LAS VEGAS — Max Holloway’s reign of terror at featherweight has come to an end courtesy of a former 200-plus-pound rugby player-turned MMA fighter.
Alexander Volkanovski put together an impeccable performance, complete with spurts of explosive offense that combined leg kicks and powerful striking, to claim the 145-pound title via unanimous decision over arguably the greatest UFC featherweight champion of all time.
The fight was a high-energy chess match. Volkanovski stalled Holloway’s attempts to gain momentum whenever it appeared the Hawaiian was prepared to turn up the volume on his striking.
At first, Volkanovski used leg kicks to prevent Holloway from planting and firing. Once it appeared Holloway had figured out how to avoid getting his lead leg eaten up, Volkanovski shifted to a strategy of plowing forward and launching a burst of punches that ended with a left hook.
It was clear that Holloway couldn’t find his rhythm as Volkanovski refused to commit to one approach and kept the champion off balance. Holloway wasn’t without his moments, though; he found success in the middle rounds when the two exchanged strikes. He would sink a hook to the body or snap Volkanovski’s head back with a jab, but as soon as it seemed that Holloway was about to catch a wave, Volkanovski tossed him off his proverbial surfboard.
Built like a small tank, Volkanovski’s 5-6 frame left few openings for Holloway to find. The Aussie fighter, meanwhile, managed to keep Holloway fighting off his back foot.
As the hole continued to get deeper for Holloway, Volkanovski stayed on his game and continued to find ways to land the left hook and prevent Holloway from building momentum.
In the end, judges saw it in favor of Volkanovski with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45. A new sheriff is in charge of the featherweight division.