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Alex Volkanovski defeats Max Holloway, retains UFC title

There was no charm for Max Holloway in his third attempt to defeat Alex Volkanovski. There was no controversy, either.

Volkanovski consistently beat Holloway to the punch and won all five rounds en route to a unanimous decision at UFC 276 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to retain the featherweight title.

In the main event, Israel Adesanya neutralized Jared Cannonier for five rounds on his way to retaining the middleweight title by unanimous decision.

While Adesanya was never in danger, it was far from as dominant a display as Volkanovski delivered to put an exclamation point on his superiority in the rivalry with Holloway.

Volkanovski took the belt from Holloway with a decision in December 2019, then won the rematch in a much closer decision in 2020, a result that has been disputed by Holloway and many pundits.

The champion left little question this time.

Holloway was uncharacteristically vocal the past few days in what appeared to be an attempt to take a different approach in hopes of a different result.

Volkanovski said it helped flip a switch for him, and when the 25 minutes had ended, Holloway was left with a face covered in blood and no answer for the speed and precision of Volkanovski.

“Max Holloway is an absolute beast,” said Volkanovski, who has won 22 straight fights. “The intensity he brought the last few days, I needed it. I knew I was the best; I just needed to remind myself.”

Holloway’s only three losses at featherweight since 2015 have come against Volkanovski, who teased that he might move up in weight to challenge for the lightweight belt.

Adesanya attempted a similar feat last year when he unsuccessfully challenged for the light heavyweight belt. It was the only loss of his pro career.

Cannonier became the latest middleweight to find out just how slick Adesanya can be with his movement, making him so difficult to hit. He never fully opened up his own offensive repertoire, but did more than enough to cruise to the win.

“They had an excellent game plan,” Adesanya said. “It was really hard to get my follow-ups going.”

He might have a new challenge on the horizon in former world champion kickboxer Alex Pereira, who has two kickboxing wins over Adesanya and improved to 3-0 in the UFC with a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland.

“We know who’s next,” Adesanya said. “The first time, I told you. It was an error on my part. Next time, I’m going to put you on skates and you’re going to get frozen like Elsa.”

Pereira’s spectacular first-round knockout ended Strickland’s six-fight winning streak.

Pereira dropped Strickland with a left hand and followed with a devastating right as Strickland tried to get back to his feet.

After losing his MMA debut, Pereira has six straight wins. Now he wants a shot against Adesanya in the cage.

“Many people talk about my two wins over Adesanya,” Pereira said. “Today I just defeated the No. 4 in the rankings, so I know I earned it.”

A bantamweight bout between Pedro Munhoz and rising star Sean O’Malley was ruled a no contest because of an accidental eye poke.

Munhoz controlled the first round with leg kicks only to see O’Malley start to find his range in the second before poking Munhoz in the eye. The cage-side doctor ruled the fight couldn’t continue. O’Malley also landed a low blow on an attempted kick to the body in the first round.

Also on the main card, Bryan Barberena landed an onslaught of punches and elbows to stop former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in the closing moments of the second round.

The preliminary card will be remembered for two veterans retiring after losses.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone took off his gloves and left them in the cage after he was submitted by Jim Miller in a welterweight rematch of a 2014 knockout victory by Cerrone.

“I just don’t love it anymore,” Cerrone, 39, said after his 55th pro fight. “I’m going to be a movie star, baby.”

Miller broke a tie with Cerrone and Andrei Arlovski by winning for the 24th time to become the UFC’s all-time leader in victories.

Women’s flyweight veteran Jessica Eye, 35, also announced her retirement after a unanimous decision loss to Maycee Barber.

Eye, a former Las Vegas resident, said she intends to pursue a career in professional wrestling.

Las Vegan Brad Tavares dropped the final two rounds after an impressive first five minutes and lost a unanimous decision to middleweight Dricus du Plessis.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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