Alexander Volkanovski will defend his UFC featherweight belt for the first time against the man he won it from in Max Holloway. The two will face off in a rematch in the co-main event of UFC 251 which is set to take place at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on July 11, 2020.
Volkanovski and Holloway fought at UFC 245 in December 2019. The Australian ended Holloway’s reign as featherweight champion, defeating the Hawaiian by unanimous decision. The loss was Holloway’s first since 2013 when he was defeated by Conor McGregor and it snapped a 13-fight winning streak for the fighter known as Blessed.
For Volkanovski, the victory was the 18th consecutive of his career. The 31-year old Australian has not tasted defeat since getting knocked out in his fourth professional MMA fight in 2013. Alexander the Great has won eight in a row inside the UFC octagon and he will be looking to cement himself as the best featherweight in the UFC.
Let’s examine the fighters and take a look at the matchup:
Alexander Volkanovski is the 7th ranked pound for pound fighter in the UFC and the reigning UFC featherweight champion. The 31-year old Australian won the belt by defeating Max Holloway by unanimous decision at UFC 245. Volkanovski is a former Australian Fighting Championship featherweight title and PXC featherweight champion.
Volkanovski stands 5-6 tall and has a reach of 71 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 21-1 with 11 knockouts and three wins via submission. Alexander The Great has not lost since 2013 and has won 19 consecutive bouts, including eight consecutive inside the UFC octagon.
He is a volume striker who lands an average of 6.16 significant strikes per minute and has a 57% striking accuracy. Volkanovski absorbs 3.14 significant strikes per minute and has a 59% striking defense. He completes an average of 2.16 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 34% takedown accuracy and has a takedown defense of 72%.
Max Holloway is the #10 ranked pound for pound fighter in the UFC and the #1 featherweight contender in the promotion. He is the immediate former UFC featherweight champion who won 13 consecutive featherweight bouts and made three successful defenses of the featherweight title before losing to Volkanovski last December.
Blessed stands 5-11 tall and has a reach of 69 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a 21-5 record with 10 knockouts and two wins via submission. Holloway’s loss to Volkanovski was his first featherweight defeat since 2013. He established himself as the division’s best with back to back wins over former champion Jose Aldo.
Holloway is also a volume striker who averages 6.66 significant strikes per minute and has an accuracy of 44%. He absorbs 4.45 significant strikes per minute and has a striking defense of 62%. Holloway averages only 0.24 significant strikes per minute and has a takedown accuracy of 83% and a takedown defense of 85%.
Volkanovski cashed in as a +150 underdog at UFC 245. In that bout, he outstruck Holloway 157-134 in total strikes, gaining the striking advantage in leg kicks 75-17. The Australian fighter is a volume striker who has one of the better stand up games in the business. He is an excellent counter-puncher and uses his leg kicks as the main part of his arsenal. Volkanovski also has a very effective takedown game and he uses a strong upper body to force his opponents to the mat.
Holloway is also a volume striker and in fact, he averages more strikes per minute than the champion. Blessed has good pop in his punches and he likes to come forward. He is a very durable fighter who can keep up a frenetic pace for five rounds. He also has a very durable chin and can take a good punch well. In his last fight though, he couldn’ t stop Volkanovski from piling up the points with leg kicks and that took him out of his game.
Holloway is coming off wars against Dustin Poirier and Volkanovski, with a win over Frankie Edgar in between. He took significant damage against Poirier and Volkanovski and sometimes something is taken away from great fighters after losses. Some worry that both losses have taken something out of Holloway. There is also tremendous pressure on Holloway here. Not only is he expected to reclaim his belt, but he also needs a big bounce-back win to reclaim his spot as one of the current pound for pound greats.
If Alexander wants to win again, he needs to employ the same game plan. If he can continue to connect with the leg kicks, he should be fine here.
However, it can be recalled that Holloway turned the tide when he turned southpaw. So expect the challenger to mix things up by fighting from both stances. Volkanovski can slow down Holloway by taking the fight to the ground. He was unsuccessful in four attempts to force the fight to the mat at UFC 245.
I think Max Holloway makes the right adjustments here. He already started doing that in the first fight. He just ran out of rounds. Holloway has what it takes to beat Volkanovski and while the champion is tough as nails, I think Max is the better striker between the two, We should see a similar fight at UFC 251 but Holloway should use his kicking game early and defend himself more in this fight. With all bases covered, Max should get his title back.
Prediction: Max Holloway +162
Fourteen of Volkanovski’s 21 wins have come via stoppage but he’s only halted three opponents in eight UFC wins. On the other hand, Holloway has 12 stoppages in 21 victories. He stopped four straight opponents before beating Frankie Edgar by decision in his most recent win.
We’ve seen these two fight before and I expect the same kind of fight at UFC 251. Holloway withstood every big shot that Volkanovski threw and the same can be said otherwise. I like this fight to go the distance.
Prediction: Over 4.5 (-250)
*Odds from MyBookie as of 07/07/2020
Voklanovski has the big right hand to end this fight in a hurry but Holloway is a tough dude who has survived five-round against Conor McGregor and even Dustin Poirier at lightweight. I don’t think he’s going to get stopped easily. On the other hand, I think that Max has the volume striking to record a stoppage here and I like the odds for that at +750. However, I don’t think this will be an easy win for Max so I’m going with him to win on points.
Prediction: Holloway via Decision or Technical Decision (+300)
*Odds from Betway as of 07/07/2020
The first right went the distance and unless one of these guys gained a bigger punch during the lockdown period, we should see this fight go to the scorecards, just like the first one.
Prediction: Scorecard (-225)
Again, these men took each other’s best shots in the first bout and unless one of them grew too old since that meeting, this one should be another chess match between these two. This fight should go the distance.
Prediction: Yes (-225)
This should be another hard-fought war I think these are two durable fighters who are built for five-round bouts. I will not discount the probability of a stoppage here but given they fought for 25 minutes the first time out, this should go the same route.
However, Holloway should make the correct adjustments here. I think he beats Volkanovski convincingly and there will be no controversy, split or majority decision. I have Max taking all three judges’ scorecards.
Prediction: Holloway via unanimous decision +500
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