Two of the youngest prospects in the UFC will meet this Friday night (June 1, 2012) as 20 year old Max Holloway takes on Minnesota grappler Pat Schilling on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Live Finale main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Max Holloway, at 20 years old, is the current youngest fighters on the UFC roster. It's hard to believe seeing someone fight in a cage who was nearly born in 1992, but here he is. Holloway wants to forget his UFC debut, a wretched showing against a seriously overmatched opponent in Dustin Poirier, and he'll get an opportunity to put it behind him on Friday night.
Pat Schilling is also a youngster who wants to wipe clean the slate of his inaugural UFC fight. Making his debut against the upstart Daniel Pineda, "Thrilling" was far from it, losing dominantly via first round submission. The Minnesota grappler has a shot at redemption against an equally inexperienced foe in Holloway.
Will Holloway mature before our eyes with a strong showing? Can Schilling get back to stopping every opponent in the first round? What's the key to victory for both men on Friday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 4-1 overall, 0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC 143)
How he got here: Max Holloway, hailing from Hawaii, got into MMA very early. Fighting for the X-1 promotion on the big island, "Blessed" scored three straight victories, including winning the X-1 lightweight title over WEC and Strikeforce veteran Harris Sarmiento.
The Sarmiento victory put Holloway on the map, even garnering him a slot on the 2012 BE Scouting Report, and a follow-up decision win put the 20 year old firmly in the UFC's sites. When both Erik Koch and Ricardo Lamas got injured, the youngster was called up to the UFC to face rising contender Dustin Poirier on the UFC 143 undercard.
In that bout, Holloway was controlled and outmuscled by the bigger, stronger and more experienced Poirier, losing via mounted triangle armbar in the first round. He did the UFC a favor so they're giving him another shot. Holloway will be stepping in against someone a little more on his level this time around in Pat Schilling.
How he gets it done: They key for Holloway is to use his strengths which are his dynamic striking and his incredible pace, while avoiding letting Schilling take him down and keep him there.
That means he's got to be a little more cautious in throwing spinning elbows and all sorts of diverse attacks with reckless abandon like he's done in the past, but they aren't completely removed from the equation. If he can throw them in the correct situations, the strikes can still be very lethal.
The other important factor for Holloway is to force Schilling to work extra hard for everything by never slowing down. That shouldn't be too hard for him as he's one of the best conditioned athletes in the division, but if he can wear Schilling down, the threat of being put on his back diminishes significantly.
Record: 5-1 overall, 0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: Daniel Pineda (UFC on FX)
How he got here: Pat Schilling was an avid high school wrestler out of the Minnesota area who made the transition to mixed martial arts in 2009. He had a very impressive 6-0 stint as an amateur and his success continued as a professional.
He started his pro career similarly, going 5-0 in just 18 months, finishing every opponent in the first round and earning the nickname "Thrilling" in the process.
He was given a big jump in competition, taking on fellow UFC newcomer but major veteran Daniel Pineda at the first UFC on FX event, where he would be completely overwhelmed and outmatched, losing via rear naked choke in just 97 seconds.
With that out of the way, the 23 year old will be facing someone in a similar situation this Friday night in Las Vegas.
How he gets it done: Schilling may have been dominated on the ground in his UFC debut, but that's still by far where he's strongest. He's got some respectable wrestling credentials and some nice submissions skills to mix in.
His primary objective should be putting Holloway on his back and keeping him there. Holloway has a penchant for throwing wild attacks and being extremely aggressive. While that's very dangerous and capable of hurting Schilling, the Minnesotan should take advantage of the drop in defenses for Holloway and explode for a takedown by changing levels. The timing should be easy if Holloway gets carried away.
If he can put Holloway on his back, he can't let the Hawaiian off the hook. Expect to see lots of ground and pound mixed with positional control, guard passes and eventually, the coupe de grace, the submission attempt. It will be very difficult to wear Holloway down on the ground as "Blessed" had a tremendous gas tank, but Schilling very well could be able to overpower his foe by sheer brute force, perhaps even make him panic and take advantage of a mistake.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight is obvious, it's whoever is going to recover from a horrific UFC debut and not suffer any jitters this time around that's going to be the winner. Granted, Octagon jitters aren't the sole reason either man lost as they were matched up against some seriously tough opposition in their promotional debuts.
This fight could entirely come down to pacing. If Schilling, a fighter who's never left the first round in his pro career, comes out too hard and can't score the finish, then Holloway almost certainly will take over with his superhuman conditioning. Even so, those first couple minutes could be vital.
Bottom Line: This fight features two very young, very flashy and very inexperienced opponents. There's potential for something amazing here, I can smell it, but there's also a chance that both men are simply so inexperienced that the bout turns into a very sloppy and ugly affair. In my opinion, both featherweights were given a raw deal and brought to the big show before they were ready, but someone is going to be sticking around with a victory regardless, so they might as well put on a good show. I expect a high output from both fighters in the first round, but there's no guarantees after that.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!