By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Alexander Volkanovski defeated Max Holloway for the third time on Saturday night, defending his featherweight title by unanimous decision with a dominant performance at UFC 276.
Israel Adesanya also retained his middleweight belt with a tepid unanimous decision win over Jared Cannonier in the main event at T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip.
Volkanovski (25-1) extended his winning streak to 22 fights with a dominant display against Holloway (23-7), the former 145-pound champion. Volkanovski executed a sharp boxing game plan against one of the UFC’s best punchers, bleeding Holloway’s face early on and steadily ratcheting up the punishment in the closing minutes.
Holloway’s whole face was red when the final bell rang. Volkanovski won all rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, 50-45.
“Max Holloway is an absolute beast,” Volkanovski said. “That intensity that we both had, I needed it. I really needed it. I had to get into my own head.”
Adesanya (23-1) won his belt three years ago as one of the UFC’s most entertaining fighters and personalities, but his elaborate ring walk might have been the most exciting part of his dry, technical victory over the cautious Cannonier (15 -6). .
After mimicking famed pro wrestler The Undertaker in a walk-through that included the wrestler’s signature hat and a large urn, Adesanya patiently pounded Cannonier with occasional kicks and punches for five rounds. Cannonier, who got his first shot at the UFC title at 38, struggled to find consistent striking range and didn’t show enough desperation to figure it out.
Adesanya won on all three judges’ scorecards, 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. She has never lost a UFC middleweight fight, but has just one stoppage win in her five 185-pound fights since 2019.
“It was really hard to get going, because they had a great game plan,” Adesanya said.
The penultimate bout of UFC 276 concluded a memorable trilogy between Volkanovski and Holloway, arguably the two greatest featherweights in UFC history aside from champion Jose Aldo. Volkanovski won two highly competitive decision fights over Holloway in 2019 and 2020, but Holloway won his next two fights to reassert his right to another shot at the belt that he had held for three years.
Understandably, two competent strikers kept the fight on the feet, but the smaller Volkanovski deftly closed the distance to deal damage in the first two rounds, particularly opening a nasty cut over Holloway’s left eye. Holloway’s answers dwindled as his court grew, and Volkanovski patiently racked up scoring shots to leave the decision in no doubt.
Volkanovski subsequently said he intends to move up 10 pounds to fight for the lightweight title, which is currently vacant after champion Charles Oliveira missed weight for his victory over Justin Gaethje in May.
Before the title fights, Alex Pereira demolished Sean Strickland with punches midway through the first round of a victory that polished the Brazilian kickboxing champion’s status as an immediate title contender at middleweight. Pereira showered and ran back to the arena after his fight to watch the main event.
Bryan Barbarena also stopped Robbie Lawler with strikes late in the second round in a brutal fight in which both veterans took tremendous punishment. After losing the first round on two judges’ scorecards, Barbarena finished with a prolonged flurry that began with a series of elbows to break the defense of the 40-year-old Lawler, who had his first fight in the UFC in 2002. ..
On the undercard, Jim Miller set a UFC record with his 24th career win, finishing Donald Cerrone with a guillotine choke in the second round.
The 38-year-old Miller’s historic win broke his tie with Cerrone and Andrei Arlovski for the most career UFC wins mark.
“You’ll never see the (combined) numbers that went into this fight again, but I’m excited to get the win,” Miller said. “That guillotine, I can do it in my sleep. I knew it was only a matter of time.”
Cerrone, 39, retired in the cage after the fight. Cerrone beat Miller in his first meeting in 2014, but Cerrone is now 4-10 since 2016 with a seven-fight winless streak.
Flyweight veteran Jessica Eye announced her retirement after losing a decision to Maycee Barber. Eye, who turns 36 this month, fought for the 125-pound title in 2019 but has now lost five of six.
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