Alexander Volkanovski is from Australia’s east coast and Max Holloway hails from Hawaii so both men are rather familiar with fighting near sandy shores.
That’s why this UFC 251 featherweight title rematch is an ideal fight to serve as the co-main event for the inaugural Fight Island card.
These two went five hard rounds in December at UFC 245 with Volkanovski earning a unanimous decision that dethroned Holloway who at the time had won 14 consecutive fights in the 145-pound division.
With that in mind, here’s a closer look at the anticipated sequel.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Nickname: The Great
Fighting out of: Shellharbour, Australia
Weight: 145 pounds
Arm reach: 71.5 inches
Leg reach: 36 inches
Average fight time: 13:55
MMA record: 21-1
UFC record: 8-0
Notable wins: Max Holloway, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Darren Elkins
Notable Accomplishments: Reigning UFC featherweight champion; undefeated at 145 pounds; won titles in Australian Fighting Championship, Cage Conquest, Pacific Xtreme Combat, Roshambo MMA and Wollongong Wars organizations
Fighting out of: Waianae, Hawaii
Weight: 145 pounds
Arm reach: 69 inches
Leg reach: 42 inches
Average fight time: 14:08
MMA record: 21-5
UFC record: 17-5
Notable wins: Jose Aldo (x2), Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega, Anthony Pettis, Charles Oliveira, Cub Swanson, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens
Notable Accomplishments: Most significant strikes landed in UFC history; former UFC featherweight champion; most total and KO/TKO wins in UFC featherweight history; eight UFC post-fight bonuses (three Fight of the Night, five Performance of the Night)
This fight is likely going to come down to which fighter makes the best adjustments. Although Volkonovski won a unanimous decision the first time around, it was competitive for all 25 minutes and Hollway did his best work in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Perhaps the biggest difference at UFC 245 was Volkonovski’s constant leg kicks. In fact, the Australian shattered the UFC featherweight record for leg kicks landed in a single fight. A whopping 75 of the 157 significant strikes Volkonovski connected on were leg kicks. The previous record was 43 leg kicks set by Cub Swanson over five rounds against Artem Lobov.
The leg kicks forced Holloway to fight from a southpaw stance more than he would’ve liked. He’s a gifted switch-stance fighter but does his best work while orthodox.
Holloway landed more head and body strikes but they didn’t quite carry the same pop as Volkanovski’s punches. Holloway is at his best when he mixes things up, pushes the pace and keeps you guessing. He’ll need to do more of that against Volkanovski this time.
"Body, head! Body, head!"
— UFC (@ufc) July 7, 2020
Holloway lands 6.66 significant strikes per minute, which ranks ninth all-time in UFC history. Volkanovski’s not too far behind Holloway in terms of output, landing 6.15 significant strikes per minute himself and doing so at a higher percentage (57 per cent accuracy compared to Holloway’s 44 per cent).
Volkanovski is a teammate of fellow UFC champion Israel Adesanya and lightweight contender Dan Hooker, two excellent strikers, and Volkanovski’s standup looks better each time he enters the Octagon. Eugene Bareman and the coaches at City Kickboxing deserve credit for that.
He takes less damage than Holloway, too, absorbing 3.14 significant strikes per minute compared to 4.45 for Holloway.
Volkanovski attempted four takedowns, all of which were successfully defended by Holloway, who boasts an 85 per cent career takedown defence. The attempts were used more to throw Holloway off and disrupt his timing rather than actually take the bout to the ground.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Volkanovski try to utilize his strength advantage and initiate more clinches in the rematch – especially if Holloway has adapted and defends the leg kicks more effectively.
You can watch their first fight in its entirety below.
Volkanovski sustained a broken hand during that fight which later required surgery, although you wouldn’t know it based on his performance. This time he says he wants to up the ante.
“I’ve already beat him. I know I can do that,” Volkanovski said earlier this week. “Now I want to finish him. A lot of people think he can’t be finished. I truly do believe I can.”
If he does he’d be the first to do so since Dustin Poirier submitted “Blessed” in Holloway’s short-notice UFC debut in 2012. No fighter has ever finished Holloway with strikes.
On the flipside, no featherweight has been able to solve Volkanovski on the feet or on the ground. His lone loss was back in 2013 in his fourth pro fight and it was in the welterweight division.
Here’s hoping part two is as good as part one was.