UFC 276 Staff Predictions: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 3 1

The Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway trilogy bout takes place this Saturday night in Las Vegas and the UFC Featherweight Championship is on the line once again.

Volkanovski vs. Holloway 3 is the co-main event of the UFC 276 PPV and will stream live only on ESPN+ this Saturday night. Order the PPV here to watch every fight live.

Volkanovski has recorded two wins against the former champion already with the first being a unanimous decision victory back in 2019. He backed that win up immediately with a split decision win against Holloway in 2020 before then proceeding to defend his title against Brian Ortega and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung.

Holloway also managed two wins since last fighting Volkanovski. In January last year, Holloway impressed with a one-sided beatdown of Calvin Kattar that ended in unanimous decision. In November, he defeated Yair Rodriguez by unanimous decision to earn another shot at Volkanovski and the title.

Read on for our full fight predictions, analysis, and staff picks, as well as the latest betting odds and best bets for Volkanovski vs Holloway 3.

Betting Odds

The champion will enter as a moderate betting favorite following his two wins in the series already. Holloway may represent decent value for those looking to bet on the underdog.

  • Alexander Volkanovski: -210 (BetUS)
  • Max Holloway: +170 (MyBookie)

Staff Picks

Braeden Arbour

It would be foolish for anyone to assert too heavily that they know who will come out on top in the trilogy of one of the most compelling rivals in UFC history. Unlike many rivalries of its kind, the record stands 2-0 for Alexander Volkanovski officially, but the pure competitiveness, especially in the second fight that half – if not slightly more fans, believe Max Holloway won. It’s been a debate for two years, and while no one discredits Volkanovski’s claim to the throne, some do wonder if Holloway has been the best 145er in the world since then as well. Regardless it’s essentially agreed that the two men rule the division, and finally with this third fight we should get a clear top dog over the featherweights.

Max Holloway has always been primarily a kickboxer. He flows seamlessly with his footwork in, although not an exceptionally explosive manner, with enough consistent speed that he is able to get in and out relatively smoothly. His sheer volume does cause him to take tremendous amounts of damage in return but ultimately not much when compared to what he outputs. This is a trend that follows in most of his fights other than the previous two with Volkanovski, however since they last met we may have seen him even better than before. One of the strengths of Holloway’s style is he is so awkwardly unorthodox in his movements when not engaged that it causes hesitation. He utilizes lots of hand movements with fakes, feints and low power shots that double, or triple up on one side making him extremely difficult to read. It’s during this gestation from his opponents that Holloway is able to work his way in with flurries of hooks to the body or elbows upstairs. If this makes them shell up, he unloads with a couple power shots like his spinning sidekick or head kicks amid the flurry of low power high volume combinations.

However, Volkanovki has been seen to have a similar effect on opponents due to his footwork and speed. While he isn’t the pure volume striker of Holloway, nor the same style, he also tends to cause hesitation from his opponents because he is also hard to read. He usually feints and fakes from the outside where neither man can be hit, and because he is of a short reach and height he explodes in with heavier shots which force enough respect from his opponents that they have to shell or block. That coupled with vicious low kicks that take out the roots of shelled opponents is extremely effective.

One of the differences in their second fight compared to the first is that it seemed Holloway did not offer as much respect to Volkanovski in terms of risk. He moved forward more, he offered heavier shots to end his combination and overall fought like the challenger rather than the defending champ. This made a huge difference in my opinion, and if Holloway comes in with the same mentality that we have seen in his last three fights, his ability to stunt momentum with volume makes more sense that him being stunted by Volkanovki’s power and spacing, especially if Holloway can maintain that forward consistent pressure.

Where things get more confident on Volkanovki’s side as well is in the grappling. He once was hailed as one of the best up-and-coming ground and pounders in the UFC before becoming a predominant striker, however he still maintains that barrelling takedown ability reminiscent of his high-level rugby days. On top he is a master at framing off his opponents to maintain perfect space for strikes and force them flat. Comparatively, Holloway’s grappling game is an extension of his striking, his takedowns consist more of trips and sweeps that chain from his striking combinations. His best work on the mat has so far come from submissions locked onto opponents already previously hurt from strikes. Against Yair Rodriguez in his last fight, it was evident that wrestling was an integral focus on Holloway’s last camp, and further improvement remains to be seen but it looked merely as the difference between a striker rounding himself out, and still a bit of a leap from the specialty skills on the ground that Volkanovski demonstrates.

