A pair of compelling championship fights are scheduled to headline the UFC 272 PPV card from the T-Mobile Arena on March 5, when Alexander Volkanovski prepares to make the third defence of his featherweight title vs. former champ Max Holloway in their trilogy, while Aljamain Sterling faces interim titlist Petr Yan in a long-awaited rematch for the bantamweight strap.
How did we get here?
UFC president Dana White announced those fight plans via ESPN in the last hour, with multiple sources confirming the news to MMAFighting.com, MMA Junkie and other reputable outlets.
Booking Volkanovski-Holloway 3 was an eventuality that felt ominous, especially after their heavily-disputed split decision result at UFC 251 in the summer of 2020 on Fight Island.
Volkanovski (23-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC) ended an abrupt 14-month layoff by producing a star-making performance against perennial 145-lb contender Brian Ortega at UFC 266 on September 25.
After testing positive for COVID-19, the Australian couldn’t fight on the original date – UFC 260 in March – so instead was a TUF coach, delaying their proposed title fight a further six months.
Unsurprisingly, the inactivity unsettled him and he revealed post-fight that he wants to be in action more regularly. Having watched Holloway beat a returning Yair Rodriguez on Nov. 13, another rescheduled matchup, the pair will now collide again to kick off the month of March.
After Holloway (23-6 MMA, 19-6 UFC) outclassed Calvin Kattar this time last year, Volk doubled down on the disrespect he felt to those who were quick in claiming a trilogy fight was next.
At the time, he was quoted as saying:
“If they want to treat him like the golden boy and spoil him, that’s okay. At the same time, [his win vs. Kattar] did show he’s right up there.
So for me to say he’s never going to get that third fight with me, there probably will be a time when that’s going to happen.
If there’s no-one else and Max is taking out everyone else, he’ll get that shot. I ain’t scared of him, no-one in my division. But are we just going to keep fighting, just to keep people making excuses for Max happy? They can keep crying and I’m going to keep winning because that’s what I do best.”
A year has passed and unsurprisingly, the pair remain among the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters in a 145lb division lacking many true contenders right now. That, coupled with the lightweight lure, is why making this trilogy makes sense. But if Volk loses… be prepared for more.
What about Sterling-Yan? Bantamweight unification bout
Ah yes. Finally, 364 days after their first bantamweight championship meeting, the pair will do battle again for gold. Hopefully this time, the outcome isn’t overshadowed by controversy.
Petr Yan (16-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) lost his belt and his promotional unbeaten run at UFC 259, after striking an illegal knee deep into round four in a forgettable title defence vs. Aljamain Sterling.
Two judges had him winning 29-28, while one had it 29-28 Sterling before the blow – in what proved a matchup where he imposed his will in the latter stages, much like during a Fight of the Night clash against perennial contender Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 seven months later.
The 135lb division has lacked that true superstar spark in recent years, but after an impressive win over Jose Aldo the previous summer, Yan was heralded as the division’s dominant force.
The rematch was originally slated for Oct. 30, before Sterling (20-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) withdrew that same month citing lingering neck issues. He underwent successful surgery and has since featured heavily within the promotion’s events, often helping to corner his teammates.
The way he has acted on social media since winning the bantamweight belt on a technicality though, largely alienated fans who felt it wrong to celebrate an illegitimate victory and one that should’ve retrospectively been deemed a no contest without the strap changing hands.
While it wasn’t his fault that Yan struck him illegally, many believe he’s milking his 15 minutes of fame – knowing he was en route to a defeat and will likely lose again in the event of a rematch.
He’ll need to make adjustments to efficiently maintain a high performance level for five rounds, rather than sporadic bursts of production like the first installment. We’ll have to wait and see.
UFC 272 card on march 5, as it stands
Featherweight title: Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs Max Holloway (#1)
Bantamweight title: Aljamain Sterling (c) vs Petr Yan (ic)
Featherweight: Bryce Mitchell (#11) vs Edson Barboza (#10)
Women’s strawweight: Yan Xiaonan (#4) vs Marina Rodriguez (#3)
Light-heavyweight: Michal Oleksiejczuk vs Dustin Jacoby
Women’s flyweight: Jessica Eye (#9) vs Manon Fiorot (#14)
Flyweight: Tim Elliott (#12) vs Tagir Ulanbekov (#15)
Women’s flyweight: Maryna Moroz vs Mariya Agapova
Heavyweight: Todd Duffee vs Chris Barnett
Picture source: Getty Images