MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the co-main event of UFC 251, a five-round featherweight title bout between champion Alexander Volkanovski and challenger Max Holloway. The event takes place on Saturday, July 11 at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Alexander Volkanovski (-240)
Volkanovski (21-1) is the UFC featherweight champion. The 31-year-old Aussie is a perfect 8-0 in the UFC and he’s riding an 18-fight win streak overall, with notable wins over Holloway, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, and Darren Elkins. Volkanovski made his way to the top of the division by showing off a well-rounded attack that included strong wrestling, heavy ground-and-pound, and occasional flashes of brilliance on the feet. But in the first fight against Holloway last year, Volkanovski showed that he is an elite striker in the division as he was able to outland Holloway over the course of five rounds and take home the belt. That he was able to dominate Holloway on the feet proved that he’s the best fighter in the division right now as he heads into his first title defense against Holloway.
Max Holloway (+200)
Holloway (21-5) is the No. 1 ranked fighter in the UFC featherweight division. The 28-year-old American is 17-5 overall in the UFC with notable wins over Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega, Anthony Pettis, Charles Oliveira, and Andre Fili. Holloway was the UFC featherweight champion from 2016 to 2019 before dropping the belt to Volkanovski last year in an upset. For the first time as a featherweight Holloway was outstruck in a fight, though he was also outstruck by Dustin Poirier at lightweight last year. Holloway is still one of the most talented fighters in the division with his volume striking attack and underrated grappling game, but he’s a fighter who started young in the sport and who has been in a lot of wars the last few years. It’s possible that Holloway just had a bad night against Volkanovski last year, but after being the favorite for the first Volkanovski fight, he now enters this rematch as the underdog as he will look to prove to everyone he’s not done just yet.
Fight Breakdown: This should be a really interesting rematch for the UFC featherweight title. The last time we saw these two at UFC 245 in December, Volkanovski got the better of Holloway as he surprisingly outstruck the striker on the feet. It was an eye-opening performance by Volkanovski, as most thought his path to victory would be to take the fight to the ground. The fact he was able to beat Holloway standing showed that he’s an elite fighter in all facets of the game and it makes Volkanovski a tough guy to bet against right now. As dominant as Holloway was for years, he’s shown holes in his game the last few years and after we saw how Volkanovski was able to implement his gameplan in the first fight, it’s tough to go against that. Although Holloway may be able to make the adjustments and make the fight closer, I still think Volkanovski is the better fighter right now and I have to pick him here. After 25 minutes, I believe Volkanovski will win a decision.
Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski wins via decision