The Ultimate Fighter
One of the greats of the featherweight division, former world champion Max Holloway returns for his first assignment of 2021 against Calvin Kattar on January 16. Remarkably, the Fight Island bout is Holloway’s first without a title on the line since he faced Ricardo Lamas in June 2016, but the five-rounder is just as important, as a win over the surging Kattar could be the ticket to a shot at regaining his 145-pound crown. Will this headliner be put on Holloway’s list of defining fights? We’ll know in a week, but in the meantime, the best of “Blessed” is below, with recaps of how we called it on fight night.
Rising featherweight star Max Holloway capped off a great night for Hawaii at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore Saturday, as his second round TKO win over Octagon newcomer Will Chope made it three for three for his team in UFC Fight Night action, joining him in the win column with Dustin Kimura and Russell Doane.
Chope worked off any first-time UFC jitters with an active attack, with Holloway forced to pull off some unorthodox moves to keep the Thailand-based fighter off him. In the final two minutes, Holloway finally began to find his range though, and the Hawaiian pounced, landing with hard shots down the middle, forcing Chope to clinch with his opponent against the fence in the final minute before a round finishing barrage of strikes from Holloway.
Holloway continued to press in the second round, and Chope was forced to go on the defensive as Holloway unleashed punches and kicks upstairs and downstairs. After a rough sequence, Chope fired back and then clinched with Holloway against the fence, getting a brief breather. Once the two broke, Holloway went on the attack once again, and this time he dropped Chope to the mat, with a follow up series of strikes prompting referee Leon Roberts to halt the fight at 2:27 of the second round.
Max Holloway’s six-fight winning streak is impressive in and of itself, but when that sixth straight win saw him finish off top featherweight contender Cub Swanson in the third round, it added that little something more to the resume of a young man who is on the fast track to a 145-pound title shot.
In the past, Swanson’s best striking performances always occurred when he was able to attack his opponent from several different angles. In the first round, he was victim of his own medicine, as Holloway used movement, plus a varied and busy attack to keep Swanson guessing. The Californian did get his share of hard shots in, but not nearly enough to deter Holloway, and by walking straight in, he was giving his opponent plenty of opportunities to hit him.
Holloway moved from volume to precision in the second, potshotting Swanson throughout much of the round. But in the closing stages, Swanson began to get more shots in as Holloway did more moving than punching and kicking, tightening matters a bit.
In the third though, Holloway appeared to have his second wind, as he again pressed the action and even added in a display of his ground game. The first submission attempt came up short, but the second finished the bout, with the Hawaiian’s guillotine choke producing a tap out at 3:58 of the final frame.
In the lead-up to his UFC 206 main event against Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway walked with the quiet confidence of a champion and on Saturday at Air Canada Centre, he earned the hardware to go with it, stopping Pettis in the third round to win the interim UFC featherweight belt.
But the 25-year-old Holloway, Hawaii’s first UFC champion since BJ Penn, won’t be satisfied until he unifies the belt with current titleholder Jose Aldo, and he’s got just the place for it.
“Meet me in Brooklyn,” Holloway shouted, referring to February’s UFC 208 card at Barclays Center. “Let’s get the real one.”
It’s what Holloway has wanted throughout his 10-fight winning streak, but to get to that magic number 10, he had to get by the former lightweight champion, whose failure to make weight for Saturday’s bout left him ineligible to win the interim belt. After the fight, Pettis said he would be moving back to the 155-pound division while giving Holloway praise for the win.
“Max Holloway is a beast,” Pettis said. “I’ll give it to you straight. He got in there and stood with me and he got the belt. He’s a good fighter.”
A fired-up Pettis refused to touch gloves with Holloway to start the bout, and while the first round was largely a tactical one, Pettis looked comfortable in the midst of the battle, as he got back to the creative striking style that he built his reputation on. Holloway got more effective as the round progressed, landing some hard counters that bruised up Pettis’ right eye.
Holloway got the second round off to a good start with a right hand that briefly dropped Pettis. In response, Pettis surged forward and got more aggressive, but his eye was becoming a problem and he also told his corner that he broke his right hand in the first round, making matters worse because Holloway was getting sharper with his attacks. Late in the round, Pettis was looking for the takedown, but Holloway wasn’t having it, and both stayed upright until the horn sounded.
