Alexander Volkanovski ended Max Holloway’s three-year spell atop the featherweight division when the two men met last December – can he now win the rematch to cement his position as the new king of the 145lb division at UFC 251 on July 11?
Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway: Where Is UFC 251 Being Held?
We now know that ‘Fight Island’ is Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, and UFC 251 will be the first of four events to take place at the UFC’s new overseas ‘home’.
The card will is headlined by Kamaru Usman v Gilbert Burns for the welterweight title, but that is not the only title fight on the card. Ex-featherweight champion Max Holloway will be looking to regain the belt from the man who dethroned him last December, Alexander Volkanovski.
Road To Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway
Max Holloway’s response to a decision defeat to Conor McGregor in 2013 was impressive and emphatic. He reeled off nine straight victories to land a shot at the interim title in December 2016, and on that night he stopped ex-lightweight champion Anthony Pettis with strikes in the third round to secure himself a crack at the undisputed crown. That opportunity came in June 2017 and he took it in sensational fashion, producing the best performance of his career to take out the legendary Jose Aldo inside three rounds. Then, just to prove it was no fluke, he produced another TKO success when he took on Aldo for the second time later that year.
From there he destroyed the highly-touted Brian Ortega and left the doctor with no choice but to step in after four rounds, and after a failed bid to become lightweight champion he returned to the featherweight ranks to beat Frankie Edgar. His reign would not last much longer though. Holloway made the fourth defensive of his undisputed crown against Alexander Volkanovski in December of last year, but he was unable to live up to the ‘favourite’ tag given to him by the bookmakers for the bout and instead left Las Vegas without the crown that he had worn for three years.
Volkanovski ramped up the standard of opposition he was facing in 2018 as bested an in-form Darren Elkins before stopping former featherweight title contender Chad Mendes in the second round of their contest, and he made 2019 a year to remember as he completed his rise to the top. Having got the better of Aldo over five rounds in May Volkanovski was rewarded with a title shot just 11 days before Christmas, and he made sure that he gave himself an early present as he put on a fantastic showing to rip the belt away from Holloway.
Holloway is renowned for his high volume striking that picks apart and brutalises the opposition, but Volkanovski was able to defy the big size disadvantage to beat the then-champion at his own game. He was able to out-strike the Hawaiian and pepper him with a record-setting number of leg kicks throughout the five rounds to earn the nod from the judges at Octagonside.
It was sensational stuff from the new champion, but was it simply a bad night at the office for Holloway, who had been on such an incredible run of form at featherweight? Or has Volkanovski shown that he is the Hawaiian’s kryptonite? Read on for our Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway predictions and tips for UFC 251 on July 11…
Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway UFC 251 Predictions & Tips
Had the first fight ended in a knockout out of nowhere or because of some bad fortune for Holloway, then I would probably be backing the former champion to regain his throne at UFC 251. That was not the case though.
‘Blessed’ was pick apart and beaten up for five rounds as Volkanovski left no doubt that he deserved to get the nod from the judges – like I said previously, he was beaten at his own game. So unless the ex-champion has revamped his gameplan considerably for this rematch I believe we are very likely to see similar scenes to the first fight. There is that old saying that ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks’, and even if he has made some changes it feels like in this fight it is only a matter of time before Holloway does go back to his old ways.
I will acknowledge now that it is very risky to write off a man who dominated the division and established himself as one of the best fighters ever to grace the featherweight ranks, but all great fighters eventually endure a downturn if they stick around long enough and at this point in his career Holloway has taken some beatings. He has dropped two of his last three in pretty emphatic – and violent – fashion. We could see more of the same here as Volkanovski leaves Fight Island with the title.