Post-Fight Thoughts: Max Holloway -vs- Alexander Volkanovski
I don't know if this counts so much as eating crow, as it signals that I really need to get a better handle on my gut instincts. I predicted this would be a tough fight, and that Alexander Volkanovski would be a future champion, I just didn't figure on the future being the very next day. Max Holloway fought valliantly but, ultimately, was picked apart by the first striker to out-finesse the Hawaiian. (I would argue Poirier's success had a lot to do with the higher weight class, which he had adapted to while Holloway had not.)
The scorecards were all over the place, and I agreed with absolutely none of them; I had Volkanovski winning rounds 1, 2, 3 and 5. The only round I gave to Holloway was the fourth, where he seemed to find a second wind and rallied back very well, finally able to put together his punches. For the rest of the fight, however, Volkanovski took Holloway's legs away with vicious kicks, forcing him to switch stances repeatedly, and fooled him with feints that perfectly disguised his real punches.
I know I had just recently seen Volkanovski shut-out Jose Aldo in their fight at UFC 237 (Fight Notes), but I just did not have it in me to forecast an even better peformance against such a dominant champion. I figured Volkanovski would acquit himself well, but ultimately come up short and further mature as a fighter. I figured a title was maybe a year or so away.
This wasn't a fluke, nor did Max Holloway make any critical errors that I could discern. Volkanovski implemented an impressive gameplan and demonstrated an incredible facility to learn on-the-fly and outsmart one of the best MMA boxers of all time. Holloway was unable to rack up the striking volume he is accustomed to, never settled in to any sort of groove — except for moments in the fourth round — and was stifled, shutdown and picked apart.
Maybe it's my lack of nuanced boxing knowledge, but I don't see this as a case of Max doing anything wrong per se. This was Volkanovski's coming out party, his 8th consecutive UFC win and by far his most impressive performance. Volkanovski made all the right reads, stopped Holloway from gathering any momentum, and came as close to dominating his opponent as it gets without knockdowns or anything else that would necessitate a 10-8 round.
Credit to Volkanovski's fight team, City Kickboxing, who have rightfully been garnering a lot of notice these days. They correctly figured out Max Holloway's style and Volkanovski was both physically gifted enough to implement the gameplan and intelligent enough to adapt to every situation that arose in the cage. For a fight that didn't feature a finish, it was domination and a career-defining performance. I'm still stunned by what we saw.
Almost as soon as the fight ended, there was talk of a potential rematch. I am of a mixed opinion on this; yes, Holloway was a tenured, dominant champion, but this fight was not close. If we're going to evaluate the proposal on its merits, I don't think there are any. However, this is the UFC, and only the naïve would expect a purely meritocratic decision on this. Personally, I'd like to see Max take some time off and I'd rather see Volkanovski defend his title at least once before they run this back.
Regardless of when it happens, these two will meet again.
Published: December 19th, 2019.