Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski retained the UFC featherweight champion after defeating former champ Max Holloway for a second time, but critics have again questioned the validity of the win.
The rematch was much closer than their first clash in December 2019 and Volkanovski did himself no favours by giving up the first couple of rounds before coming on strong in the latter rounds.
The Aussie was dropped momentarily on two occasions, once in the first via a high kick and the second in round two from an uppercut but he got back to his feet instantaneously.
There was some conjecture about the third round with some pundits claiming Holloway was stronger during that period of the fight but the Aussie did enough to get the nod from the judges.
Volkanovski defends title
He won via split decision (48-47 x2, 47-48), and earned his 19th consecutive MMA victory since 2013 with his leg kicks and takedowns giving him the edge over Holloway’s overall striking game.
“It was a tough fight,” Volkanovski said. “He stood there and didn’t really take a backward step. I couldn’t use the kicks as much as I liked. I knew I had to win that last round. It’s tough. He’s a gamer. We’re both hard workers, but I got the job done.
“Nothing but respect to Max.
“I know we had words (in fight week). Maybe he was trying to get into my head.
“Again, he done well but I got the job done.”
Volkanovski was asked whether the second fight put any doubts the first win was a fluke.
“We had 10 rounds and I was able to dominate.
“I thought he won some too so credit to him. He’s durable.
“I thought I would take him out. Even when I was on top I thought I would be too strong but he did well to get back up.
“But again, this is the fight game, prepare for the worst.
“I couldn’t really use the kicks as much as I’d like but I still got the job done
“Last round it was 2-2 and I had to win that last round.
“Like I’d said, I wanted the finish, I know he want for the finish and unfortunately we both didn’t get it but still I got the decision which matters.”
Commentators during the fight were leaning towards Holloway with former middleweight champion Michael Bisping suggesting during the fifth round that Volkanovski needed to finish his opponent to retain his title.
Other fighters in the UFC weighed in and picked Holloway as their winner, with US sport pundits also casting doubt on the result.
“I’m sorry but that was not a good decision,” ESPN’s Stephen A Smith tweeted.
“I had Holloway winning the first 3 rounds. Volkanovski closed the distance and took Round 4 easily, plus win around 5. But I had him losing the fight 3 Rounds to 2. Bad decision in my opinion.”
Number-two ranked UFC bantamweight Aljamain Sterling also felt Holloway won the opening three rounds.
“I had Max the first 3 Rds! Damn! That’s tough man. I feel for Max but congrats to Volkanovski,” he tweeted.
According to UFC Stats, Volkanovski landed 139 strikes to 111 for Holloway and also converted three of nine takedown attempts.
Volkanovski said he hopes he’s not finished fighting this year.
“I definitely want to get another fight in [before the end of the year]. I want to stay active,” he said.
“I’m one of the champions who is chasing the contenders. We’ve got a lot of guys in the division who are about to fight each other and I’m eyeing every one of them. I want to make defenses and take out No. 1 contenders. That’s what I want to do.”