Despite his recent featherweight championship defeat to Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski, there is simply no denying the run of incumbent 145-pound best, Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway.
The Hawaiian has experienced one of the most meteoric, and fully deserved rises in recent Octagon memory, since his early faltering stint with the promotion. One of the most technically gifted fighters of his generation, Max Holloway has supremely polished stand-up, consisting of quick combinations, fluid footwork and boxing, impeccable balance and at featherweight today, almost unmatched distance control when in his groove. The Gracie Technics trainee has a truly ridiculous gas-tank, almost developing the longer a fight goes on, and increasing his output to boot.
Holloway began his UFC career against future interim lightweight championship opponent, Dustin Poirier, losing via a first round mounted triangle armbar. Despite the defeat, Holloway displayed some decent striking, something that has become a staple of his hugely successful career so far. Before the defeat Volkanovski last weekend, Holloway had only been bested by Poirier, Dennis Bermudez, and Conor McGregor. And still just 28 year’s of age, the Honolulu native has more than enough time to launch a second siege of the featherweight throne.
After his 2013 defeat to the previously mentioned McGregor, Holloway would go on to score an incredible win streak, spanning a staggering thirteen fights. In what proved to be one of the most gruelling journey’s to championship gold in UFC history, Holloway finally earned his opportunity at the tail-end of 2016. Before meeting Anthony Pettis in an interim championship meeting, of note, Holloway had bested Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas. In the main event of UFC 206, Holloway became the first to finish Pettis via strikes as barrage after barrage forced the former lightweight king to the canvas after a vicious body combination.
The following year, Holloway managed one of the most incredible feats in the sport’s history. Firstly on hostile soil, Holloway unified the featherweight title as he finished José Aldo via a third round knockout. In his first title defense, Holloway once more scored a finish of Aldo via strikes, in the third round. We really experienced a showcase of Holloway’s striking ability in those two fights with the Brazilian, as he landed combination after combination as the fight progressed.
In his next title defense, we witnessed arguably the best version of Max Holloway we’ve ever seen. Entering the main event of UFc 231, as an underdog no less, Holloway was tasked with handed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappling ace Brian Ortega his first professional defeat. Ortega had just finished Cub Swanson via a standing guillotine, before becoming the premier fighter to finish Frankie Edgar via strikes, in a short-notice pairing.
The five round affair, which subsequently was stopped on the stool after the close of the fourth frame, was as one-sided a championship matchup you’re likely to find in modern mixed-martial-arts. Ortega never won a single round, and after a boxing masterclass for three of those rounds, Holloway upped the tempo in the fourth and landed a staggering one-hundred and thirty-four strikes. Between the third and fourth round, Holloway promised UFC colour-commentator, Joe Rogan, that he would score a finish in the penultimate frame. Mission accomplished. Everything came together for Holloway that night in Ontario. It was confidence, technique, fluidity and composure which seen Holloway to his second successful title defense.
After an unsuccessful excursion at lightweight against the aforementioned Poirier, Holloway would finally enter the Octagon against Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar. In what proved a ‘third time lucky’ pairing, Holloway would lodge his third, and final title defense, via a unanimous decision triumph over Edgar at UFC 240 in July. In a somewhat reserved showing in terms of output, Holloway still managed to out-land Edgar who was attempting to become a two-weight UFC world champion.
I’m fully convinced Max Holloway not only deserves an immediate featherweight championship rematch against Volkanovski, but we will also see the Hawaii fan-favorite reach the summit once again. There’s a certain likeability surrounding Holloway – he’s entertaining, extremely talented, some would argue a generational talent, and one of the best fighters we’ve seen in terms of natural ability. For that reason, Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway kicks-off this Top 10 list.
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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