On December 14, the UFC returns to the fight capital of the world with a stellar pay-per-view card featuring three title fights.
One of the three championships on the line is the featherweight crown currently held by the best 145-pound fighter on the planet, Max Holloway. The champ will be defending his belt against Australian Alexander Volkanovski, in what could be considered as his toughest test to date. Volkanovski enters the bout with a 20-1 record and is currently undefeated in the UFC.
In one of his recent YouTube videos, former middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen spoke about the Aussie’s strength advantage heading into the fight and asked the ever-important question – just how good is he?
“If you watch him against Chad Mendes, you start to come away with the thought that this guy can do a little bit of everything,” Sonnen said. “This guy is strong, he’s got great endurance, he’s in your face. He really believes he can beat the best guys in the world.”
In May, Volkanovski outpointed featherweight legend Jose Aldo en route to a unanimous decision victory. This win solidified the 31-year-old as a top contender and he earned the #1 ranking in the division.
Despite beating Aldo, Sonnen believes that Volkanovski’s striking and grappling is, in fact, inferior to the Brazilian’s. But for whatever reason, Volkanovski was able to outperform his adversary on the night.
“He’s not a better boxer than Jose Aldo, but he sure as hell outboxed him. He’s not a better wrestler than Max Holloway, it’s blasphemy to say that. He sure as hell isn’t a better grappler than Jose Aldo, but he out-grappled him.”
One advantage Volkanovski undoubtedly brings into his fight with Holloway is strength, and a lot of it. Back in his rugby playing days, he weighed around 210 pounds, which is crazy considering he now fights at 145 pounds. The 20-1 featherweight has often spoken about how he has retained his freakish strength even after losing over 6o pounds.
Sonnen spoke about a time where he met Volkanovski and explained how he felt like he felt a little ‘different.’
“When I’m with Volkanovski, tell him hello and pat him on the back, it feels different. The guy used to be 96 kilograms in his rugby days; 96 kilograms transfers to 211 pounds. In case you’ve never seen the photos, don’t think you’re going to see some big fat guy.”
“He was lean then. Big muscular legs and big muscular ass. He carried some upper weight, he got that weight off. You think he’d settle into 185 pounds. I’m telling you, this wasn’t some guy that looked like he had an obesity issue, it looked like a big, strong, powerful athlete. He went from 211 to 145 – there’s a reason when you see him with his top off, you just see all this muscle.”
Volkanovski carries a significant strength advantage into most of his fights in the 145-pound division and has recently teased the idea of moving up to lightweight if he can defeat Holloway and defend the title a few times first. The Australian has defeated Aldo and Mendes in back-to-back fights but now it’s time to really find out how just how good is Alex Volkanovski.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.