Alexander Volkanovski needed a second-half surge to narrowly escape with his UFC featherweight title, downing Max Holloway via split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) in the co-main event of UFC 251 early Sunday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
This rematch was a tale of two fights. Holloway opened strong with pressure and high-volume striking. Volkanovski — who won a unanimous decision over Holloway in December — was fighting an opponent who was out to prove that the first fight was a fluke. Holloway never stopped coming and fired after every Volkanovski leg kick attempt. The second half of the bout belonged to Volkanovski.
The champion landed at a higher clip and secured several takedowns over the former champion. The leg kicks continued but didn’t necessarily slow down Holloway.
The third round is the one that will most talked about. The number of strikes landed were nearly even but two judges saw it for Volkanovski while a third gave it to Holloway.
It was a high-powered chess match between two great fighters who landed hard strikes and never stopped throwing. It certainly was more difficult the second time around, but Volkanovski again had his hand raised in victory.