It’s finally here. After months of speculation surrounding ‘Fight Island’, UFC 251 will take place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, tomorrow night. It will be the first of four events scheduled to take place on the island and will feature three massive title fights.
The Featherweight Championship rematch between Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) and Max Holloway (21-5) will be the co-main event on the card. And if their first fight, which Volkanovski won by unanimous decision, is anything to go by, then it will be an instant classic.
It seems that perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this fight is the tactical approaches of both men. The first bout, which took place at UFC 245 in December of last year, ended up being a high-level chess match. With the smaller Volkanovski, utilizing a lot of leg kicks and looking surprisingly comfortable fighting on the backfoot.
Holloway’s high-volume and non-stop approach have been ultra-effective for years. And has resulted in the demise of many elite fighters, with the likes of as Jose Aldo, Anthony Pettis, and Brian Ortega acting as just a few examples of men that couldn’t handle the patented pressure of Holloway.
However, the Hawaiin struggled to get any sort of momentum going in the first fight and struggled to cope with Volkanovski’s elusiveness and speed. Which led to ‘Blessed’ losing at Featherweight for the first time since 2013.
The build-up for Saturday night’s rematch had gotten a little heated at times, with Holloway continuously insisting that he won the first fight. This seems to have motivated Volkanovski even more with the Australian describing Holloway as “a bit salty” and vowing to “finish him” this time around.
Volkanovski’s intelligent tactics and patience were crucial in his dethroning of the former Featherweight king. ‘The Great’ has already shown his adaptability, as his aggressive, come-forward style, has been replaced by a more faint-oriented and smooth striking approach.
As with most rematches, he who has adapted and learned the most from the first fight has a higher chance of winning. Which leads to two important questions.
Has Max Holloway’s reluctance to accept defeat impacted his desire to change his approach for the rematch? And will the chip on Alexander Volkanovski’s shoulder and his desire to finish Holloway in the rematch prove to be his downfall? Two interesting questions I cannot wait to find out the answers to.
I believe this fight will be more explosive than the first, which was a cagey affair at times. I feel Holloway will attempt to let his hands go more, and will look to check Volkanoski’s various leg kicks. With Volkanovski aiming to trap ‘Blessed’ and countering with vicious combinations.
My final prediction is another five-round thriller, except this time Holloway will end up victorious, thus setting up a trilogy fight for the ages. Regardless of the outcome, we are likely to see a summer sizzler between the two best Featherweights in the world.