Last night (Sat., April 26, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Max Holloway and Andre Fili faced off in the opening pay-per-view (PPV) main card bout of UFC 172 from Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland.
Holloway came in with the momentum of a "Knockout of the Night"-winning victory over Will Chope at UFC Fight Night 34 in January, a fight that ended a two-fight slide for the young Hawaiian.
"Blessed" faced a young and hungry challenger in Team Alpha Male-trained product Fili, who won his only bout Octagon bout at UFC 166, defeating Jeremy Larsen by technical knockout as a late replacement for Charles Oliveira. "Touchy" maintained the confidence of having only loss on his mixed martial arts (MMA) record.
Fighting in a stacked division, Holloway and Fili had a chance to prove they deserve to move to a big name fight in Baltimore. Ultimately, it was Holloway who came out on top in the back-and-forth bout.
The fight began with some striking exchanges, and Fili rushed forward to land a good combo. His punches were finding a home, as were some crisp leg kicks. Fili was landing counters and appeared to have more spring in his step, throwing a solid head kick. Holloway responded with a right hand, but ate a jab and a low kick before getting taken down. The fight briefly went into a clinch along the cage after Holloway landed a hard knee to the body. The first round came to a close with the fighters battling for position against the fence.
Holloway came out aggressive in the second, nailing Fili with a sharp spinning back kick to the body. He followed with a big knee and controlled the action from the clinch. Fili sought a rarely seen flying armbar, but it had no chance. The fighters traded sharp jabs and Holloway shucked off a takedown attempt. Holloway's experience appeared to be taking over a bit in the second, but he was wobbled by another stiff jab. Fili took the fight to the ground to land in Holloway's guard, and the fight returned to the feet. Holloway avoided another takedown as the second round wound down.
The final frame kicked off with Holloway landing a good uppercut off a Fili level change. Fili threw a sloppy high kick and missed on another takedown, but "Touchy" eventually dragged the fight to the mat. Holloway got back up to miss a trip, landing a good right hand before clinching on the cage wall. Holloway locked on a front headlock but soon abandoned it, instead favoring to score a barrage of punches and cinch on a super-tight guillotine choke.
Fili was in dire trouble and soon tapped out towards the end of the third round.
It was a thoroughly impressive performance from "Blessed," who has now won two straight after dropping two. He showed the killer instinct to not let the fight go to the judges' scorecards, and that type of strategy will pay big dividends for him in the Octagon.
He's inching his way back towards facing Top 20-ranked opposition. A bout with someone like Darren Elkins would make sense for the promising Holloway.
For Fili, the loss is a disheartening one. He had a decent amount of hype behind him heading into UFC 172, and he came out strong in the first round. Overall, however, he was largely unable to get Holloway to the ground, and ended up paying the ultimate price for it.
He'll most likely rebound against a fighter near the bottom of the Top 25. The future is still bright for the 23-year-old Fili; he just needs to learn from his mistakes to come back strong. He has the right team in place to do so.
Max Holloway showed excellent takedown defense and striking to finish tough challenger Andre Fili in the third round. What's next for the up-and-coming "Blessed?"