Flight review: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway at UFC 251


Few things exasperate MMA fans more than an ill-defined fight, although the term “theft” tends to be thrown casually and is often imbued with bias. With Robbery Review, we will return to the controversial battles and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision – or whether the experts should consider their own instinctive reactions.

As much as there was to love UFC 251, the first “Fight Island” show of the promotion in Abu Dhabi, there were a lot of critics, especially regarding the trio of fights for the title of the evening. The main event left some fans thirsty for action. A fight for the vacant bantamweight title was probably stopped a little too late. And perhaps most controversially, there was the split call in the featherweight championship rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway.

There were questionable scores throughout the night, but they were never as scrutinized as when Volkanovski’s hand was raised a second time against Holloway. The former champion achieved a much stronger performance than during their first fight, so the native of Hawaii did not return to his own island with gold wrapped around his waist?

UFC president Dana White openly criticized the ruling, and several fighters shared that sentiment, including Volkanovski’s compatriot Tyson Pedro:

Whenever a popular fighter like Holloway goes to great lengths like this and loses a tight decision, there will be questioning and “theft” calls. With the fighting still fresh, let’s dig out the supposed scene of the crime.

What was the official result?

Alexander Volkanovski beats. Max Holloway via shared decision.

How did the fight go?

Let’s not over-analyze the first two rounds, which belonged to Holloway. That said, there are some key differences from the first fight to highlight.

From the start, you can see that Holloway has made much better spacing to stay right on the brink of Volkanovski’s deadly kicks. The champion punished Holloway with them in their first fight, and you can say that they were a point of emphasis for “Blessed” to head towards this meeting. Volkanovski was always successful in descending, but Holloway was less inclined to change position here, instead of fighting the discomfort he felt so he could stay in his more efficient Orthodox position.

Even if you feel that the first two laps were close, Holloway clearly stamped them in the last seconds of each frame. At the end of the first round, he supported Volkanovski with a nasty spinning kick to the body that set up a whim that left Volkanovski on his knees for a second. At the end of the second round, he landed an even more emphatic uppercut that shook Volkanovski and visibly frustrated him as he returned to his corner.

We now come to the fateful third round. In a reversal of their first fight, it was Volkanovski who started working from behind, showing the tenacity of a champion. The kicks paid off, and you can see how red Holloway’s main leg was. However, Holloway’s confidence was through the roof at this point in the fight, and he tied Volkanovski blow for blow. They let go of their hands and Volkanovski landed several solid punches, including a left hook which was certainly felt a few times. Holloway responded with strong counter-hits and kicks to the body.

Even with increased urgency, Volkanovski did not deviate from his game plan during the championship rounds. This kick in the leg was money. On Holloway’s side, he effectively lowered Volkanovski, connecting with straight punches. Volkanovski scored the first withdrawal from the fight in the fourth round, but this did not result in any material offense (this would happen again in the fifth round). Anyway, he accumulated a lot of steam before the last lap.

Holloway’s pace was so steady, and he found a home for his jab throughout the fight. His defense against withdrawal was also on the brink, although he was caught by sharp hooks out of breaks. Neither man managed to gain a notable advantage late in the game as they both moved closer to the schedule and scored with clean shots. Fantastic efforts from the two men in the last five minutes, and you feel like they could have gone 25 more if they had to (and maybe should one day).

What did the judges say?

Mark Collett scored 48-47 Volkanovski.

David Lethaby scored 48-47 Holloway.

Clemens Werner scored 48-47 Volkanovski

Interestingly, despite the third round which seems to be the most dismayed, it is in fact the fifth round which turned out to be the decision maker. The three judges gave rounds one and two to Holloway and rounds three and four to Volkanovski. Collet and Werner gave the fifth round and the fight to Volkanovski.

According to MMA decisions, Collet and Lethaby have worked on several UFC events and have also tried for the promotion of Cage Warriors and Poland Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW). Collett actually started judging for the UFC in 2011, while Lethaby started in 2018 and now has 10 UFC events on his resume. Werner was judging a UFC event for the fourth time.