Mixing his attacks well, Holloway also tossed in a sweep in the second minute of round three, adding to his point total. Even in the clinch, Holloway was the busier fighter, but Pettis kept working, hoping to regain the lead. Another sweep by Holloway in the final minute added to the Hawaiian’s point total, and suddenly, Holloway began tagging Pettis with body shots. Stunned, Pettis went back to the fence, and Holloway opened up with both hands, dropping Pettis to the mat, where referee Yves Lavigne stepped in and stopped the fight at 4:50 of the third round.
Max Holloway’s eleventh consecutive victory was the most important of his life, as the pride of Waianae, Hawaii dethroned the king of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the main event of UFC 212 at Jeunesse Arena, stopping Jose Aldo in three rounds to become the undisputed UFC featherweight champion of the world.
“I’ve been telling you guys already, this is the ‘Blessed’ era,” said Holloway, who unified the interim title he won last December with Aldo’s the UFC’s first featherweight champion, whose reign at the top since 2010 was only interrupted when he was defeated by Conor McGregor in 2015. Aldo would take an interim belt back when he defeated Frankie Edgar last July, and the Brazilian superstar was elevated to full champion when McGregor vacated the belt.
But all that back and forth was put to rest by Holloway in less than 15 minutes in Aldo’s hometown.
The two circled each other warily in the opening minute before Holloway began to lead, with Aldo seeking openings to counter. With a little over two minutes gone, Aldo tagged Holloway with a left hook and right cross that staggered the Hawaiian, and the Brazilian flurried in an attempt to finish. Holloway recovered well but wasn’t able to even the score with Aldo, who landed more hard shots before the round ended.
Aldo remained the more accurate striker of the two in the second, and it didn’t help Holloway that every blow thrown by the Brazilian – even the ones that missed – drew roars from the crowd. Holloway was finding his rhythm, though, and he began to land more than he did in the previous round, drawing Aldo into more exchanges. After taking a couple hard blows from Aldo in the closing minute, Holloway began to showboat, only to get caught again as the horn sounded.
Holloway upped his work rate in the third and his accuracy rate was increasing too as he pushed Aldo at every turn. Two minutes in, a flush right hand dropped Aldo and Holloway moved in for the finish. Aldo tried to clear his head, but Holloway was relentless in his attack, with a series of right hands continuing to jar the Brazilian. As Holloway got into the mount position and then took Aldo’s back, the punches kept coming, and eventually, referee John McCarthy had no choice but to stop the bout. The time of the stoppage was 4:13.
Max Holloway didn’t have to quote Mark Twain at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, but after his fourth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Brian Ortega, it’s safe to say that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated, as his first fight in a year showed him in prime form as he retained his UFC featherweight title for the second time in the main event of UFC 231, pushing his winning streak to 13 in the process.
The win came after a tumultuous year in which he was forced to withdraw from three 2018 bouts. But in his fourth scheduled bout, he was in the Octagon and determined to silence any doubters.
Holloway was sharp on his feet in the early stages of the bout, landing clean strikes and getting out of range before Ortega could respond. The right hand was particularly effective for the Hawaiian, but Ortega did get his attention with a couple shots. A takedown attempt from Ortega with 1:40 left came up empty, and Holloway’s confidence was growing as he showboated and then tagged his foe, Ortega responded with a knee late in the round, but the frame belonged to the champion.
Holloway’s death by a thousand cuts attack was taking its toll on Ortega in the second round as he busted up the challenger’s nose and bloodied his face. Ortega kept throwing back, not about to give in, but right hands kept tagging him with regularity, leading to another solid round for Holloway.
Ortega started the third round strong, as he nailed Holloway with several hard shots and then nearly took his back on a takedown attempt. Holloway got out of immediate danger but then ate an elbow from the hungry challenger. The exchanges progressively got more heated as the round progressed, with only a brief clinch against the fence breaking things up. In the final minute, Holloway began to take control again, but an Ortega clinch late slowed the champion’s momentum.
Holloway blasted Ortega with a right hand to start the fourth round, and he was clearly looking to end matters. Ortega took the punches well, but Holloway was pouring it on as he caught the Californian against the fence. In the midst of the Holloway barrage, Ortega fired back, unwilling to back down. Midway through the round, Ortega went all in for a takedown, even pulling guard at one point, but Holloway wasn’t having it, and when the two broke up, Ortega’s face was bloody and swollen, and only getting worse. As the two fell to the mat, Ortega briefly has Holloway’s leg, but Holloway rose and continued to unleash hell on the gritty challenger, who somehow made it to the end of the round. But the Octagonside physician had seen enough, calling a halt to the bout before the start of the fifth round.
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