15/04/2024

Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will square off for the third time at UFC 276 (Photo: UFC ANZ/ Twitter)

Alex Volkanovski and Max Holloway are set to have their epic third clash at UFC 276 on Sunday. Before the highly anticipated fight, read the round by round review of their previous two fights.

On July 3rd (AEST), the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will host UFC 276. Despite not being the main event, a lot of the focus will be on Australia’s Alex Volkanovski when he defends his Featherweight championship against Max Holloway in the third installment of their trilogy.

To many fans of mixed martial arts, this fight is for a lot more than just the World title. In their eyes, it could very well determine who is the second greatest Featherweight of all time, right behind Jose Aldo.

The two modern greats have fought twice already with Volkanovski victorious on both occasions.

But despite this, the Hawaiian Holloway has shown in his last two fights against Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez, that there is a large gap in skill between he and the rest of the contenders in the division.

In fact, both men have shown through their well-rounded skill sets and fight IQ in their prior meetings, that they are ahead of the rest of the division.

UFC 245: The First Meeting

Going into the first fight, Volkanovski entered as the challenger to Holloway, who at the time was looked to be a top five pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

The Aussie was seen as the champ’s toughest fight to date. This proved to be correct as he had clearly studied Holloway’s game in depth.

Round 1

To start off the fight, Volkanovski parries the lead hand of Holloway to draw out counters and also find a good range for his attacks. Despite being the smaller man, the New South Welshman holds a longer reach of 2.5 inches.

Although the champion was the aggressor, the main attack thrown in the opening five minutes were hard leg kicks from Volkanovski.

These blows were easy to land because of Max’s low-down stance, which in turn made it difficult for him to check kicks.

The attacks to Holloway’s lead leg also made it hard for him to close the distance, and when he eventually did, Volkanovski intercepted him with a lead hook and backed him up with feints.

Overall, the first round showed Volkanovski dictating the pace by making Holloway fall into his game.

Round 2

The man from ‘Down Under’ starts off the round by feinting to further disrupt Holloway’s movement, while also moving himself into an attacking position to continue his assault on his opponent’s lead leg.

This round is where the leg kicks started to have a bigger effect, with UFC commentator Joe Rogan pointing out that Holloway looked uncomfortable moving on his left leg.

This factor would prove to be massive, as Holloway’s striking game is heavily reliant on him being able to move around the octagon freely and create angles by switching stances.

By taking away this movement, he became a lot more predictable.

With his left leg getting kicked repeatedly, Max would switch to the southpaw stance after three minutes of the second, a stance he would stay in for the majority of the fight.

After ten minutes of action, it was clear to see that the challenger was up two rounds to nil and his gameplan of disrupting Holloway’s movement was going according to plan, having landed 35 of his attempted 43 leg strikes at this point. This tally was the most Holloway had endured in the UFC at that point.

Round 3

To start off the third, the champion stayed in the aforementioned southpaw stance to protect his left leg from further damage.

However, with Holloway now being heavier on the front foot, Volkanovski was able to push his opponent back more comfortably.

Clearly losing the fight, Holloway started to become a lot more desperate as he tried to move forward and get some offence off. This leads to him being on the receiving end of bigger shots.

The most obvious being a hard lead left that rendered him slightly wobbly.

Holloway would have some moments late in the round, telegraphing a Volkanovski who was ducking his head down to throw power hooks and overhands. His answer for this would be throwing uppercuts and knees when the shorter man entered into range.

Round 4

The fourth round of the bout proved to be Holloway’s best.

Running out of options, Max switched back to his conventional stance in which he has a lot more success, landing the jab to keep Volkanovski off him.

When his foe found a way in, Holloway was then able to land some well-timed counter uppercuts.

Although Volkanovski still found a home for the lead hook, Holloway took advantage of the former rugby player’s high guard by ripping shots to the body.

Despite the better round for the champion, two of the three judges favored Volkanovski’s more damaging shots. Nevertheless, Holloway needed a finish in the final round to retain his title.

Round 5

Max started his final push on the front foot and attacked the body. With the forward pressure, Volkanovski was easily able to catch his opponent coming in though.

The Woollongong native then continued his utilisation of feints to keep Holloway back and when this happened, he would throw another leg kick.

In this round, the challenger had success by darting into range and landing a big elbow after disengaging from the clinch. Holloway then tried to catch Volkanovski coming in with an uppercut but missed.

Aside from a hard body kick, Max did not have a lot of moments in this round and although he again pressed the action for the final minute, it was too little too late.

Summary

The first fight was a masterclass by Volkanovski as he picked up the unanimous decision win (48-47 x 2, 50-45), making him the first Australian-born UFC Champion.

The main stories were the leg kicks, as well as Volkanovski’s superb distance management. As mentioned previously, up to this point nobody had landed as many legs kick on Max Holloway. By the end of the fight, Volkanovski had landed a total of 75 leg kicks, averaging 15 per round.

These strikes shut down Holloway’s ability to move freely and create angles by keeping him stuck in the southpaw stance, where he remained predictable and easy to hit.

In terms of his distance management, Volkanovski would use feints to constantly keep Holloway at his range and attacking based on momentum.

If Max was heavy on the front foot, Volkanovski would use the leg kicks to move Holloway towards him to set up his hooks to the top. If he moved back, the new champion would throw a leg kick knowing he was safe from any counters.

In all, Alexander Volkanovski outlanded Max Holloway in distance strikes by 156-132.

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UFC 251: The Second Meeting

Given that their first meeting was mostly one-sided, many experts expected the second meeting between Volkanovski and Holloway to go the same way.

But in this fight, it is clear that Holloway made adjustments in his game plan to make the Aussie’s first title defence a difficult night.

