Alexander Volkanovski successfully defended his UFC featherweight championship with a split-decision win (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) over Max Holloway in the co-main event of UFC 251 from du Arena at UFC's Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday.
Volkanovski won a closely contested bout after landing 137 significant strikes to Holloway's 102 and earning three takedowns, per UFC Stats.
Many analysts thought Holloway won the bout, with 18 analysts favoring him three rounds to two, per MMA Decisions (h/t Steven Marrocco of MMA Fighting). Half that number sided with Volkanovski.
No. 2 heavyweight Francis Ngannou notably called it 3-2 in favor of Holloway:
Others thought it was a tough matchup to call, with ESPN's Ariel Helwani believing it was a very close contest:
And Bloody Elbow saw no issue with anyone who scored the final three rounds in Volkanovski's favor:
The win should effectively close the book on the Australian's rivalry with Holloway. He took the belt from the Hawaiian with a unanimous-decision win at UFC 245. Now he is 2-0 against Blessed, and his past three wins came against former champions of the division.
Volkanovski detailed some of the struggles to get his training in as this fight was made with six weeks' notice and training in the middle of a pandemic comes with difficulties. However, the opportunity was too much for the champ to turn down.
"I wanted to fight here, to be honest," Volkanovski said, per John Morgan of MMA Junkie. "I only had six weeks' notice for this fight. It was still a fight that I wanted. I knew that this was a big opportunity—first fight on Fight Island. No other sports. I wanted to get a fight in while there's no other sports really happening, and again, three title fights on this card."
Volkanovski has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the division, but there are still plenty of challenges. Previous to his booking with Holloway, he brought up rising star Zabit Magomedsharipov and "Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung as potential challengers.
Magomedsharipov has had a similar arc as Volkanovski's. He came to the UFC as an international prospect with promise and hasn't disappointed; he's on a six-fight win streak in the promotion and has a fight against Yair Rodriguez scheduled in August.
Jung is one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster and has a potential fight with Brian Ortega on the horizon after a matchup between the two was canceled in December.
Regardless of who comes next for The Great, he has proved that he is the true champion of the division. While his rivalry with Holloway has likely come to a close, there are still great fights ahead for Volkanovski.