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Alexander Volkanovski erases doubts after trilogy sweep at UFC 276


“No person can doubt me now.”

And, really, none must have doubted Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski from the beginning, even long before his post-fight declaration Saturday night.

But he’s right. All existing questions erased. He’s, unequivocally, the world’s finest featherweight fighter.

Volkanovski (25-1, 15 finishes) put three exclamation points — one for every victory — at the tip of his championship trilogy with Max Holloway with a clean sweep of the scorecards within the UFC 276 co-main event, defending his crown for the fourth time since first ripping it from Holloway (23-7, 12 finishes) 2 ½ years ago.

Any existing slights on Volkanovski’s status trace squarely to a razor-close decision victory two years ago within the United Arab Emirates, with no fans within the Abu Dhabi arena at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plenty were convinced Holloway did enough to win.

Not a soul on the Las Vegas Strip could make such a case within the third, and surely final, Volkanovski victory. The Aussie caked his rival’s face along with his own blood — spouting chiefly from a cut on the Hawaiian’s left eyebrow, opened by a heavy hook midway through the second round.

Alexander VolkanovskiGetty Images

Holloway had brought extra energy to Thursday’s pre-fight press conference, a component Volkanovski credits with fueling his own fire before capping an unlikely trilogy.

“Max Holloway is an absolute beast,” said Volkanovski within the moments after his declaration as the plain winner. “That intensity he brought, that we each had the previous few days, I needed it. I actually needed it.”

From the jump, the 33-year-old Volkanovski looked each stronger and faster. He was also chattier, clearly feeding off the energy Holloway fed days earlier.

“Oh yeah!” the champ could possibly be heard late in round one after a stiff jab connected. Leg kicks had been his best weapon over 10 full rounds across two fights before this weekend. This time, it was a power-packed right hand that left Holloway battered and thoroughly outclassed. The proven fact that Volkanovski looked as if it would imagine he broke that hand within the opening frame makes the weapon’s effectiveness all of the more remarkable.

In fights one and two, based on totals from UFC Stats, 48 percent of Volkanovski’s significant strikes landed were to the legs. Saturday, it plummeted to 14 percent because the Aussie landed a trilogy-high 199 significant strikes. A plus-72 edge in that category stands out against Holloway, the owner of the UFC’s single-fight significant strike record who did not outland the champion in any of their three contests.

Alexander Volkanovski attacked with heavy right hands throughout his UFC 276 win over Max Holloway.Alexander Volkanovski attacked with heavy right hands throughout his UFC 276 win over Max Holloway.Zuffa LLC

While not possessing fight-ending power, Volkanovksi’s pop and speed — especially that speed — could carry well if he gets his post-fight wish. Echoing a sentiment he shared earlier this yr with The Post, he issued a respectful challenge to former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira for the belt Oliveira had stripped due to missing weight before a dominant win over Justin Gaethje in May.

And if the Aussie has his way, a fight for the vacant 155-pound crown wouldn’t mean the tip of his days ruling the roost at 145.

“I just proved to you that I need to be on this octagon as much as possible,” Volkanovski said. “I need to be busy. I don’t think this division itself can keep me busy. I need to maneuver up, go for double-champ, and I’ll keep two divisions busy.”

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