Round 1

From the get go, you can notice that Holloway has a more narrow/upright stance. This is used in order to defend leg kicks easier, by either checking or lifting his leg out the way.

Award-winning MMA Analyst Luke Thomas mentioned in his breakdown video that Max’s narrow stance allows him to be more versatile in terms of his attacks, making it easier for him to kick and plant his feet.

In response to the alteration, Volkanovski would again use feints with his hands to draw Max’s attention, before delivering the leg kick.

Volkanovski would also try to dart on the inside, but Holloway would intercept him with uppercuts and front kicks.

During the later part of the round, the former champion threw a feint but left his left leg open. This prompted a leg kick from Alex who is off-balance. Holloway then took advantage of this by landing a 1-2 which slightly stuns his opponent.

In the last ten seconds, he then threw a jab and spinning back kick combo, before using the latter as a feint for his next attack.

With this, he twisted his front foot to fake a spinning kick to provoke a body block from his opponent which left the left side of Volkanovski’s head exposed. Soon, a head kick connected flush to send the champion to one knee.

Volkanovski got straight back up before the round concluded, however.

Round 2

The second round started off with Holloway pushing the pace early by using jabs and front kicks. To get him off, Volkanovski continued to throw feints to disrupt his opponent’s timing, before darting with a left hook.

With this linear dart onto the inside, Max missed with an uppercut as the Aussie ducked his head down, but just before the conclusion of the first minute, he landed flush with an uppercut and left hook combo.

Despite Holloway really starting to grow into the fight, Volkanovski was still starting to have a lot of success with the inside leg kicks, while moving to his right to avoid any power shots.

In response to Volkanovski’s movement, Holloway threw attacks from his left to get his opponent moving in the opposite direction to set up bigger attacks.

In the dying seconds of the second, Volkanovski moved into range before getting caught with an uppercut and left hook combination, which again dropped the champion right before the end of the round.

The first two rounds of the second fight started much differently, with Holloway being up 2-0 with two knockdowns, but in the next three Volkanovski responded well.

Round 3

Holloway would continue to pressure the champion to start off the round.

Volkanovski would move to his right and try to feint inside. Given that he started to be more active with these feints, it made it harder for the former champion to move him to his right by himself.

From this point, every time Alex would dart in, he would frequently grab Holloway’s hands to set up a jab or a left hook.

In this round, Volkanovski’s attacks came from an angle whereas the previous two saw him just come from a linear direction.

Round 4

Volkanovski started off the round again by circling to his right, and once again he started to use the leg kicks more to set up bigger attacks upstairs.

An example of this was early when Volkanovski threw a lead left kick and smoothly transitioned into a left hook.

This is also a round where Volkanovski started to find a home for his stiff jab more frequently. By either feinting or trapping the lead hand of Holloway, the jab itself was always thrown at an angle where he could circle out to the right.

In the final 30 seconds of the fourth, Volkanovski connected with a big right overhand that was set up to perfection from a lead leg kick. After he threw the kick, he came around with a lead left hook, however, he used his kicking leg to plant his feet for the left hook while also moving into the pocket in between Holloway’s legs to land the overhand right.

With his opponent’s head ducked down, Holloway took a step to his left to create a better angle to land the uppercut, while also trying to escape the pocket, but he gets clipped instead.

Going into the final round, the fight was very close, with the most common score being 2-2 – Holloway picking up the first two rounds and Volkanovski winning rounds 3 and 4.

Round 5

The fifth and final round started off very kick-heavy, with Holloway lifting his lead leg to fake a teep attack.

At the midway point of the round, Volkanovski was able to disrupt the timing of Holloway with a leg kick to counter a jab thrown his way. With Max’s momentum going forward, this put him off balance and open to walk into a right hook.

Volkanovski also did a lot of great work by tricking Holloway with his hand movements.

When the champion would look like he would engage in some more hand fighting, he would throw a leg kick and he would feint a leg kick to deliver to the head.

The rest of the fight shows Volkanovski engaging the clinch to take the fight to the ground, Max defends well and the round ends.

Summary

In this fight, Max Holloway showed that he can go back to the drawing board and make adjustments to his gameplan, this being through his new upright stance and his intercepting attacks.

But it was not enough to convince the judges as Shellharbour based fighter recorded his first title defence, with a split decision victory (47-48, 48-47 x 2), one that is debated to this day.

Volkanovski on the other hand, showed that he was able to make adjustments despite being down two rounds going into the third round.

This was through his feints, movements and interrupting timing.

According to the statistics, Holloway was a lot more diverse when it came to where he targeted. Normally, Holloway is more of a head hunter, but in this fight, he went to the body and legs more often than in the first outing.

In the first fight, body and leg strikes made up 14% and 9% of his total attempted significant strikes (303) respectively. This improved to 17% body attacks and 20% leg attacks of his attempted 268 significant strikes according to the official UFC stats.

Although he landed around the same amount, Volkanovski was a lot less accurate with the leg kicks landing 66% of his leg kicks in the second fight as opposed to his 80% in the first.

Greatness

The third fight in this epic trilogy hopes to answer many questions about the current and future landscape of the UFC’s Featherweight division. Although Volkanovski is 2-0 against his counterpart, both men are so far ahead of the rest of the division that a third fight is necessary in the minds of fans and critics.

A similar situation to the Middleweight division, where Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker are seemingly untouchable compared to their peers.

A third win silences all questions about who is the greater fighter, whereas a rare fourth fight should take place if Holloway is to reclaim the gold.

With so much at stake and both men looking better than even in each of their last two outings, the third installment of Max Holloway vs Alexander Volkanovski promises to be one for the ages.

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You can watch Max Holloway vs Alexander Volkanovski III in the co-main event of UFC 276 by ordering on fight pass (Subscription Required).

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