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Holloway loses featherweight belt to Volkanovski

By GREG BEACHAM

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Max Holloway thought he’d done enough to successfully defend his UFC featherweight title for the fourth time.

The judges thought otherwise.

The mixed martial arts star from Waianae, Oahu, lost to Australian Alexander Volkanovski by unanimous decision Saturday night at UFC 245.

Volkanovski (21-1) picked apart Holloway (21-5) with leg kicks and movement for five frenetic rounds, controlling the bout with style and persistence. The 31-year-old challenger born in a tiny coastal town in New South Wales joins New Zealand-born middleweight Robert Whittaker as UFC’s only Aussie champs.

The judges favored Volkanovski 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45. Holloway struggled to land consistent strikes while dodging Volkanovski’s barrage of leg kicks, but the long-reigning champ still appeared surprised and disappointed by the judges’ verdict in just his second loss since 2013.

“It means the world,” Volkanovski said. “I have two kids at home. Everything is about my family. Spending time away from them kills me, but this is for them, a little early Christmas present for them.”

Volkanovski became just the fourth featherweight champion in UFC history, joining Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor and Holloway, who had reigned since 2016.

Volkanovski earned his title shot with 17 straight victories, including seven since joining the UFC, capped by a win over Aldo in May.

“Featherweight has always had great, respectful champions who always fight the next contenders in line, and I appreciate that,” Volkanovski said. “There’s a lot of people who have earned their shot and aren’t given it, so I’m going to make sure everyone who earns it, gets it.”

Holloway said he hasn’t decided whether he will resume his career at featherweight or lightweight, but the 28-year-old vowed to come back strong.

“I don’t want to sound like a sore loser,” said Holloway, who thought he won the final three rounds. “I didn’t watch tape, (but) I thought I was doing enough.”

In other title fights Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, Kamaru Usman brutally stopped Colby Covington with 50 seconds left in the fifth round to retain his welterweight title, and Amanda Nunes defended her bantamweight title with a grinding unanimous-decision victory over Germaine De Randamie.