What do the numbers say?

(Statistics by UFC statistics)

In this case, the numbers tell a confusing story. Counting only the statistics of strikes, Volkanovski finished far ahead both in total (139-111) and in significant strikes (137-102). He also did not lose a round in the significant strikes category, with a first draw (19-19) and a second round in fact slightly in his favor (22-21).

However (and this is a huge one, however), it should be noted that Holloway’s breathtaking shots at the end of rounds one and two weren’t scored as knockdowns, so these statistics don’t translate exactly how Holloway ended up asserted at the start. .

Rounds three, four and five were all strongly in favor of Volkanovski only on the basis of significant strikes, while he won them 25-15, 34-24 and 37-23 respectively. The latter figure is surprising given that a judge scored the third round for Holloway. Volkanovski also had three eliminations in the championship rounds, but as mentioned above, they only resulted in brief moments of control and should not have affected the score.

Volkanovski clinched the vast majority of head (64-44) and leg (67-31) strikes, while Holloway’s impressive body work resulted in a 27-6 advantage.

What have the media said?

In examining the 27 scores of members of the media recorded by MMA Decisions, Holloway obtained twice as many nods as Volkanovski, with 18 for the challenger and nine for the champion.

No point of sale submitted a score outside of 48-47.

What did people say?

At the time of this writing, Holloway has good support for MMA decisions, with 52.3% marking Saturday’s fight in his favor 48-47. In second place, 48-47 Volkanovski with 30.8%.

In third place, 8.4% gave four rounds to Holloway, while little attention was paid to the draw (3.2%).

Unsurprisingly, the third round was the hardest to score, with 50.7% in favor of Holloway and 44.2% in favor of Volkanovski.

Voters on the Verdict MMA app saw this as a victory for Holloway, due to the app’s focus on the definitely winning rounds.

This scoring system takes the cumulative total of each fan score submitted (filtering outliers such as random 10-7s if they represent less than one percent of the total) in each round and divides by the number of scores submitted for determine the winner of each round and also in full.

Holloway won by 123 points, largely in part to voters giving him almost unanimous rounds one and two. He also had a slight advantage in the third round, and Volkanovski’s solid fourth and fifth rounds were not enough to make up the deficit. Holloway had essentially won the fight after the first two rounds, unless there was a total collapse.

In MMA Fighting’s own poll that asked fans to choose a winner, overwhelming 81.2% think Holloway has done enough to avenge their loss.

How did I mark it?

Max Holloway won this fight. It was at least my first impression.

These shots he landed in the first two rounds should be more important. They should just. Even given Volkanovski’s exceptional production in the three rounds that followed, there was no point where it seemed that Holloway was not right to negotiate with him and get his own shots. Holloway’s whim and uppercut were the most telling moments of the fight, and they should have been marked as such.

I had the first three rounds for Holloway, although I would be lying if I said I felt confident giving the third round to either man. It was a real boost at the moment.

Is this theft?

In a broad sense, it was sort of.

The 10-9 system failures must be laid bare at UFC 251, with the scores for each set identical, even if anyone with their eyes fixed could tell you that the Holloway rounds were the most compelling. Quite convincing to overcome the striking statistical deficit in the third, fourth and fifth rounds? This is another question.

Holloway had the best two hits of the night – there’s no question about it. But with the advantage of new monitoring, you can see that Volkanovski has connected with a lot of hard knocks himself, especially in the later stages of the contest. By no means did he simply fire shots, and although he could not return the favor by visibly stunning Holloway, there were certainly times when the challenger had a break.

I also think that Holloway’s early success shaped the narrative before the third round, as well as the fact that he did much better than at UFC 245. Volkanovski’s own efforts should not be overlooked, and this is not It’s not his fault that the current scoring system causes a shortage of 10 to 8 seconds. He led a winning fight given the criteria.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game, as they say.

The final verdict

Not theft. But man, the 10-point system must be zero.


Was Alexander Volkanovski’s victory over Max Holloway theft?

  • 61%


    (267 votes)

  • 38%


    (168 votes)

435 votes au total
Vote now


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