HE was dragged into deeper water than he's ever ventured but Alex Volkanovski rallied to defend his UFC featherweight title with a razor thin split decision win over Max Holloway on Sunday.
In another five-round war between the pair, Volkanovski hit the canvas twice in the opening two rounds that clearly went to the Hawaiian, but finished stronger with multiple takedowns in the championship rounds.
In a result that appeared to hinge on a tight third round, two of three judges awarding the decision three rounds to two to the Wollongong native and one scoring it in identical fashion for Holloway.
It wasn't as convincing as his first win over the former long-reigning champion but, after nearly an hour of combat between the pair, Volkanovski rubber-stamped the 'undisputed' tag on his featherweight title.
"It was a tough fight, Max brought it, he stood there and really didn't take a backward step," Volkanovski said.
"I've got nothing but respect for Max, I know we had words [pre-fight], he did well but I got the job done. We've had 10 rounds and I was able to dominate him throughout, of course he won some as well.
"He made it tough for me in those early rounds, I couldn't use the leg kicks as much as I'd like but I still got the job done. It's the fight game, you prepare for the worst, I wanted to finish him early and I couldn't get that done but we got the job done.
"He's durable, I thought I could take him out but even when I was on top, I thought I'd be too strong there, but he did well to get back up. I'm always going to play what's in front of me, I'm a well rounded fighter, he's tough, he's a gamer, we're both hard workers, but no one can outdo me there.
"I dug deep in the last round, it was two [rounds] apiece and I had to win that last round. I wanted the finish, I know he went for the finish, but we both didn't get it but I got the decision."
MORE TO COME