UFC 251: The High Stakes Rematch Between Holloway and Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski ufc
Alexander Volkanovski Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

New champion Alexander Volkanovski is intent on cementing his place as the best featherweight in the world, but he needs to overcome longtime kingpin Max Holloway once again to do so at UFC 251.

How does one top their career-best performance?  That is the challenge facing newly minted champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski as he looks to overcome Max Holloway for the second time in a row.  The first battle saw the indomitable spirit of Holloway once again, but for 25 minutes Volkanovski led the dance in a high-paced contest that many had him handily winning.  Despite this, Holloway’s dominance, popularity, and the stalled schedule amidst the pandemic have set up the rematch.

While most of the attention is on Holloway reclaiming the throne, Volkanovski has an opportunity to complete a sweep of the old guard at featherweight.  With victories over Chad Mendes, José Aldo, and potentially twice over Holloway, Volkanovski would stand head-and shoulders atop the division as he pursues fights with rising contenders such as Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez, and the Korean Zombie.  Considering the active schedule that has been seen in the 145 pound title picture, such a run would cement Volkanovski’s place as one of the best fighters in MMA today.

In a twist of irony, few fighter’s personas are better geared to compete on a “Fight Island” than Hawaiian born Max Holloway.  Frequently telling the MMA world that Las Vegas and Toronto are the ninth and tenth islands of Hawaii, the stage is set for “Blessed” to triumphantly return to the top of the division.  After breaking records at featherweight and making a case as arguably the best fighter in the history of the weight class, to regain his throne at such a historic event would be a brilliant chapter in an already Hall of Fame career.

On the opposite side of the coin, where Holloway would go next if he loses would largely depend on the title picture.  For all his previous dominance, a third fight with Volkanovski would be a nearly impossible sell.  While he can continue to compete with the best at featherweight, another title shot would depend on the belt changing hands.  While a move up to lightweight remains possible, his performance last year against Dustin Poirier showed that he would need to go through the time consuming process of bulking up if he wants to compete with the best of the division.

Stylistically, there will need to be sense of urgency from Holloway early as he must establish himself unlike the first match-up.  While he is expected to be more prepared for the leg kicks of Volkanovski, being the aggressor figures to be the key to victory against the stronger Australian.  Volkanovski did an incredible job wearing down Holloway and making him respect the power in the first match-up.  The biggest adjustment, if any, Volkanovski should look to unload even more with leg-kicks to hamper Holloway’s mobility and use more shots to the body to cut away at the former champion’s gas tank.

A win for Volkanovski figures to set up a fight with the winner of Yair Rodriguez vs Zabit Magomedsharipov or the winner of the rumored bout between Brian Ortega and the Korean Zombie, depending on who is the most impressive.  A victory for Holloway would likely lead to the same, with the prospect of a possible trilogy with Volkanovski down the line.