Just In UFC 245 breakdown: Is Alexander Volkanovski the man to unseat Max Holloway as champ? MMA Life

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MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event for UFC 245.

UFC 245 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.

Max Holloway (21-4 MMA, 17-4 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 69″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Frankie Edgar (July 27, 2019)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Excellent

Supplemental info:

+ UFC featherweight champion
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt
+ 10 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Building pace and pressure
+ Superb feints and footwork
^ Attacks off angles/manages distance well
+ Excellent variety of shot selection
+ Improved wrestling ability
^ 83 percent takedown defense rate
+ Deceptively counters clinches/grappling
^ Strikes well off of the breaks
+ Underrated ground game
^ Slick submissions in transition

Alexander Volkanovski (20-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 31 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 71.5″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Jose Aldo (May 11, 2019)
  • Camp: City Kickboxing (New Zealand)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Excellent

Supplemental info:

+ Regional MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ National wrestling gold medalist
+ 11 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Improved striking ability
^ Dangerous right hand
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Dirty boxing, elbows, knees
+ Superb wrestling ability
^ Takedowns, transitions, scrambles
+ Excellent top game
^ Aggressive ground striker

Point of interest: Battles of builders

The co-main event for UFC 245 features a fantastic matchup for the featherweight title between two men who build offense in different ways.

An acclaimed wrestler-turned-rugby player, Alexander Volkanovski initially stepped onto the scene as a come-forward fighter who typically approached the pocket like an oncoming juggernaut from his compact stance. A natural athlete, Volkanovski shows little issue when having to crash distance with his patent kicks and crosses, strikes that have been typically set up off of prodding jabs.

However, since moving to City Kickboxing in New Zealand, Volkanovski seemingly has sharpened his feints, footwork and overall striking fundamentals, measuring and moving in space more smoothly and on balance than before. The 32-year-old title challenger will now change up his combination approach, doing things like leading with kicks or finishing off combinations with jabs.

Volkanovski also has taken some of the feinting swagger from his City Kickboxing stablemates, showing or throwing away certain shots to land others with a bigger picture in mind. Nevertheless, as effective as Volkanovski’s newfound approach has been (especially in his last fight), he’ll have to be extra careful to not leave any proverbial bread crumbs behind that the building champion can use to follow him home.

Enter Max Holloway.

A Hawaiian striking machine who stormed the UFC scene (as one of the promotion’s youngest signees, no less), Holloway, who was already improving from fight to fight, turned his biggest corner after his 2015 encounter with Cub Swanson.

Since then, we have witnessed a technical evolution unfold from Holloway, who embraces his creativity and range with a diverse arsenal of attack. Whether Holloway is shifting his stance mid-combination or adjusting his timing on the fly, the current featherweight king makes for a hard read on the feet.

When feeling in stride, the 28-year-old looks to pay off his previous bodywork by punctuating his presence with everything from spinning sidekicks to digging left hooks to the liver. Coupled with his ability to counter effectively from either stance, Holloway hypothetically can take a fight in many different directions.

That all said, it’s the building nature of the champion’s game that makes him stand out from the rest of the UFC stable. Embodying a fighter archetype that I like to refer to as “a builder,” Holloway not only will build in his output, but his understanding of the fight’s traffic will also increase as he intelligently takes tools from his opponent and incorporates them into his game.

For example, against fighters like Ricardo Lamas and Frankie Edgar, Holloway ate a healthy dose of leg kicks throughout each battle from a statistical standpoint. However, in looking closer at the exchanges, you will see Holloway steadily get a read on the attacks – evading, checking and countering the kicks by the end of the contest.

Still, offensive volume – no matter how clever – comes with a price. And with both men showing a propensity to eat right hands, I will be curious to see who can take advantage of that in this contest.

Next point of interest: Close quarters combat

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