Max Holloway lost his featherweight title following a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 245 this past weekend.
Volkanovski utilized highly-effective leg kicks to disrupt Holloway’s jab while managing his range throughout the technical contest. By the end of the 25 minutes, it seemed obvious to many that we had a new champion.
After all, not only did all three judges score the fight in favor of the Aussie, but so did every MMA media outlet scoring the fight. However, Holloway felt he had done enough to get the win.
“I thought the first round I was feeling him out, so he did what he did in the first round,” Holloway said in the post-fight press conference. “Second round, I thought I was taking over and then three, four, five I thought was mine. But they [the judges] saw it other ways. There’s only three opinions that matter.”
In a way, that does explain why Holloway seemed to lack some urgency even though he did perform better in the last two rounds.
But there is something to be said about how similar his two losses in 2019 are.
Holloway suffered a unanimous decision defeat to Dustin Poirier back in April for the interim lightweight title. And although he was able to land significant strikes on both Volkanovski (134) and Poirier (178), he wasn’t able to seriously hurt them or overwhelm them with his volume like he’s done with so many other opponents.
And that ultimately led to his downfall in those fights. Holloway didn’t switch things up — he continued to exclusively box, particularly in an orthodox stance.
“Blessed” thrived on constantly switching his stances seamlessly and confusing his opponents. However, he now appears set on fighting exclusively in the orthodox stance. He did switch to southpaw against Volkanovski, but only after his left leg was chewed up by the latter’s kicks.
Speaking of leg kicks, against both Volkanovski and Poirier, Holloway only landed a combined 18 leg strikes over 50 minutes. In comparison, he received a total of 82 from the duo.
Holloway never initiates a clinch or takedown either as he is usually defending against them. He does have submissions in his arsenal but he isn’t one who proactively looks for them.
Rather than adapting to the opponent — like Volkanovski and City Kickboxing did on Saturday — Holloway appears to have settled into his own game.
That’s not exactly a criticism, however.
Holloway still likely defeats every other featherweight in the division. But when he’s facing the very top-tier fighters like a Volkanovski or bigger opponents at lightweight should he move up, it won’t be enough.
“A good magician never shows his tricks,” Holloway said before his fight with Brian Ortega last year. “Just because I didn’t show certain stuff in my game yet, people keep calling me out on it. Why dig deep in the bag when you don’t have to go that far into it?”
It might finally be time for Holloway to consider showing off some new tricks.