Fight Island Championship Analysis: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14: Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates his win over Max Holloway during the UFC 245 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Fight Island will host the featherweight championship fight between Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) and Max Holloway (21-5). Six months is little time for the former champ Holloway to make the adjustments needed. It’s surprising to think that people were looking past Volkanovski as a challenger to Holloway’s throne. The good analysts at MMASucka were not.

Holloway vs. Volkanovski

Max Holloway is a fighter who uses movement and volume to tire his opponents. Holloway needs to control the momentum of a fight and keep his opponents working. Volkanovski was able to neutralize this mainly by interrupting Holloway’s movement and forcing him back. This meant that Holloway was unable to set the pace. Volkanovski used outside and inside low kicks on the front thigh of Holloway to disrupt his movement. When Holloway would come in to punish the low kick, Volkanovski would nail him with a counter right hand. 

The counters forced Holloway off Volkanovski. Once the pace was set the Australian could return to his existing game, beating up Holloway’s lead leg. Holloway also uses his jab well. He will use it to open his opponent’s guard to land further strikes. Holloway also likes to use the jab to set up longer combinations. Alexander Volkanovski made great use of hand fighting that was able to deny Holloway’s jab. Denying the jab stops Holloway from using feints. This, along with Volkanovski’s use of right-hand counters when Holloway steps in made it difficult for Holloway to build momentum.

Holloway needs momentum

This point style of fighting is a new development from the champion. Volkanovski would usually push opponents against the fence and deliver damage in the clinch. The new outfighting kickboxing style is what allowed Volkanovksi to dismantle Holloway’s game. As well as counter rights, Volkanovski had success with check-left hooks as Holloway rushed in.  

While Holloway is undoubtedly facing a difficult challenge in this matchup, it is not hopeless. The former champion would do good to attack Volkanovksi’s body. This way, he can sap the cardio of Volkanovski even if he is unable to push the pace. Another thing Holloway should do is mix up the variety of his strikes. Volkanovski is gameplan dependent and using kicks, and other striking combinations could throw that game off. Another area Holloway had an advantage in was the clinch. There were moments in the first fight where Volkanovski attempted to hold Holloway against the cage. Holloway was excellent at stripping Volkanovksi’s grips and circling off the fence.

Holloway could use his grappling advantage to take the fight to the floor. Volkanovski’s ability to get back up is reliant on him exploding up. While it may be against Holloway’s established style, a grappling focus could be what he needs to keep Volkanovski working.

Lightning needs to strike twice for Volkanovski

Volkanovksi has the hard job of repeating a perfect performance. He needs to make sure that he can control the pace of the fight. Volkanovski should win if he can make sure he is not exhausted by Holloway’s volume. Volkanovski also needs to be able to plan for the adjustments Holloway will make and change his game to fit it. Not enough time has passed for Holloway to easily identify the habits that Volkanovski was able to exploit. Even if he has identified the habits, he needs time to train them into muscle memory.

Volkanovski also made use of feints to make Holloway think twice about moving in. What’s important when using feints is making the threat of the strike. To make a threat, you need to move forward and hit the opponent. Volkanovski was able to use feints to avoid danger. Feints also opened up opportunities for him to land strikes as Holloway reacted defensively.  Volkanovski can use feints to maintain energy. Volkanovski did this several times in the early rounds. The attacks allowed him to feint effectively as the fight continued.

Holloway will have a tough task ahead

While it is possible for Holloway to win this matchup, he has an uphill battle to retake his throne. An issue is that since his interim lightweight title fight with Dustin Poirier (26-6), Holloway has lost some confidence. He has lost the ability to continue to trade in the pocket when he takes hard blows. The first fight with Volkanovski was close, but I am not sure Holloway has been given enough time to learn. Holloway needs to be able to change his game to defeat the new champion. Holloway still has the durability to make this fight fun. If I were to place a bet, Alexander Volkanovski by a decision would probably be a safe one. The Fight Island featherweight championship fight is going to be a banger by two of the best in the world.

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