Alexander Volkanovski had called it a “legacy” fight, a chance to end his rivalry with Max Holloway and make his claim to immortality in the UFC’s featherweight division.
For Holloway, who at one point considered the clear challenger to Jose Aldo’s claim to be the division’s greatest ever, this was also about “legacy”.
And so, when the two… Octagon at UFC 276 on Saturday night and their eyes met, they both nodded in respect, understanding how great this moment was.
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Ultimately, it was Volkanovski’s moment and the Australian never looked forward to giving up and giving an all round masterclass to take a unanimous decision win (50-45×3) over Holloway.
What is also unanimous now is that there is no need for a fourth fight, and that Volkanovski’s biggest critics are not needed to put forward the second fight as a reason to doubt the Australian’s greatness.
As recently inducted Hall of Fame member Daniel Cormier put it, “Volkanovski is so on another level tonight”.
“No one can bring me down anymore,” Volkanovski said.
What made Volkanovski’s win even more impressive was the vision of the champion walking through the tunnel after the fight and revealing that he thought he broke his hand on the first round.
His confidence was on a whole other level too, with Volkanovski taunting Holloway on the opening lap as he danced gracefully around the octagon, making the most of his speed.
“I’m too fast for him,” said the Australian.
“It looks like Volkanovski is faster than ever, and it seems like Max is one step behind,” Joe Rogan said in the commentary.
“Even a step behind his previous performance.”
Volkanovski was the fastest of the two on the opening round, more effective in his shots and almost played with Holloway as if to let him know he has a lot more in him.
The Australian then led off the second with a strong left hook and right hand before both fighters did the trick, with the Australian pushing Holloway toward the cage.
Holloway responded with a few body shots before Volkanovski returned with his elbow and later met the challenger with a right counter when the American was badly cut open.
“Oh, that’s bad,” said a relaxed and composed Volkanovski, still using his speed to dominate.
On the way to third Holloway, the volume had to be turned up, but that was easier said than done against Volkanovski, who was clear and gave the challenger no wiggle room.
The pair switched body kicks early on, then Volkanovski landed a big right hand, followed shortly after with a left hand.
Even the pro-Holloway mob could do nothing to stop Volkanovski, with a “Let’s go Alex” chant at one point when Volkanovski made the former champion seem a shadow of the fighter Calvin Kattar dominated.
With Volkanovski comfortably winning the first three rounds, Holloway needed a finish to have a chance of reclaiming his title.
But as Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier said in their commentary, it wasn’t like Holloway was completely willing to go for it, “touching” Volkanovski any more than throwing something noteworthy.
Volkanovski continued to use his jab effectively to disrupt Holloway’s rhythm, proving once again that he was one of, if not the most versatile fighter the division has ever seen.
In the end, there was no award for Holloway, no decisive blow to rock the Las Vegas crowd.
Instead, for brief periods there was just a stunned silence, an appreciation that they were witnessing something truly special from the greatest of all time.
“This is going to be the day he really carved himself into the record books,” Cormier said.
“He will have done it in such a way that there are no more questions.”
Well, there it is – after such a dominant performance, what is Volkanovski going to do next?
The featherweight champion gave a pretty clear answer to that question after the fight, stating that he intended to move up to the lightweight division and become a double champion.
“I want to be busy,” he said.
“I don’t think this division on its own can keep me busy. I want to go up, for double champion, then I keep two divisions busy.”
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