It was undoubtedly a difficult fight to judge. But after five rounds, UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski was awarded a split decision victory against former champ Max Holloway.
After the first two rounds, it seemed that Holloway had made all the necessary adjustments. Volkanovski was still finding success going low (Holloway’s thighs were visibly red after Round 1), but Holloway got the better of the early rounds, landing the better shots and showing supreme confidence.
Holloway secured the first round by landing a head kick knockdown in the closing seconds, just after landing a spinning back kick to the body.
In the second round, Holloway continued to control the center of the octagon and land the better strikes, including a beautiful knee to counter one of Volkanovski’s many entries of the night. Holloway ended the round with yet another knockdown; this time from a right upper cut.
It was at some point in the third round that we saw Volkanovski change his game plan a bit. While he had hitherto been content with landing leg kicks while Holloway was teeing off with combos to the head and body, Volkanovski began trying more level changes, including shooting for a double leg take down, which Max defended. Holloway even landed a knee to the body while the two separated.
However, while Holloway was still more successful in the striking exchanges, Round 3 was a much closer round, and Volkanovski’s wrestling seemed to make a big enough impression on the judges to sway their opinion.
In the final two rounds, Volkanovski made an even more concerted effort to take Holloway down, usually from double underhooks. And while he usually did not mount any significant offense from these takedowns (Max would usually be back to his feet within seconds), this changed the rhythm of the fight.
Volkanovski’s most successful takedown came in the final seconds of the fifth and final round. It was an inside leg trip from double under; Alexander managed to land some strikes while on the ground (which had alluded him in previous attempts).
It was a close fight, and a difficult one to judge, but two of the three judges felt that Volkanovski did enough to retain his belt.