UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski strengthed his claim of being the world’s best this month. He outclassed long-time rival Max Holloway at UFC 276, in an even more dominant fashion than in their two bouts prior. Volkanovski appears to be lengths ahead of the pack in the weight class he has spent five years controlling.
Owed to Volkanovski’s dominance thus far, the list of possible challengers at 145 pounds is not extensive. But with no clear number one contender, and a few potential opponents outside the division—the question of the champion’s next move remains unanswered. Below is a list of every potential next fight for the featherweight title, ranked in order of likelihood.
Potential Matchups for Alexander Volkanovski-The King of 145
Alexander Volkanovski vs Aljamain Sterling
Aljamain Sterling’s reign as bantamweight champion thus far has been marred in controversy. A disqualification victory earned him his title, and a year out afterward did nothing to win the favor of fans. With only one defense, which many will view as his first legitimate title fight win, it’s likely too soon for an opportunity at winning a second belt.
However, Sterling has not been shy in leaning into the negativity coming his way. His unorthodox time as a UFC champion could stay on-brand with a sudden move up to featherweight. Sterling has teased such a move in the past, claiming he will vacate the throne to allow teammate Merab Dvalishvili to take his place. Despite these claims, a matchup between Sterling and Volkanovski very much remains an outside shout.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Arnold Allen
Arnold Allen’s ongoing win streak is the third longest in UFC featherweight history, behind only Max Holloway, and Volkanovski himself. His last outing earlier this year earned him a Performance of the Night bonus as he defeated Dan Hooker in brutal fashion at UFC London. With only one loss in his professional career, Allen is certainly on the right path—whether he has arrived at the destination yet or not.
Allen likely still has one more fight to win before the UFC bosses give him a shot at the belt. There is no shortage of potential matchups for sixth-ranked Allen in the top five of the division, as no one is currently with a fight. A recent call-out of Calvin Kattar and a subsequent verbal agreement could be exactly what Allen needs to cement his claim to the title.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Henry Cejudo
Former two-weight champion Henry Cejudo has been talking about a return since he retired. Now over two years outside the octagon, Cejudo has recently been seen calling out a host of contenders at both 135 and 145 pounds. Sitting featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is at the top of his list.
Volkanovski has verbally agreed to the fight when face-to-face with Cejudo, but the consensus amongst fans is that this was merely lip service. Allowing Cejudo the chance to become the UFC’s first three-weight champion is unlikely to be a priority for Volkanovski, who seems set on building his own legacy with a potential move up to lightweight. But the frosted glass over the featherweight title picture means that now would be the perfect time to match the pair if it’s ever going to happen.
They included the Volkanovski/Cejudo backstage interaction to the Thrill & Agony Sneak Peek. pic.twitter.com/rEHUmN3GnI
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) July 14, 2022
Alexander Volkanovski vs Yair Rodriguez
Yair Rodriguez took somewhat of a sidestep in his walk to the title this month when his bout with Brian Ortega ended prematurely due to an injury on Ortega’s part. Despite winning the fight, Rodriguez was unable to make the statement he intended to in the four minutes before Ortega dislocated his shoulder. He still impressed in the short time with a dominating performance on the feet, but the finish was of course disappointing.
Volkanovski has spoken of his desire to face new contenders and specifically named Yair Rodriguez as a potential next opponent. Rodriguez’s unorthodox style would pose a new challenge to Volkanovski, who has spent the majority of his five-fight title reign facing Max Holloway. However, Rodriguez’s defeat to Holloway in December and his inactivity in recent years could discredit his claim to a title shot.
Alexander Volkanovski vs Josh Emmett
Josh Emmett’s recent Fight of the Night victory against Calvin Kattar was his fifth win in a row since he defeated Michael Johnson in 2019. Emmett possesses knockout power in both hands, and even dropped Mirsad Bektić with a jab in a sequence that led to the end of the fight. He hasn’t scored a finish in over three years, but quality displays against testing opposition like Shane Burgos and Dan Ige have left him unquestioned in the top-ten.
Emmett, who is the oldest ranked fighter at featherweight, has been loudly making a case for why he should be next in line for the shot. ‘Team Alpha Male’ founder Urijah Faber was publicly upset when Emmett’s demand of Dana White to put him cageside for Volkanovski’s then-upcoming trilogy fight with Max Holloway went unanswered. White, when asked in a press conference after the latest episode of the Contender Series, said that while nothing is confirmed, a number one contender fight between Josh Emmett and Yair Rodriguez “made sense” to him.