UFC 251 May Establish the Greatest Featherweight of All Time

Max Holloway

Getty Max Holloway leaves the octagon after defeating Brian Ortega in a featherweight bout during the UFC 231 event at Scotiabank Arena on December 8, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

On July 11, fans will witness one of the most anticipated rematches in featherweight history. UFC champion Alexander Volkanovski will take on former champ Max Holloway in the co-main event of UFC 251. The two men last met when Holloway was the reigning champion in December 2019. It was an exciting bout that ended with Volkanovski leaving the Octagon with Holloway’s championship title by unanimous decision.

The conversation about the greatest featherweight of all time is, of course, a subjective one. Every fan and analyst will have their own criteria when rating the greatest and in some eyes, the fight on July 11 between Holloway and Volkanovski may establish the greatest featherweight in MMA history.

UFC 251 takes place July 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern time on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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There are typically four names that come up in the GOAT conversation for the weight class: Jose Aldo, Conor McGregor, Holloway and Volkanovski. Each one has different qualities and resumes when it comes to earning GOAT status, and the winner between Holloway and Volkanovski could possibly surpass the others in the conversation.

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Aldo Is the Original Divisional King & Was the Inaugural UFC Featherweight Champion

Aldo was on top of the featherweight division for years. He was a champion in two massive promotions: the UFC and the World Extreme Cage Fighting (WEC). He won the WEC featherweight title in 2009 and he defended it twice before the UFC purchased and absorbed the promotion.

Aldo was promoted to the undisputed UFC featherweight champion and made his first title defense in 2011. Altogether, the Brazilian legend defended his UFC featherweight title seven times, defeating the likes of Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung and Kenny Florian.

Many fans and analysts believe that Aldo is the greatest featherweight of all time because of his dominance in the division that lasted over five years. During his reign, which saw Aldo winning 18 fights in a row, the Brazilian seemed unbeatable. His powerful Muay Thai, leg kicks and efficient takedown defense made him a deadly matchup for contenders. 

However, since 2015, Aldo has lost key matchups to the other three men in the GOAT conversation. He was knocked out by McGregor in 2015 to lose the featherweight title. He was also defeated twice by Holloway and once by Volkanovski.

Many argue that Aldo was out of his prime for these matchups, and for that reason, his GOAT claim should not be tarnished.

McGregor Dethroned the Original King & Has High Profile Featherweight Wins

Although he’s not the first choice for many, some believe McGregor is the greatest featherweight of all time. During his featherweight tenure, McGregor earned high-profile wins over top talent, including Max Holloway, Chad Mendes and Dustin Poirier. McGregor is also the man responsible for dethroning Aldo as the featherweight king.

McGregor never defended his featherweight title, but his dominance in the division was remarkable and his wins over other featherweight greats like Holloway and Aldo ensured that his name is a part of the featherweight GOAT conversation. McGregor brought more eyeballs to the featherweight division than ever before and even if he’s not proclaimed the GOAT, he has made a lasting impact on the division.

Holloway Led the New Generation of Featherweights

Many in the MMA community place Holloway at the top of the list for the greatest featherweights of all time. He went on a sensational win streak in the division and has victories over many featherweight staples. After losing to McGregor in 2013, Holloway rattled off 13 wins in a row. During that streak, Holloway defeated the likes of Cub Swanson, Brian Ortega, Anthony Pettis and Jeremy Stephens.

Holloway won the featherweight title when he finished Aldo back in 2012 and he followed up the victory by defeating the Brazilian in an immediate rematch. Holloway has only lost once at featherweight since his loss to McGregor, and that was to Volkanovski in December 2019.

Volkanovski is seemingly Holloway’s biggest test at featherweight and should Holloway avenge his loss to Volkanovski at UFC 251, his name may be etched in proverbial stone as the featherweight GOAT.

Volkanovski Is Quickly Creating His Own Featherweight Legacy

Volkanovski is the current featherweight champion and he has made an enormous impression in the division in only seven bouts. He made his UFC debut at lightweight in 2017, and after winning his first bout in the promotion, he dropped down to featherweight. Volkanovski is undefeated in all seven of his fights in the featherweight division.

Although Volkanovski is the new kid on the block, he’s already mustered up an impressive hit list of UFC greats. He holds wins over Holloway, Aldo and Mendes and has quickly asserted his name into the GOAT conversation.

Some argue that because Volkanovski doesn’t have as lengthy of a resume as some of the others in the discussion, he’s not yet deserving of the title. However, if Volkanovski can defeat Holloway again, who’s at the height of his prime, it may be harder to deny him the GOAT status.

As mentioned earlier in the article, the GOAT conversation is subjective and it is virtually impossible to have a consensus choice with the exception of women’s MMA GOAT Amanda Nunes. However, after Volkanovski and Holloway go to war on July 11 at UFC 251, the featherweight GOAT conversation will likely flare up in the MMA community.

UFC 251 Features 3 Title Fights & Multiple Former Champions

In addition to the featherweight championship bout, there are two other championship matches slated for UFC 251. On July 11, Jorge Masvidal will challenge welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on less than a week’s notice. The vacant bantamweight title is also on the line — Jose Aldo will take on Petr Yan. There are 13 matches scheduled for UFC 251 and the fight card can be viewed below:

Main Card (ESPN+ PPV)
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo
Jessica Andrade vs. Rose Namajunas
Amanda Ribas vs. Paige VanZant

Preliminary Card (ESPN)
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov
Makwan Amirkhani vs. Dan Henry
Leonardo Santos vs. Roman Bogatov

Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass)
Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov
Raulian Paiva vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo
Martin Day vs. Davey Gran

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