The champion in this fantastic match up is the favorite but the fight could very well be closer than many expect. Alexander Volkanovski (20-1) has not lost since 2013, and it isn’t because he’s lucky.
The former rugby player carries with him a great deal of power as a holdover from when he weighed over 200 pounds, and he can take a hit. The Aussie also has fast feet and hands and is quite comfortable striking on his feet.
All those attributes, in addition to his long reach make him a tough match up for Max Holloway (21-4), who is 1-1 thus far in 2019 after losing up a weight class against Dustin Poirier and then beating Frankie Edgar back down at featherweight in defense of his belt.
Few fighters look more comfortable and fluid on the feet than Holloway, and that has often served him well. He’s a relaxed, technical striker who uses patience, accuracy and volume to wear opponents down.
Holloway’s conditioning also always serves him well in those efforts, as does his reach. Volkanovski isn’t a proven five-round entity the way Holloway is, but he is known to push an incredible pace, and one that doesn’t slow even when he gets tagged and hurt.
In fact, as he showed against Chad Mendes, Volkanovski seems more fresh than many of the other top featherweights in the UFC right now, allowing him to fight past blows to the head that stun others. Holloway is used to winning wars of attrition but it won’t be easy for him to do so against Volkanovski.
Volkanovski won’t get rattled by mere volume or angles or time on the feet, and he’ll be able to counter Holloway effectively if he simply keeps throwing punch combinations. Holloway often fights long against opponents and relies on his nice sense of distance and good timing to lean out of the way of counter strikes.
He is hittable, however, when facing great strikers who fire back in volume at him and who can come close to matching his long reach. Volkanovski’s reach exceeds Holloway’s and he has yet to show a reticence to fire back hard and often against opponents.
Holloway will need to angle-off to get away from counter punches against Volkanovski because simply leaning back may get him caught. Jose Aldo was able to connect often against Holloway in both of their fights when the Hawaiian attempted to lean back to defend shots, and Volkanovski should be able to do the same with his speed and long arms.
Volkanovski is also dangerous on the inside, especially when he corners an opponent. He throws with ruthless timing on clinch separation with punches and elbows, and changes levels of his punches well, hitting the body and head. For his part, Holloway also goes to the body well, though he’ll want to be careful attempting that at the long range he is usually able to do so at.
Holloway’s own ability to absorb shots is almost legendary at this point, but he’s aged beyond his years. He’s only 28 right now and still fighting effectively, but one has to wonder if at some point he’ll start going down after eating big shots after his many wars in the gym and in the cage.
Volkanovski seems fresher than Holloway at this point, and if he can fight behind a long jab and follow it up with disciplined but aggressive follow-up punches both on the offensive and as a counter-fighter, he’ll get his chance to touch Holloway. Neither man seems to look to take the fight to the ground as a first option, but both are comfortable on their backs.
Volkanovski is adept at getting up off of his back and fires shots off as soon as he returns to his feet, often times, connecting when his opponent rests. It will be interesting to see if Holloway can establish a rhythm in the fight and keep it unbroken by Volkanovski’s pressure.
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