Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Volkanovski, Holloway complete title trilogy at UFC 276

LAS VEGAS ( Associated Press) — Alexander Volkanowski has already beaten Max Holloway twice in UFC featherweight title fights, and it still wasn’t enough to settle this rivalry.

This is a measure of the excitement generated by the first two encounters between these two electrified strikers. It is also an example of sports-wide respect for Volkanowski, the Australian with a 21-fight winning streak, and for the former 145-pound champ from Holloway, Hawaii.

As well as being great fighters, they’re two likable guys in a game with some nerdy characters.

Volkanovski and Holloway will reunite at UFC 276 at the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday night, each expected to complete the trilogy with a statement win.

“It’s a legacy fight,” Holloway said. “We’re on the high end of the pound-for-pound rank, and these fights don’t happen very often. People are telling us the main event of this card is saying a lot about how good this fight is.

The biggest event of the mixed martial arts promotion’s summer is headlined by Israel Adesanya’s fifth middleweight title defense against Jared Cannonnier. The UFC’s typically Fourth of July weekend card features Brazilian kickboxing star Alex Pereira against middleweight contender Shawn Strickland with the returns of Robbie Lawler, Suga Sean O’Malley, Jim Miller and Uriah Hall.

But the most compelling matchup is Volkanowski (24-1) against Holloway (23-6), who held the featherweight belt from 2016, until Volkanowski took it from him in December 2019 with a relentless tactical display. In July 2020 in Abu Dhabi, Holloway lost for the second time to Volkanowski in an extremely slim decision.

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When the first two bouts were not split, many rivalries did not span three fights, but this is no ordinary rivalry. Volkanowski has defended the belt twice since that second encounter with Holloway, while Holloway overtook Calvin Katar and Yair Rodriguez in a pair of thrillers to reclaim his belt to remain in prime position.

“It’s the biggest fight I can do right now,” Volkanowski said. “Everyone wants to see it, and that’s all. I give him credit. He was stubborn. He goes, ‘No one is taking that No. 1 contender spot from me.’ He stood there and took everyone out and didn’t let them shoot at me, and now he got the shot. Good on him. That’s exactly what I would do in that situation.”

While Holloway and Volkanowski trade verbal jabs like any top contender, there’s a clear honor between the two best featherweights in UFC history that isn’t named Jose Aldo. Holloway has been kind about his second defeat, making sure no one thinks he agrees with the decision in which he took out the champion in each of the first three rounds and then fought a tough fifth.

“If you look from the first to the second fight, I’m two different fighters, and it’s going to be different fighters again,” Holloway said. “I got to go 50 minutes with this guy, 10 rounds with this guy. This one, if we go above three (rounds) he will be blessed.”

Holloway’s formidable chin kept him upright against the power of Volkanowski, but Holloway absorbed a staggering amount of cumulative damage over the course of 25 fights in his first decade in the UFC. Volkanowski believes he can put an end to this rivalry by becoming the first opponent to record Holloway’s knock.

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“If I could have taken that chin and popped it out, that was really sending a statement, because no one has done that,” Volkanowski said. “He takes damage. It can’t last forever, but let’s see if it lasts this fight, because I’m going to hit some big shots. Let’s see if that great chin catches up.”

Volkanovski and Adesanya are teammates at City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand, where Adesanya (22-1) grew from a kickboxing star to an MMA champion.

He is a big favorite to defeat Cannonier (15-5), earning his first UFC title at age 38. Cannonnier is in an impressive run of five wins and one narrow loss over the past four years to former champion Robert Whitaker.

Adesanya has been talking about Cannonier as a future rival for years, but he still hopes to extend his title to the main event at UFC 276.

“His fighting spirit and his essence, I recognize it, because I am a sympathizer myself,” Adesanya said. “I can feel the energy of a great man and a great fighter. I love taking care of these people, and I saw him early on. I tried to raise him early. He fell short once, and then Came back and proved my worth as the next contender.”

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More Associated Press Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Nation World News Desk
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