Well, Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway has certainly made me eat my words. Not in regards to the outcome of Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 7’s main event — but his performance against gritty contender, Calvin Kattar.
Back in December of 2018, the Hawaiian successfully defended his featherweight title against upcoming title challenger, Brian ‘T-City’ Ortega, in arguably one of the best, one-sided performances in promotional history. In last week’s edition of The Breakdown — I noted Holloway’s incredible volume striking that can hold out for an entire twenty-five minute period, and even grow, however, I firmly believed recreating a performance we witnessed against Ortega in the future would be almost impossible.
Smashing his own record-setting performance for significant strikes landed against Ortega, the Waianae native completely outclassed Kattar for the entire five-round affair, picking up an unheard of 50-42 unanimous decision on one of the judge’s scorecards.
Undoubtedly eclipsing his display against Ortega, the former champion looked as sharp as we’ve ever seen him in his professional career in a fight of this magnitude, landing double-figure combinations against Metheun native, Kattar on cue.
In some real notable moments from the one-sided win, Holloway pinned the New England Cartel mainstay against the fence, a major factor in his success, slashing with slicing step-in elbows and accurate hooks — evading counters with immaculate head movement.
Before the final minute mark of the final frame, Holloway took a moment, during an exchange no less, to chat with commentary trio, Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier, and Dan Hardy — claiming he’s “the best boxer in the UFC” — while stunningly landing a no-look right hand, and evading a five-punch counter from Kattar, with eyes firmly fixed on everywhere else other than his opponent.
Holloway most definitely hasn’t lost a step despite recent results against Alexander Volkanovski and Dustin Poirier, despite the view of some. He looks as ready for a title opportunity as any contender I’ve seen in recent years. And off the back of last night’s breathtaking performance, denying him the victor of the UFC 260 title showdown of the above mentioned, Volkanovski and Ortega would be criminal regardless of outcome.
Kattar is undeniably going to stay among the ranks of the elite at featherweight, however, major questions must be asked regarding a high-profile corner’s willingness to save their combatant from themselves in a high-profile event. Anthony Smith’s side failed to do so last May in his drubbing at the hands of Glover Teixeira, and for me, Kattar could’ve been saved from a lot more punishment before the fourth round especially.
The Massachusetts native must be applauded, however. Failing to ever take a step back on his own merit, Kattar was pushed to the fence time and time again by the pressure of Holloway, something which would’ve proved detrimental in his pursuit of a victory. We’re only halfway through the opening month of 2021, however, I don’t want to see Kattar make an Octagon return for quite some time off the back of that defeat.
Below, join me as I play matchmaker for the outstanding Holloway as well as the steely, admirable, Kattar as he looks to puff some wind back into his sails next time out.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega Winner vs. Max Holloway:
This is pretty straightforward. And if the promotion had yet to be book Volkanovski and Ortega, you could make the argument that a trilogy between the former and Holloway would be the fight to make following last night’s display.
Despite dropping two defeats to Volkanovski, the fact that his second loss to the Aussie was as contentious as it was, denying him a third outing is a non-runner. For that reason, Holloway is in an almost ‘win-win’ position looking in from the outside. He’s already battered Ortega from pillar to post for four of five rounds, and should the Californian defeat Volkanovski, you can be sure he’ll want to right his lone career wrong against Holloway.
For Ortega, he looked absolutely spectacular in his Octagon return last October. Displaying some sharp hands and even elbows like Holloway, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player made a massive evolution with his standup game, walking renowned finisher, ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung onto shots for five-rounds — scoring two heavy knockdowns to boot.
We’re then faced with a somewhat burning question if Ortega overcomes Vokanovski. Can he right the many wrongs which saw him receive a multitude of brutal barrages from Holloway on countless occasions in 2018? Get past Volkanovski in March and that’s a major feather in the proverbial cap for the Californian.
Calvin Kattar vs. Sodiq Yusuff:
Let me stress, I do not want to see Calvin Kattar step foot in a UFC Octagon until the fall, and if he elected to take an entire year away from professional mixed martial arts off the back of last night’s loss, even better.
Absorbing strikes as often as he did against Holloway, is more than likely going to have a residual effect on his fighting career in the future.
Matching with someone like ‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuff makes sense for Kattar in his next Octagon outing in my opinion. Clashing with the #10 ranked contender, Kattar meets another stout challenge, but also one who has a hugely contrasting style to Holloway.
Kattar and Yusuff both have massive power in their respective hands, with a similar approach to throwing their shots.
Yusuff would enter the clash off the back of a four-fight unbeaten run in the promotion following his transition from Dana White’s Contender Series back in July of 2018. Sharing common-opposition in the form of Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili, the 27-year-old took home a unanimous decision victory over the Team Alpha MMA trainee at UFC 246 in January of last year.
While Yusuff is unlikely to wait a further six months or so for his next Octagon outing, if he’s not necessarily rushed through the rankings, a matchup with someone of Kattar’s status in the division may be warranted by the time latter makes his return to the Octagon.