With so much attention drawn towards Alexander Volkanovski and UFC 294 this past weekend, it left many wondering about the featherweight division and its future. It’s current champion, Volkanovski has temporarily left the weight class after suffering another defeat to Makhachev. So how will things operate at the uppermost tier of the 145-pound division?
The weight class itself is getting quite intriguing, especially at the top. If Max Holloway wasn’t such an unbelievable fighter or continuously winning, the featherweight division would be far easier to decipher. The problem for Volkanovski and company is that the future UFC Hall of Famer seems to be going absolutely nowhere.
The fact is that, with the exception of Volkanovski, Max Holloway has not lost a featherweight fight since Conor McGregor in 2013. The man has not lost to anyone at 145 pounds other than the champion in over 10 years. All while beating the likes of Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira, and other legends of the sport.
You can make a legitimate case that Holloway is the greatest featherweight of all time, regardless of the Volkanovski losses. The accolades and longevity certainly favor the former champion. Another thing that doesn’t get talked about is the fact that Holloway is four years younger than the champion. So Max likely has more years of prime performance left than “The Great”.
1A & 1B
For the 145-pound weight class, it seems as though every new contender that rises must first see Max Holloway on that last stop to the championship. In other words, if you want to prove that you are the man to challenge Alexander Volkanovski, you must first get past one of the greatest featherweights of all time. The reason this is a repeating theme, whether it was Allen, Kattar, Rodriguez, or now Topuria, is because we are witnessing a 1A, 1B scenario at featherweight, the likes of which we have never seen before.
Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway are the absolute cream of the crop in the UFC’s 145-pound weight class. The problem for Holloway is that he is 0-3 against the current champion, making it hard to sell yet another fight between the two. The problem for Volkanovski is that Max Holloway will not take no for an answer and remains the top contender. It is certainly a tricky situation.
The one outlier here is Illia Topuria, who, like Allen, Kattar, and Rodriguez before, now finds himself at the top of the weight class with only Holloway and Volkanovski ahead of him. The question is: Can Topuria do what the previous contenders couldn’t and knock off Holloway? That question may not need an answer, as Alexander Volkanovski has made it clear that he still plans to defend his belt against Topuria in early 2023, regardless of having just stepped in at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.
Therefore, unlike the rest, Topuria may not even need to get through the major roadblock that is Holloway on his way to gold. Though, regardless of Volkanovski’s optimism; getting knocked out at UFC 294 may have changed his immediate plans at featherweight, whether he likes it or not. Since the announcement of Makhachev Volkanovski 2, rumors have appropriately swirled of a potential interim title fight featuring Holloway vs. Topuria, and now that Volkanovski was just brutally finished with a head kick, it may be wise for the Feathweight Champion to take some time off. We have seen Champions like Kamaru Usman come back quickly after a knockout, and we saw what happened there.. So it looks like the Spaniard’s road to Volkanovski could include the Hawaiian after all.
The UFC is such an unpredictable business, both inside and outside of the cage. So… Who really knows how this will play out? It’s amusing that Volkanovski has shot Holloway down three times, and yet there he is, still standing – stronger than ever. It’s reminiscent of an old school Michael Myers film, I guess Holloway is that damn scary.
There has been talk in the past of Holloway moving up to 155 pounds, given that he is down 0-3 to the current champion. Yet, to Max’s credit, he stayed at featherweight and is still thriving there more than ever. The UFC has shown with Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo that, given proper incentives, they will absolutely roll out a fourth fight if necessary. Do not be shocked if we were to see an unprecedented fourth meeting between two of the greatest fighters in UFC history.