MMA Ratings Podcast

July 7, 2020

UFC 251: Max Holloway Looks To Buck the Rematch Trend With Short Turnaround For Volkanovski Bout

By Raphael Garcia

When great fighters are involved, combat sports promoters often chase after the allure of the so-called "legacy-defining rematch." There is a level of excitement around two closely matched athletes stepping back into the space of competition to see if the results will match that of the first outing. There have been many fantastic rematches and trilogies, in MMA, where rematches often happen in a close proximity to the original fight, the return bout usually ends the same, if not worse, for the fighter seeking the rematch. That is why the upcoming UFC Featherweight Championship rematch between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski doesn't seem to bode well for the former champion.

In December of 2019, Holloway walked into UFC 245 as the heavy favorite over Volkanovski. The one they call "Blessed" was on a tear at that point in his career, coming off wins over all-time greats like Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, and Anthony Pettis. He looked like he was going to hold the 145-pound title until he decided to chase after lightweight glory.

However, Volkanovski had different plans that night. For twenty-five minutes he found a way to beat Holloway to the punch, something the then-champion had excelled out throughout his career. Judges had all three of their cards going the challenger's way, by the scores of 50-45 on one, and 48-47 on the other two. The stats from the bout point to a close battle, as Volkanovski landed 157 significant strikes to Holloway’s 134. But despite those baseline metrics, there is a large contingent of observers that do not believe this fight was that close. Volkanovski and his City Boxing team figured out a way to defeat Holloway, solving a puzzle that no other featherweight could figure out other than Conor McGregor more than six years before. Now the question is whether Holloway can figure out Volkanovski. At first glance, there is a narrative developing that he will not have enough time to do just that.

Let us look at the history of world title rematches for the first piece of this equation. There are several that come to mind, but let us start with the one between Holloway and Aldo. Six months passed between those two bouts, and very little changed in the rematch, as Holloway stopped Aldo inside of 15 minutes. The career of Frankie Edgar can provide additional examples, as he has had four sets of title rematches. The ones with Gray Maynard, B.J. Penn, and Benson Henderson all happened within ten months of the original contest. And each time the outcome remained very much the same. Edgar's two bouts with Aldo were three years apart, and Edgar showed some improvement (especially early in the bout), but issues with the game plan kept him from being able to overcome his white whale. To win this weekend, Holloway will have to demonstrate that unlike the others, he has had enough time to figure out a way to defeat Volkanovski.

The other problem for Holloway is COVID-19. The global pandemic has impacted everyone’s ability to train. We have seen fighters drop off cards and others struggle with weight-cutting issues. Holloway has talked about the challenges of training online instead of being able to work with his coaches in person. That is the perfect combination of factors for the wrong type of outcome, heading into the Octagon for a championship bout.

Max Holloway has a very difficult hill to climb at UFC 251. He is walking into the cage as challenger to a man in Alexander Volkanovski that handed him quite well in their first outing. With so much going on in the world and time to train being so scarce, it is hard to see how Holloway is going to manage the challenge in front of him. But even with the trends not in his favor, this is the reason that fights are contested in the cage. Holloway has the opportunity to prove everyone wrong and shock the world this weekend. And if that happens, he may be setting the stage for yet another rematch.

UFC 251
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway (UFC Featherweight Championship)

UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal (formerly UFC 251: Usman vs. Burns) was due to take place June 6, 2020 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled/relocated to July 11, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 251 Pre-Fight Analysis

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