Alexander Volkanovski Opens Door to Fourth Fight with Max Holloway

May 10, 2024
1 month

Alexander Volkanovski believed he had closed the book on his rivalry with Max Holloway. The Australian former UFC featherweight champion picked up his third decision victory over Holloway at UFC 276 in July 2022. What the loss signaled for both men was what, at the time, seemed to be divergent paths.

According to MMAfighting latest news, Volkanovski was now in line to fight Islam Makhachev for the lightweight championship. The allure of being a double champion seemed well within reach for Volkanovski. Holloway’s third loss to Volkanoski seemed to lead him in a different direction.

Holloway, who is also a former featherweight champion and lightweight title challenger, appeared to be destined to be a gatekeeper who couldn’t get over the hump. But what Holloway proved over his last three fights is that he isn’t ready to be done winning titles just yet.

Holloway has produced consecutive stunning knockouts over former title challengers. During Holloway’s last fight at UFC 300, he knocked out Justin Gaethje in one of the wildest finishes in the promotion’s history. With Holloway hot again, there is intense interest in his next opponent. Should it be Volkanovski?

Volk’s Star Has Fallen

Volkanovski has to look at what Holloway has accomplished since they last met with envy. Holloway’s knockout of Gaethje netted him performance bonuses of $600,000 in addition to his pay for the fight. Volkanovski, meanwhile, is in the worst stretch of his career.

When Volkanovski bumped up in weight to fight Makhachev at UFC 284 in Australia, he was expected to lose easily due to that bump up in weight. However, Volkanovski fought so well that some people thought he won.

After the loss, Volkanovski defended his featherweight championship against Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290. The decision that may haunt Volkanovski the most is when he decided to rematch Makhachev on short notice at UFC 294.

Makhachev didn’t play around in the rematch, knocking out Volkanovski in the first round. Desperate to stay active, Volkanovski chose to defend his featherweight bout just four months later. Volkanovski should have waited longer.

Spanish striker Ilia Topuria mauled Volkanovski with a second-round KO. 

Holloway Pursues Topuria

There was real discussion that Holloway wouldn’t be able to get a title shot as long as Volkanovski held the featherweight belt. But once Topuria won, there was clamoring to face Holloway. Topuria trying to become the first fighter to knockout Holloway is part of the allure of that fight.

Amazingly, Holloway has never been put out cold. He has fought 33 times professionally. Eighteen of those fights have gone to a decision. MMA will produce more knockouts than boxing because it uses lighter gloves.

But Holloway has found a way to avoid being put down. Topuria has claimed he is only interested in the fight if Holloway will put up his “BMF” title that he won against Gaethje. The BMF belt is mostly symbolic, and playing any part in negotiating is a weird tactic.

But the weirdest part about all of this talk is the fact that there is no buzz from the last meeting.

Holloway-Volkanovski III Wasn’t Close

The latest MMA updates show a fourth fight between Holloway and Volkanovski may be met with a lukewarm reaction. While the first two fights between the men were close, the third was not. Volkanovski finished with a 199-172 edge in significant strikes. 

Holloway even decided to mix in some wrestling but failed at all three of his takedown attempts. While the first round was close in terms of strikes landed, Volkanovski would win every round and control the fight. All three judges gave Volkanovski every round in a unanimous decision win.

What Else Makes Sense For Volkanovski?

The top of the featherweight division isn’t filled with a lot of fresh faces. Volkanovski, who is the No.1-ranked contender, has wins over the three men behind him. Volkanovski dominated fourth-ranked Rodriguez during their title fight together.

Brian Ortega is an interesting potential rematch. Ortega, who is ranked third, nearly submitted Volkanovski twice at UFC 266. Since Ortega lost that fight, he has battled personal issues outside the octagon and a shoulder injury.

Orega has only fought two since September 2021. The last fight he had ended in a submission win over Rodriguez. If Ortega is willing, he would pair well to keep Volkanovski sharp.

It seems unlikely that Volkanovski would want to fight anyone below No. 5, but you never know what the UFC can come up with.

End of an Era

Volkanovski had fun at the expense of his age before his last fight. Before he fought Topuria, Volkanovski came dressed like an old man to the press conference. But while many enjoyed Volkanovski playing around with the joke, many were dismayed when he showed his age against Topuria.

It’s tough for fighters in lower-weight divisions to stay at the top. In the lighter weights, everyone is fast, and more movement is required. Power helps at those weights, but speed and technique may matter more than at heavyweight. Retirement should be an option for Volkanovski, but it likely isn’t.

Volkanovski is a proud man who feels he has something left to give. But Volkanovski doesn’t have much else to prove to anyone. At age 35, Volkanovski still shows what brought him to the top. He has a dedication to the sport and training that is nearly unmatched.

Volkanovski successfully defended his featherweight belt five times and has the second-highest title wins in featherweight history.

Gatekeeper No More

Holloway would like one more shot at the championship. While getting a win over Volkanovski would be nice, bigger prizes are at stake.  Holloway has his sights set on Topuria.

Topuria has yet to make a title defense. Holloway made three successful title defenses. If there was ever a time to push Holloway’s success following an exciting win, it is now. 

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By Dean McHugh.