Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight rivals Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will collide once more this weekend (Sat., July 2, 2022) at UFC 276 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stories of Volkanovski and Holloway are forever intertwined. The two best 145-pound fighters of their era, the pair have fought twice and produced a pair of incredibly close contests. Most would agree with the judges who awarded Volkanovski the victory in their first meeting, but a similarly high percentage of viewers believe Holloway did enough to even the score last time out.
Holloway, meanwhile, insists he won both Volkanovski fights.
Whatever your personal scorecard, this is yet again a great match up between two undeniably great Featherweights. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 251, UFC 245), Brian Ortega (UFC 266), Jose Aldo (UFC 237), Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Chan Sung Jung (UFC 273), Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 133)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Volkanovski is an absolutely brutal combination of intelligence and athleticism, a combination bolstered further by raw competitive drive. He usually wins fights by physically mauling opponents with his wrestling or dancing at distance and showing off the depth of his stand up.
Volkanovski really does it all at an elite level.
Given that these two have spent 50 minutes inside the cage battling one another, I’m unsure that I have any revelations the two have not figured out themselves. For Volkanovski, the key has always been and will always be to limit Holloway’s volume. The Hawaiian is legendary for his ability to break punch stats, but Volkanovski makes it impossible for Holloway to operate at his usual pace on the strength of his foot work, low kicks, and counter punches.
Last time out, Volkanovski ran into several uppercuts as he tried to flurry forward. If there’s one adjustment to make, focusing a bit more taking an angle before bursting forward could help him avoid that blow.
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 218, UFC 212), Calvin Kattar (UFC Fight Island 7), Yair Rodriguez (UFC Vegas 42), Frankie Edgar (UFC 240), Brian Ortega (UFC 231) Anthony Pettis (UFC 206), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 199), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 15)
Key Losses: Alexander Volkanovski (UFC 251, UFC 245), Dustin Poirier (UFC 236, UFC 143), Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway is one of the greats. A technical kickboxer with an endless gas tank and iron chin, Holloway fights can snowball like few others once he finds an advantage.
Holloway’s performance in the second fight was a vast improvement from the first. He was able to counter Volkanovski far more effectively largely because he kept up with Volkanovski at distance. Essentially, Holloway kicked more often, forcing Volkanovski to take the initiative more and put himself at risk rather than hang back and build a lead.
As the fight wore on, Holloway slowed a bit from Volkanovski’s low kicks, which turned the tide. To cleanly defeat the champion, Holloway clearly cannot afford to slow down from damage in the latter half of the fight. Therefore, checking kicks should be a higher priority than ever before, because answering back and countering just wasn’t enough last time. He may have to adjust his stance a bit to keep a lighter lead leg, but if that allows him to stay mobile for five rounds, it’s worth it.
There’s no guarantee that this is the last time these two fight.
Holloway has been working to regain his title for just about two years now. There’s a lot on the line for “Blessed” outside of the belt, however. Namely, Holloway wants to stake his claim as the best Featherweight of the era, and that’s difficult to do if Volkanovski holds three victories over him. If Holloway were to come up short, a move to Lightweight shouldn’t be a surprise.
Volkanovski has also been targeting a jump to 155 pounds for quite some time. Unlike Holloway, his odds of moving to Lightweight seem more likely with a victory (even Dana White agrees). Another title defense creates a strong argument for Volkanovski’s desired title shot a weight class up, though there are still Featherweight contenders like Josh Emmett still trying to get a piece of the Aussie.
If he loses here, expect a fourth fight sooner than later.
At UFC 276, Volkanovski and Holloway will battle for MAYBE the final time. Which man will leave the cage strapped with gold?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 276 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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