Max Holloway further strengthened his case for a trilogy bout against reigning featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski with a memorable performance in the UFC Fight Night 197 headliner on Saturday night.
Holloway emerged with a hard-fought five-round verdict over the returning Yair Rodriguez on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas for his second consecutive triumph. The Hawaiian standout shook off a strong start from Rodriguez — including numerous damaging low kicks — to gradually impose his will through multi-punch combinations, takedowns and clinch work. Rodriguez gave one final push in the fifth round, but it wasn’t enough to sway the scorecards in his favor.
“It’s one of the best fights I’ve ever seen,” UFC president Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “The fact that Yair was off for two years and comes in and puts on a performance like this, unheard of. It’s incredible.
“Then Max, I didn’t think he was going to make it out of the second round with the calf kicks, and then he after made it to the next round, I’m like he’s probably not going to be able to walk out of the Octagon by himself. He’s walking around back there like nothing even happened. He said his leg is fine. It’s unbelievable how tough this guy is.”
Holloway’s 2021 campaign now includes the aforementioned classic against Rodriguez as well as a striking masterclass in a win over Calvin Kattar at the beginning of the year. What it means is that “Blessed” could be on the verge of securing a third bout against 145-pound champion Alexander Volkanovski despite being 0-2 against the City Kickboxing representative. Of course, their last meeting, a split-decision victory for Volkanovski at UFC 251, was a ruling that many observers thought could have gone the other way.
“It’s one of those things – it was razor thin, [Holloway] just comes in and puts on a performance like this,” White said. “This is just a guy that Volkanovski’s going to have to just get him out of the way and do it again.”
Holloway’s latest outing also drew the attention of Conor McGregor, who was caught in a somewhat comical video pacing in front of the TV during the UFC Fight Night 197 main event. McGregor defeated Holloway via unanimous decision in 2013 before either man had reached the peak of his respective powers in the UFC. Holloway has expressed interest in a rematch against the Irish star, and the two former foes had a few exchanges on social media recently. McGregor is still recovering from a broken leg suffered in his trilogy bout against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 this past July.
White dismissed the notion of Holloway and McGregor crossing paths again any time soon, but he appears to be far more interested in seeing “Blessed” and Volkanovski square off for a third time.
“I don’t know what’s next for Max, but it does make sense to see him and Volkanovski again,” White said. “Conor’s not even – Conor’s still hurt. To even talk about Conor is silly.”