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Takedown breakdown: Alexander Volkanovski’s inside trip

The champion Alexander Volkanovski’s two brief takedowns on Max Holloway may have influenced the judges in their UFC 251 rematch.

UFC 251: Volkanovski v Holloway Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway was extremely competitive. Surpassing the expectations of many, Holloway made some key adjustments in varying his entries and letting his kicking game fly, his greatest moments coming after exploiting key defensive habits by the champion.

Volkanovski, in turn, began to pick up on Holloway’s approach and made adaptations of his own. Regardless of how you feel about the way the bout was scored, both men deserve recognition for their strategic and technical growth between their two fights.

One such adjustment by Alexander Volkanovski was in chaining wrestling techniques to finally take down Holloway. In their first fight, Volkanovski’s high leg attacks were quickly stifled by Holloway - the former champion has a knack for framing off to create space while jacking up a whizzer with his other hand to pull the attacking arms high.

Holloway’s simple but effective defense and excellent clinch game have allowed him to defend against even the best wrestlers in the division, like Frankie Edgar.

The logic for Volkanovski was relatively simple - his shots were getting him pulled up into the clinch. So, instead of restructuring his striking to open up the leg attack, he looked to take him down in the clinch.

Holloway’s Physical Clinch Game

Take a look at how Holloway straightens up Volkanovski after his shots.

VIDEO CLIP: Volkanovski’s TJ Dillashaw impression is foiled

Breaking the rhythm of his usual linear entries, Volkanovski bursts in - switching stances and level changing simultaneously. Volkanovski isn’t much of an open space takedown artist, but it’s been nice to see the attempts, as he’s typically able to transition into tie-ups on the cage, where he’s much better.

Volkanovski attempted to hook the outside of Holloway’s lead leg while driving through for a knee-tap style entry. While he didn’t do much to get a reaction out of Holloway before initiating, his execution was fine.

However, without drawing a reaction from Holloway, there was plenty of time and space for Holloway to crossface, or frame, to slow Volkanovski and make it incredibly difficult to continue driving in.

Holloway frames to stuff Volkanovski takedown

Without the use of his head and upper body, Volkanovski had no way to control Holloway other than that hook. Holloway was able to plant with his rear leg and step out of the trip. Volkanovski attempted to continue driving in to snatch up a bodylock, but Holloway now had space to underhook on the open side and whizzer on the near-side, bringing Volkanovski to his feet.

The beauty of Holloway’s clinchwork is highlighted here as he uses the space of Volkanovski’s stand-up to nail a knee to the body, literally taking Volkanovski off his feet.

Holloway beats Volkanovski in the clinch

Holloway uses that moment of vulnerability to swim out from his underhook to trade for a frame across the space, giving him the option to attack further or circle off to the whizzer side.

It’s clear from his fights with Poirier, Edgar and Volkanovski that Holloway is shockingly powerful in these positions.

So how did Volkanovski adjust?

The Inside Trip

Outside entries gave Max far too much space and time to prepare his defenses.

Instead, Volkanovski used his ability in the pocket to find more productive clinch entries.

Deep in the fourth round, Volkanovski put himself in a bladed stance after missing with his lead hook. Holloway had pulled back, and now rocked back in to counter with his rear straight. Prepared for the shot, Volkanovski changed levels and bumped forward, giving him a wide-open window for his left underhook.

Volkanovski enters on the bodylock vs Holloway

Standing up with the underhook, Volkanovski made an excellent read - remembering Holloway’s habit of framing with his free hand, Volkanovski immediately dug a second underhook across the back.

Volkanovski now had a secure bodylock. Many bodylock based techniques are tough in open space - your open can grab double-overs and hip back and retreat. For the inside trip to work, there needs to be a significant pull to ensure the motion goes through their base, rather than to it.

For more information on inside trips, check out my breakdown on Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida.

To achieve this, Volkanovski locks high on the back - ensuring that he can not only keep Holloway’s hips close, but also weakening his base by keeping him tall. Because of Volkanovski’s ability to win long exchanges against the cage, Holloway shows urgency and focus on avoiding being pushed back, planting his feet and fighting hard to secure double overhooks. With Holloway’s weight planted and their lead legs aligned, Volkanovski steps in and hooks inside the leg.

Volkanovski pivots to inside trip Holloway

As he begins to sink forward, Volkanovski pivots hard to the left by arching his back and pulling with the bodylock. Falling straight in would have allowed Holloway to catch himself on the cage, now Volkanovski has a clear path to drop low with the bodylock and attempt to secure positioning.

VIDEO CLIP: Volkanovski takes Max Holloway down for the first time with an inside trip

In short, this trip worked because Volkanovski forced Holloway’s weight over the hooked leg.

But Volkanovski wasn’t done showing off adjustments.

Taking a naked high double leg attempt from the outside, Volkanovski was stifled yet again - Holloway caught an underhook and stood Volkanovski up once again.

This time, Volkanovski had planned ahead. By reaching Holloway’s lead leg on his entry, Volkanovski provided himself a lane to slide up into an underhook. He quickly dealt with Holloway’s underhook as well, raising his arm up and slapping on a collar tie as they stood. Holloway didn’t seem all that interested in retaining that position, he was likely looking to disengage, making it easy for Volkanovski to maneuver into a seemingly less stable tie.

However, as Holloway attempted to pummel, Volkanovski jacked up his underhook and locked his hands behind the neck of Holloway, sliding his grip back down across the back once it was secure.

Perhaps because it was an over-under bodylock and not double underhooks, like the first takedown, Holloway felt safe enough to strike. It was an error - Holloway’s knee strike forced him to plant his foot down forward, pressing his hips against Volkanovski’s and bringing his lead leg even closer.

Volkanovski hugged the bodylock tight to pull Holloway in, hopped in for the inside hook, and initiated the trip.

Volkanovski inside trips Holloway twice

Again - the goal is to drag Holloway over the hooked leg.

To achieve this, as he’s falling forward, Volkanovski rips the bodylock from his right to his left to control the upper body. Aiding that motion, he gets his head on the outside toward the trip to add as much weight as possible.

As he falls, you can observe that Volkanovski is letting the bodylock slip lower and lower toward Holloway’s hips, giving him greater control over Holloway’s trajectory.

VIDEO CLIP: Alexander Volkanovski inside trips Max Holloway for the second time

A sharp pivot, like Volkanovski used for the first trip, is not necessary here as Volkanovski has much more room to work with before they hit the cage.

These takedowns technically did not result in any meaningful offense. Holloway was able to scramble back up without taking damage. However, we know that many MMA judges (incorrectly) give weight to takedowns alone, regardless of the resulting sequence. These brief moments may have been important for the optics of the bout.