While Aelxander Volkanosvki is still the UFC featherweight champ after his controversial UFC 251 win, there is even more doubt over his rematch win over Max Holloway than their controversial first fight.
Part of the reason Volkanovski wanted a rematch with Holloway was because he felt disrespected by the reaction to his win the first time. The Aussie pushed the UFC for a sequel which is unusual as calls for a rematch often come from the fighter who lost.
After their first clash in December 2019 many within the company – commentators and fighters alike – openly questioned the Aussie’s unanimous points decision victory, claiming Holloway was the more dominant fighter despite the Wollongong star landing more scoring shots.
Volkanovski defends title
Fast-forward seven months and it’s fair to say Volkanovski’s rematch win has come under more scrutiny.
This time around, the most powerful voice in the sport, UFC boss and owner Dana White, not only questioned the validity of the Aussie’s first title defence but took a swipe at the judges for how they scored it.
White went a step further, asking all media members at his post-fight press conference if they thought Volkanovski won.
“Did anybody in here score it for Volkanovski?” White asked. “Anybody have it for Volkanovski? Nobody in the media? I don’t know, we’ll have to figure it out.
“Listen, man, you can’t leave it to these guys.
“We’ve got some bad judging. We’ve got some bad judging and – I don’t know, has Max been in here yet? I’m sure he’s devastated.
“Looks like we’ve got to tighten up our refs and judges here on Fight Island.”
UFC boss slams ‘bad judging’
The judges scored the fight, 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 in favour of Volkanovski despite Holloway dropping the Aussie twice in the first two rounds. There’s no doubt Volkanovski was more dominant in rounds four and five but round three was a source of contention, with several in the sport awarding it to Holloway.
Yet, all three judges scored the third for Volkanovski. The official stats confirmed Volkanovski connected with 25 of 52 (48 per cent) significant strikes in round three, as opposed to Holloway’s 31 per cent from a strike rate of 15 out of 47.
The numbers say one thing but MMA reporters say another. According to MMADecisions, 18 fight journalists had Holloway winning by scores of 48-47 and nine gave the fight to Volkanovski by the same score.
“His first two rounds were strong … and then from the third round onwards we picked it up,” Volkanovski said post-fight.
“That third round was close, but we were confident we got that third round, and then obviously we took the fourth and fifth. Tough fight, but when the scorecards were getting announced, we were pretty sure we got the last three.”
The reaction from the UFC’s stable of fighters was robust as expected with most handing the win to the American. Veteran Nate Diaz, a close friend of Holloway, claimed the former champ was “robbed”.
Former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo mocked Volkanovski after the fight. The recently retired star, said: “You overgrown midget. You stole that one. I’ll make sure to stop you, you thief.”
Interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje said the Aussie’s win “makes zero sense,” while heavyweight Francis Ngannou and bantamweight Aljamain Sterling agreed Holloway had won three of the five rounds in Abu Dhabi.
In their initial meeting, Volkanovski won by unanimous decision. The judges that night scored the fight 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45 in his favour. In calling for a rematch, the MMA star said he was going to “finish” Holloway and prove he’s the true champion.
If Volkanovski wanted a rematch off the back of his unanimous decision win last year – then his split decision victory on Sunday should inspire talks of a trilogy by the same logic.
However, the two winning results suggest he has nothing left to prove against Holloway. He put his belt on the line, gave him ten rounds and left it up to the judges on both occasions. And he still won.
“To beat Max back-to-back, that’s saying something. I’m happy to finish the chapter, onto the next,” Volkanovski concluded.