Featherweight champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (21-1, 11 KOs, 3 SUBs) will defend his title in a rematch against Max “Blessed” Holloway (21-5, 10 KOs, 2 SUBs) at UFC 251 on Saturday, July 11, 2020 at UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The matchup serves as the co-main event to a welterweight fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. The main card airs on pay-per-view starting 10pm ET and features five compelling matches. The prelims air on ESPN, ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass, with eight fights.
Let’s take a closer look at the featherweight title match between Volkanovski and Holloway.
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal
The Champion: Alexander Volkanovski (21-1, 11 KOs, 3 SUBs)
It’s not like Volkanovski came out of nowhere, but there’s no denying he rose fast. Just three years ago, he was a promising Aussie scoring wins against the middle class of a loaded division. But he kept winning, leading to an astounding run where he beat Darren Elkins, Chad Menes and Jose Aldo. Armed with wins over and big names and monster winning streak (currently 18 straight), Volkanovski earned a title shot against Holloway, who was putting together a compelling argument to be the featherweight GOAT.
Volkanovski shone bright as a +180 underdog, executing the perfect gameplan to flummox a fighter who hadn’t lost in 14 straight featherweight fights. Over five rounds, the Aussie launched vicious combinations that stopped Blessed from getting into his rhythm. Despite being the shorter fighter, Volkanovski was the faster one, landing the more effective shots and moving out of harm’s way. There was no controversy in the decision, but it wasn’t utter domination either - which is why nobody’s complaining that Holloway is getting an immediate rematch.
This time around, the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu opened with Volkanovski as a -220 favorite. Sounds about right. The wrestle-boxer appears to be a poor matchup for the Hawaiian: too stout and strong to take down, too quick and athletic to corral, and too fast and crisp with his combinations.
Max Holloway (21-5, 10 KOs, 2 SUBs)
Dustin Poirier laid out the blueprint to beat Max, but it still obviously requires a very special fighter (like Volkanovski) to follow it successfully. Before meeting Poirier, it really appeared that Holloway was going to lap his division. For 14 fights, the 28-year old hardly faced any real adversity, dispatching beasts like Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Ricardo Lamas, Anthony Pettis, Jose Aldo and Brian Ortega with relative ease.
For most opponents, Max is an impenetrable storm. A tall, rangy fighter with an iron chin, Holloway takes a round or two to feel opponents out, then dials it up to 100. It’s no surprise that he had racked up four straight finishes in the third round and beyond going into the fight with Poirier. He’s difficult to take down, even harder to knock out, never stops coming forward, and just doesn’t get tired. That’s a nightmare to deal with.
Strikes landed per minute: Volkanovski 6.15 / Holloway 6.66
Striking accuracy: Volkanovski 57% / Holloway 44%
Strikes absorbed per minute: Volkanovski 3.14 / Holloway 4.45
Striking Defense: Volkanovski 59% / Holloway 62%
Takedown average: Volkanovski 2.16 / Holloway 0.24
Takedown accuracy: Volkanovski 34% / Holloway 83%
Takedowns defended: Volkanovski 72% / Holloway 85%
Submission average: Volkanovski 0.4 / Holloway 0.39
The big question here is whether Holloway can make adjustments which would require him to change his style. Although the Hawaiian has been dominating guys in the UFC longer than the Aussie has, he’s done it by imposing his style. Volkanovski has already shown better diversity in how he wins, whether it’s through clinch fighting, range striking, or all-out wrestling. The pick here is Volkanovski to defend, and if you want to take some risk take the prop that he wins by decision.
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal Card & Odds
Jorge Masvidal +216 vs. Kamaru Usman -283
Max Holloway +194 vs. Alexander Volkanovski -250
Jose Aldo +179 vs. Petr Yan -230
Paige VanZant +555 vs. Amanda Ribas -925
Jessica Andrade +162 vs. Rose Namajunas -204
Jiri Prochazka +140 vs. Volkan Oezdemir -176
Zhalgas Zhumagulov +150 vs. Raulian Paiva -190
Vanessa Melo +186 vs. Karol Rosa -240
Danny Henry +150 vs. Makwan Amirkhani -190
Roman Bogatov +150 vs. Leonardo Santos -190
Elizeu Zaleski -105 vs. Muslim Salikhov -125
Davey Grant +143 vs. Martin Day -180
Maxim Grishin -106 vs. Marcin Tybura -124
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