Alexander Volkanovski has big shoes to fill. His predecessor was Max Holloway. That line alone is daunting. Max Holloway is arguably one of the greatest featherweight fighters in the history of the sport. This in a division that has featured the likes of Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. Holloway’s back to back wins over Aldo, and a dominant win over Brian Ortega have elevated him permanently in the eyes of many fans. In addition to that, Max is one of the nicest people outside the octagon. His courteous manner and enthusiasm have drawn comparisons to Stephen Thompson. And his ever present son, Rush Holloway has allowed him to be more relatable and human to more fans than ever.
Volkanovski has had a challenging road to the title as well. He didn’t start out in MMA at a young age the way so many world class martial artists do. Volkanovski got his athletic life started in Rugby. He also weighed a massive 214 pounds (often confused as 240 due to his accent). Volkanovski not only made the transition to mixed martial arts, he also made it to the very top. Now he plans his diets so that he’s a mere 15 pounds away from his target weight during fight week. He is one of Eugene Bareman’s top disciples and a fast rising star. One of the unique selling points about Bareman’s gym is the use of the spider, talked about by Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker. It is reputed to be one of the most gruelling exercises, specifically designed to train fighters to get comfortable in situations where the fight is not going in the direction they expected it to.
Strategy for Volkanovski going in to UFC 251
One of the surprises that Volkanovski threw at Max during the first fight was the number of leg kicks that he threw. Max has so far dismissed this on the grounds that he’s absorbed more dangerous leg kicks. Now an inexorable rematch is approaching. Eugene Bareman recently offered his thoughts on the rematch. Volkanovski claims he intends to finish Max in order to display his dominance. Bareman on the other hand felt that forcing a finish when facing a fighter like Max would be a strategic error. Nonetheless, Bareman emphasised that the first win was a clear and dominant one.
Volkanovski intends to live up to the standards set by Max Holloway outside the octagon as well. He recently announced his intention to write a children’s novel. Even before his first fight with Max, Volkanovski displayed his intent to be a role model, taking exception to a few quips made by Colby Covington. It’s only to be expected that this will continue moving forward. Should he emerge with another win, the UFC will have a wholesome champion to promote in one of it’s most competitive divisions.