UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanvoski didn’t get the finish he wanted over Max Holloway in their UFC 251 immediate rematch, but he did cement his status as champion in the first event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Holloway lost the belt to Volkanovski at UFC 245 last December. He had hoped to regain the belt on Saturday night, and it looked as if he might, but the judges didn’t agree.
Holloway opened the fight strong, showing fluid movement and stinging Volkanovski with his jab. While Volkanovski was looking for the power shot, Holloway landed a hard right in the final minute and a half of the opening frame that staggered Volkanovski and then landed a head kick that sent him briefly to the canvas.
The second round was another good one for Holloway, who kept control of the center of the Octagon, while Volkanovski continued swinging for the power shot. They traded shots throughout the round, but Holloway landed an uppercut in the waning moments that again sent Volkanovski briefly down to a knee.
The fight leveled off a bit in the third round. Holloway kept pressing with his jab, but Volkanovski, perhaps sensing that he was behind, pressed a little harder than the first two frames.
The champion kept pressing, but Holloway eluded most of his shots, while slipping in his jab and again landing a head kick in the final minute.
His face bloodied, Holloway again took control of the center of the cage in round four. Volkanovski was looking for an opening, but he started to look flat-footed, as Holloway kept dancing around and using a fluid approach to land jabs and combinations.
Volkanovski clinched and forced a takedown, but Holloway was back to his feet within a matter of seconds, once again sticking his jab in the champion’s face.
Volkanovski swung hard in the final seconds of the frame, landing a couple solid shots, but Holloway returned fire with a couple solid shots of his own as the round wound down.
Holloway opened the final frame still pressing forward, unleashing an array of punches and kicks. He backed Volkanovski up, but the champion kept firing even in retreat.
Volkanovski pressed Holloway to the cage, but again couldn’t gain much advantage from it. When they separated, Holloway continued to stick the jab in his face, frequently following with a sharp right hand.
The Aussie kept firing, trying to find a way to pull off the victory, but every time he seemed to get back in the fight, Holloway rocked him with a combination.
The champ secured a takedown in the final two minutes, but could do nothing to keep Holloway on the canvas. After returning to his feet, Holloway fended off any further takedown attempts, punishing Volkanovski with his jab.
Volkanovski scored one final takedown just before the final horn.
While it seemed that it would be too little, too late, the judges disagreed. They scored the bout in favor of the champion with two judges scoring the bout 48-47 for Volkanovski and the other 48-47 for Holloway.
Just like their first fight, it was another close one. Although it appeared that Holloway had done enough to win, Volkanovski remains the UFC featherweight champion.
“It was a tough fight. Max brought it. He made it tough for me. I wanted a finish. He wanted a finish. Unfortunately, we both didn’t get it,” Volkanovski said after the fight.
“He’s tough. He’s a gamer. We’re both hard workers, but I got the job done.”
Though he had to go the distance again with Holloway, Volkanovski is ready to fight again before the pandemic plagued 2020 is over.
“Yeah, yeah, definitely, I want to get another one in.”
Another knockdown! 😱
— UFC (@ufc) July 12, 2020