Back in December 2019, the Featherweight world revolved around Max Holloway.
‘Blessed’ was on a 14-fight win streak in the division, interrupted only by a decision defeat to Dustin Poirier in a fight for the interim Lightweight championship. The run stretched across six years, when he was defeated by Conor McGregor in the early part of both of their careers.
After beating a plethora of talent including Andre Fili, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Anthony Pettis, Holloway went on to defeat Jose Aldo for the Featherweight crown and then defeat him again in the rematch.
Both wins came via knockout, with the second even more decisive than the first. He followed that with arguably one of the most impressive title defences in UFC history when he despatched of undefeated contender Brian Ortega. Holloway put on a masterful boxing clinic in that fight, beating Ortega to a pulp to the point where the doctor pulled him out of the fight between rounds.
After his brief step-up to Lightweight, he came back to Featherweight to defend his crown against the legendary Frankie Edgar. ‘Blessed’ outboxed and outclassed ‘The Answer’ en route to a decision win before he was matched up with Alexander Volkanovski.
Volkanovski himself had just beaten Jose Aldo, in Brazil no less, and had established himself as the new No.1 contender for Holloway’s title, repeatedly stating that he had been training for this fight for years knowing that Holloway was the man he’d have to beat to get to the top of the mountain. The two met at UFC 245 and in a closely fought encounter, the New Zealander beat Holloway to claim his first title and snap Holloway’s run.
Throughout the build-up to that fight, Volkanovski said that he expected to have to beat Holloway twice – once for the title and then again in the inevitable rematch. He has been proven right as they will square off at UFC 251 on Fight Island.
Holloway is now in a position where he is the underdog in the Featherweight division for the first time in a long time. The first fight saw Holloway get his legs chewed up by calf kicks and he allowed his opponent to close the distance on him way too easily to land big right hands. Not only that, but Volkanovski survived the endurance test that night too.
Normally, ‘Blessed’ can turn it up a notch if needs be and start pouring on the volume – usually wearing his opponents out. With ‘The Great’ though, his legs were so badly swollen from the kicks that he couldn’t turn it up when he needed too and even then – Volkanovski was fresh. So fresh in fact, that the microphones picked up a conversation mid-fight where he told Holloway, “we’re both still fresh! Lets go!”
Holloway asked for this rematch according to Volkanovski and he was rightly granted it. According to commentators Jon Anik and Joe Rogan, ‘Blessed’ is the greatest 145lber to ever live. He must win this fight if that notion is to continue to be the consensus rather than an opinion that got shown to be wrong early in it’s existence.