Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway, an unlikely UFC trilogy

For beginners, it may sound strange that Saturday’s Alexander Volkanovski will be competing in a featherweight championship with Max Holloway, who has already won twice in the last three years.

“Some people may consider it an insult,” Volkanovski told The Post on the phone this week. It shows how good Max Holloway is. “

Champions have points. Hollowways (23-6, 12 finishes) are very good. And so is Volkanovski (24-1, 15 finishes), who won the title in December 2019 with a clear and competitive victory from Hawaiian. The next July rematch is pretty close, and ultimately it’s how the judge won the final round with a hotly debated split decision victory for the Australians.

Since then, each man has had two compelling victories, again a third octagonal square as a joint main event at UFC 276’s Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena at pay-per-view (10 pm ET). Will be. ).

Volkanovski admits that the situation facing a 2-0 opponent is “strange” and “unusual”, even though Hollowway is a highly respected former champion. But he points out how his biggest professional rivals justify his position since the series of two battles. In the 2021 match pair, Hollowway broke his UFC record, with 445 key strikes defeating Calvin Kattar, followed by a struggling scorecard with Yair Rodriguez. at the time.

Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski (left) beat Max Holloway in the UFC Featherweight Championship battle at UFC 251.
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“”[Holloway has] I got a third chance because he showed that he was the number one candidate, and he didn’t let anyone take it away from him, “Volkanovski said. “And people still consider him one of the best, so I still want to see him.”

Despite Volkanovski’s defeat, Hollowway says he feels a “both enough” fight to nod from the judge. That said, the laid-back ex-champion doesn’t stink about this issue. Many fans and MMA observers specifically agree to a rematch. This is an important factor that makes sense for this unlikely trilogy.

“If the two battles so far have become very compelling, wouldn’t we be here for a third?” Assume Holloway by talking to The Post earlier this week.

Alexander Volkanovski celebrates his victory over Max Holloway in the UFC Featherweight Championship battle at UFC 251.
Alexander Volkanovski celebrates his victory over Max Holloway in the UFC Featherweight Championship battle at UFC 251.
Zuffa LLC

Besides saying, “There is a big difference between how to attack the first battle and how to attack the second battle,” Hollowway says that he and his team are in the first battle compared to the second battle. I hate being too specific about how to approach.

It’s true enough. Starters are usually slow and only if the amount of strikes that can be reached later in the battle is very high. In the first battle, Volkanovski landed on Volkanovski in each of the first three rounds, and the Australians peaked in the biased three rounds. .. Powered by a leg kick that keeps Hollowway out of the ideal range, Volkanovski had already built an almost insurmountable lead on the scorecard by the time Hollowway began making comebacks.

“I was trapped. I was ready. I was ready,” Volkanovski said of how he felt in the octagon that night. “Everything was on fire. I was one step ahead. I was sharp [in] All exchanges. I won almost every exchange, and I was just one step ahead. It was still competitive, but it showed that it was well prepared. “

Even before Volkanovski’s coronation in Las Vegas that night, he felt he might have to start over anyway. Holloway won 14 straight wins at £ 145, including three consecutive title defenses against Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar. This includes two former champions in the featherweight division, sandwiched between one of the current elites. The planned immediate rematch was little surprise.

“When you are familiar with someone who controls the division and people are trying to say he is the goat of the division at that time, you expect them to rematch soon,” Volkanovski said. Volkanovski said. “I definitely expected it.”

Less hopeful was Holloway’s approach to launching a second battle in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic in the United Arab Emirates. While not unprecedented, Hollowway attacked more urgently from the jump by firmly claiming the first two rounds of the card. Volkanovski said his team “expected the same style” as typical of Hollowway, but “he was surprised at us, the fact that he changed it a lot”. Stated.

Although the numbers were close, Hawaiians clearly landed more influential strikes, especially later in each round. The champion knew that the fight wasn’t taking place as needed, so he reached the inside and gave an internal pep talk before the scheduled five-round middle frame.

“The first two rounds surprised me, which was definitely the case,” Volkanovski said. “So I really had to dig deeper, really talk to myself, have that conversation, and be like this.” Hey, you have to do something now. He makes another round, that’s it. Game over.You are requirement The next three of these. I don’t care how you feel. I don’t care if you’re not firing, I don’t care if your reaction isn’t there. You force something. You make something happen. These are the conversations I had in my head. Not many people can do what I did with such a late start. That separates me from others. “

Indeed, the fight changed from that point on, and Volkanovski cranked up his own output, better limiting Hollowway’s heavier punches. He claimed that the next two rounds from each judge would conclude the fight, and finally brought the fight for the Australians closer to fifth.

Max Holloway beats Australia's Alexander Volkanovski in UFC Featherweight Championship match at UFC 245
Max Holloway (right) beat Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski in a UFC featherweight championship match at UFC 245.
Zuffa LLC

Hollowway had little choice and had no choice but to reestablish his case as the most worthy challenger, but that there was no UFC trilogy of championship fights where the same fighter won the first two. Thinking about it, it’s a long shot. At 145 he solidified his case as the best.A brave and clear victory over Ortega last September Complete dismantling of “The Korean Zombie” ChanSungJung Mostly silent suspects who swore Hollowway in April for his first finish since 2018 were legitimate winners of the rematch.

Still, many consider Hollowway to be a kind of 1B to Volkanovski’s 1A in featherweight pecking order. Perhaps there is a craving from the public to provide more definitive conclusions. The bet for Hollowway is clear. With the victory, he was once again a champion and approached his stated goal of becoming a featherweight GOAT. He wasn’t in the camp that he felt was more worthy of the title than the legendary Aldo.

It’s not so clear what Volkanovski has to win, but the champion says he sees the benefits of his third win over Hollowway.

“Defeating Max three times really adds to my legacy, especially if people have a lot of respect for him as a fighter,” Volkanovski said. “If more people think of him and more people think of one of my opponents, it’s better for me.”

Volkanovski, 33, moved to 3-0 and almost certainly closed the door, missing out on Hollowi’s chance to regain his crown.

But Hollowway’s victory opens a new door. A 30-year-old Hawaiian told UFC Brass, “I’m not a matchmaker,” with the theme that an immediate rematch with Volkanovski could regain favor.

Volkanovski isn’t the idea he wants to entertain — victory is everything he likes to imagine before the fight — but he says giving him the next title shot in such a scenario. It would be ridiculous. “

“That’s not where it goes,” said Volkanovksi. [make the immediate rematch]..this [fight Saturday] Not the deciding factor. This is just his chance again. The only way this can be the deciding factor is to make it the best of the five.

“But don’t worry about it, as no one is in a position to rob me anyway.”

Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway, an unlikely UFC trilogy

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