Alexander Volkanovski defeated Max Holloway via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) to retain the featherweight title in the UFC 251 co-main event Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The challenger started the fight strong. He dropped Volkanovski twice in the first 10 minutes and attacked the champion with a variety of strikes.
Holloway continued to move forward as Volkanovski backed up and seemed a bit stiff. The Hawaiian's size advantage appeared to play a part in his success, as well, and it seemed he was en route to taking back the title.
However, Volkanovski turned the action up a notch during the last three rounds.
The Australian titleholder began pressuring Holloway and landed at a significantly higher rate than he did during the first two rounds. Volkanovski mixed in a couple of takedowns, too, but Holloway returned to his feet immediately, and his defense held up later in the bout.
Holloway made the last 15 minutes very competitive, but it wasn't quite enough. Volkanovski connected with the harder shots and unofficially landed more strikes than the former champ in the final two rounds.
With the victory, Volkanovski recorded his first title defense and second win against Holloway. He beat "Blessed" via unanimous decision at UFC 245 last December to win the 145-pound strap.
Holloway is now 1-3 in his past four bouts, with his only win in the last year and a half coming against Frankie Edgar in a featherweight title defense last summer.