Alexander Volkanovski wanted to finish Max Holloway in their featherweight title rematch at UFC 251 on Sunday morning, to prove beyond a doubt he’s the better of the two. Instead, the second meeting proved to be much closer than the first — but ultimately, Volkanovski maintained the title via split decision.
The final scores reflected how close the 145-pound championship bout was. Two judges gave the fight to Volkanovski by the thinnest of margins, 48-47. A third judge saw it for Holloway 48-47. ESPN also scored the fight 48-47 for Holloway. The rematch co-headlined UFC 251 on “Fight Island” — Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Volkanovski, of Australia, wanted a finish in the rematch, to silence any observers who felt his first win against Holloway, back in December, was close. In the end, he wasn’t able to do so, but said he was pleased with the result.
“We had 10 rounds,” Volkanovski said. “I was able to dominate some, of course he won some rounds as well. Credit to him. He’s durable. I thought I could take him out of this fight, but we prepared for the worst. I wanted to finish him, but we got the job done.”
Holloway, 28, appeared to seize control early, as he dropped Volkanovski in the first and second rounds. He knocked the Aussie down with a head kick in the final minute of the opening round, and dropped him again late in the second with an uppercut. Volkanovski recovered quickly on both occasions.
Momentum started to change in the third. Volkanovski continued to rack up leg kicks — a big theme in the first fight — and started to find a home more frequently with his jab and left hook. In the fourth and fifth rounds, Volkanovski started to mix in his wrestling. He scored takedowns late in the fight and stayed consistent with his jab and leg kicks.
According to UFC Stats data, Volkanovski landed 139 strikes to 111 for Holloway. He converted three of nine takedown attempts.
Holloway, of Hawai’i, was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet not long ago but has now lost three of his past four contests. He suffered a decision loss to Dustin Poirier in an interim lightweight title bout in April 2019. He rebounded with a 145-pound featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar months later before dropping two in a row to Volkanovski.