This is an extremely close fight. In my personal opinion I believe that Holloway showed a bit more the last time the two fought, and since has looked as if he has even further improved. Volkanovski has as well absolutely but I think he has been able to showcase his footwork and presence against opponents like Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega who particularly lack in those areas where Holloway also excels. I think that being able to bully down strikers like Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar are more telling to what may happen against Volkanovski, particularly if Holloway goes out refusing to over respect Volkanovski’s skills. I also believe that this will force Volkanovski to look to his takedowns a tad more than we have seen of late, which could spell trouble for Holloway if it should become a trend early. However overall I think that Holloway does a bit more damage, lands a bit more and controls the pace and cage to a slightly higher degree.

Pick: Max Holloway to win (+170 odds at MyBookie)

Michael Pounders

We’ve seen this fight play out not once but twice before for the featherweight strap. Yet, despite Volkanovski winning two narrow decisions already, Holloway seems to be the unanimous number 1 contender in the division.

Volkanovski is a complete mixed martial artist to the highest degree. He’s been dubbed as having no exploitable weaknesses and has recently showcased show stopping power. Volk is a devastating, intelligent, and unrelenting striker who moves forward and counters with precision and power. The champ rarely throws one strike at a time, instead mixing in advanced combinations in each exchange. He often moves forward, looking to land cracking leg kicks to immobilize his opponent so he can sit down and tee off on his foe. As he moves in, Volkanovski utilizes head movement better than anyone in the division. While most fighters use head movement as a defense tactic, Volk will use it to set up shots. Often being the shorter fighter with less range, Volk uses feints and head movement to draw out strikes from his opponent, then he can counter them as he closes distance. This is a high-level technique few others can implement and Volkanovski has mastered it. Beyond being an expert striker, Volkanovski is a strong and explosive wrestler who can drag his opponents to the mat where he can rack up control time and ground and pound simultaneously. He rarely uses his wrestling, though, often favoring stand up brawls instead.

Speaking of stand-up brawls, few others in the division have the chin to engage in firefights like Max Holloway. He seems unfinishable, able to eat heavy power shot after power shot, simile, and land a heavy combination of his own in return. Holloway proved he is the best or nearly the best boxer in the division by outclassing a Golden Glove boxer and top-ranked fighter in Calvin Kattar. Holloway’s boxing style is rooted in technique and unmatched volume. He fights behind a jab intelligently but lands powerful combinations once in the pocket. He has insane cardio, an ability to continue throwing strikes at an unparalleled rate for 25 minutes, and has broken his own record for most significant strikes landed. Holloway does keep a wide boxing stance which places weight on his lead leg, making him susceptible to leg kicks, but, like with his chin, Holloway must be built out of vibranium because no matter the number of leg kicks absorbed, Holloway continues to pressure forward and land volume seemingly unaffected. He is fast, technical, can rack up damage, and only improves as the fight goes on.

This one, like the previous two fights, should be razor-thin. Both men are elite strikers and have the grappling to keep the fight standing. I think Volk has the advantage in power, speed, and experience. Volkanovski seems to have leveled up recently, which is impressive considering he’s undefeated in the UFC and holds the belt. But, somehow, Volkanovski appears quicker and more powerful on the feet lately. In their first matchups, Volkanovski’s ability to get inside and land the heavier shots propelled him to a victory. I anticipate a similar outcome this week.

Pick: Alexander Volkanovski to win (-210 odds at BetUS)

Joe Pounders

If one simply assesses the last two fights between Volkanovski and Holloway, a grave error would be made. This is because both fighters have evolved mightily, each in the best possible way.

