kick in the first fight — namely, the threat of the takedown — but it backfired. Holloway needs his full striking arsenal to out-work Volkanovski — he cannot do it with boxing alone.
That’s the single biggest change Holloway can make: kick hard and kick often. Beyond that, Holloway did find greater success later in the fight after switching Southpaw, which helped negate some of Volkanovski’s low kicking. He could test those waters again here ... preferably with lots of ripping left body kicks in the mix.
These two are still at the top of their games, and the likelihood of an excellent war vs. deep technical battle is pretty even.
Volkanovski unseated a long-standing champion back in Dec. 2019, so his status as a Featherweight kingpin is carved into history. However, this is his moment to really solidify his grip on the division. If Holloway immediately takes the belt back, will there be an immediate rubber match? Perhaps, but it’s hard to feel confident with the current UFC matchmaking trends.
If “The Great” proves himself superior once and for all, he can move onto new challenges.
Alternatively, Holloway is somewhat lucky to have received this instant rematch even with his excellent resume. Such opportunities are no guarantee, and the stakes do rise. If Holloway tastes defeat a second time, where does the 28-year-old go from here? He’d be stuck in that miserable no man’s land he once trapped Jose Aldo, as earning a third match with Volkanovski would be nearly impossible.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 251 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
To see the latest UFC 251: “Usman vs Masvidal” fight card click here.
The Featherweight stakes are high on Fight Island. Which man leaves the Octagon strapped with gold?