Former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway is hoping a New Year will be a new start in his quest to regain the crown, but can ‘Blessed’ snap his two-fight skid on January 16 or will Calvin Kattar upset the Hawaiian can catapult himself to the front of the queue for a shot at the gold in 2021?
The growth and rise of Holloway was one of the most fun stories to watch unfold between 2014 and 2018. He bounced back from a decision defeat to Conor McGregor with a 13-fight win streak that propelled him to the top of the division and also saw him secure a crack at becoming a two-weight world champion. Holloway ducked nobody on his rise and the more he climbed the ladder the more impressive results he produced.
A third-round stoppage of Anthony Pettis earned him the interim featherweight belt in December 2016 and six months later he left no doubt about who the king of the weight class was, dominating and taking out Jose Aldo inside three rounds. Just to prove it was no fluke, who produced another third-round stoppage of the Brazilian legend when the two men met later that year. His second successful defence saw beat up, batter and bloody rising star Brian Ortega over four rounds before the doctor finally pulled the challenger, and following that victory the decision was made to grant him a shot at becoming one of very few fighters to hold two UFC titles at the same time.
Holloway made the move up to lightweight to fight Dustin Poirier for the interim crown, giving him a chance to avenge a 2012 defeat at the hands of ‘The Diamond’ in the process. His bid ended in failure – Poirier was simply the better man on the night and although Holloway made a quick return to winning ways to retain his featherweight crown a few months later, it was not long before he would taste defeat again. Holloway lost the title to Alexander Volkanovski 12 months ago and when the pair met again in July, the judges once again came down on the side of the Australian.
That loss sent Holloway back to the drawing board and he will be desperate to avoid a fourth defeat in five fights when he returns to action on January 1. But is ‘Blessed’ now on a downturn in his career or is this merely a bump in the road for a talented fighter who still has plenty to offer? I am going for the former, and that means this is a huge opportunity for Calvin Kattar to register a career-defining win that will put him firmly in the title picture.
2020 has been a good year for the 32-year-old American on a professional level. He rebounded from the decision defeat to Zabit Magomedsharipov by taking out veteran Jeremy Stephens halfway through the second round back in May and then made a swift return to the Octagon in July to best Dan Ige over five rounds and continue his rise back up the ladder. He faces a huge step up in quality on January 16, but will Kattar be up the challenge?
There is no doubting that Holloway is in a slump as far as results are concerned, but I do not feel like we are watching a fighter trying to combat father time, wear and tear, and his opponent all at the same time. Many felt like the former champion had done enough to regain the belt from Volkanovski earlier this year and for me it is only a matter of time before he completes a trilogy of title fights with the Aussie or takes on the man who dethrones Volkanovski. Kattar will be the first step on the road to that happening.
This fight will come down to who is the better of the two strikers and there is no doubting in my mind that Holloway fits that bill. Kattar will have his moments because ‘Blessed’ sometimes decides the best method of blocking shots is to use his face, but ultimately Holloway will have the better of the exchanges, using his slick skills and superior cardio to work over his opponent. Kattar is not an easy out though – he has only been stopped once in his career and that was by submission – so having seen the judges go against him twice in a row it will be third time lucky for Holloway as they award him the decision and put him right back track for another title shot.