The champ, Alexander Volkanovski, has seemingly improved fight over fight, in all aspects of his fight game. Prior to the improvement, he already possessed the well-rounded talent to run rampant through the featherweight division, ultimately leading him to secure a win for the belt. But in his last two fights, Volkanovski has expanded his fight game far more than his patented low leg kicks into dirty-boxing range attacks, to now, possessing a fighting arsenal that rationalizes many in the community believing he is P4P number 1.

Perhaps the trait which jumps off the screen is the speed Volkanovski now attacks with. This speed is exacerbated with sound footwork and using sharp angles to land effective strikes, which are plentiful in choice. Moreover, his speed is used for both offense and defense, as he enters in and out of range perhaps better than any striker in the UFC. This heightened ability of speed will be an important attribute to continue against Max Holloway, as standing in the pocket is perhaps the worst decision a fighter can make when fighting the former featherweight champion.

The other key category Volkanovski has greatly elevated is combining his elite fight intelligence with that of extreme confidence in his ability. The best illustration of this is seen in his last fight against the Korean Zombie, as Volkanovski created and implemented a flawless game plan, ultimately leading him to plead with the referee that his opponent has taken enough damage and should not go back out – the Korean Zombie did go back out for another round, Volkanovski gave one last plea to have it not continue, but then used his electrifying striking to force the referee to stop the fight moments later. This plea did not stem from worrying his opponent could make a comeback nor was it a cocky move, instead, was Volkanovski having the supreme confidence in himself knowing he would only inflict more damage upon his opponent that was preventable given the success he already had.

I do not want the well-rounded game of elite technical striking, devasting leg kicks, and strong wrestling of Volkanovski to go overlooked, but I believe those traits were already seen throughout the now 50-minute fight duration between him and Holloway. Instead, I elected to showcase the growth in Volkanovski’s game, and this growth accompanied by the quality of the opponents having faced and beaten, leaves me believing he is in fact P4P number 1.

Max “Blessed” Holloway is the best boxer currently in the UFC. His output and pace are truly next level, which allows him to greatly separate in nearly every fight, Volkanovski’s fight(s) being the outlier. This separation in fight skill justifies him earning a third fight against the champ while knowing he is currently down 0-2 on the official record sheet – many fans believe it should be 1-1.

Beyond the known elite boxing accompanied by a jaw-dropping pace he is able to use for a 5-round affair, Holloway has shown improvement in his fight game since his last fight against Volkanovski. The most notable evolution is showing much greater intelligence in and out of the octagon. For the former, Holloway has done a much better job of choosing his moments when to go in the pocket and engage in a hailstorm of punches thrown by him and his opponent. Moreover, he has improved his willingness to change levels and shoot a takedown, which is by far and away his most underappreciated skill as a fighter. For the latter, Holloway no longer spars to the degree and rate as he did when he was a younger fighter; doing so allows him to be far fresher going into a fight, and the consequence many fighters would face with a lack of hard sparring is non-existent for Holloway given his cardio and fight-readiness are both elite traits.

So, similarly to Volkanovski, Holloway has improved greatly as a fighter, and this improvement, along with the inherent elite attributes he has possessed for quite some time, leaves me confidently believing he is, right now, a top 10 P4P fighter in the UFC.

Regardless of the fight outcome, I foresee many people believing each fighter won the fight respectively – similar to the first two matchups. Moreover, from a pure entertainment standpoint, I could watch these two fight every week given they each are levels ahead of the rest of the featherweights. With that said, I do believe Volkanovski is just that tick better in nearly every aspect of the fight game than Holloway is, as such, I am taking him in this matchup. His speed, ability to hop in and out of range, elite fight intelligence, strong wrestling, and ability to land from head to toe against his opponent rationalizes my backing of Volkanovski beyond the arbitrary belief that he is just a notch higher in level than Holloway is. With that said, this fight is likely to be razor-thin, and knowing each has unworldly chins, this fight should go the entire 25 minutes.

Pick: Alexander Volkanovski to win by decision (+100 odds at BetUS)

UFC 276 is a PPV event and will stream only on ESPN+ in the United States this Saturday night. Order the PPV here to watch every fight live.

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