Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight contenders Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas will duel this Saturday (June 4, 2016) at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Holloway has been on a tear, winning his last eight bouts. However, with the top of the division fairly jammed up, the Hawaiian simply has to keep winning fights and someday hope the title shot will emerge.
Since coming up short to Jose Aldo in his shot at the title, Lamas has won three of four bouts. However, to really get back into the title mix, Lamas needs a major win ... and this is a great opportunity.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 15), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 194), Andre Fili (UFC 172)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway has quickly grown into a rather well-rounded fighter. He's always been a reasonably skilled kickboxer, but his striking has grown tremendously, and he's now a formidable grappler as well.
Stylistically, this is one of the tougher match ups of Holloway's recent opponents. Most of the men he's faced on his win streak have been strikers, whereas Lamas is an excellent wrestler who can also be tricky at range.
With that in mind, Holloway needs to ensure that he's the one throwing more strikes. Lamas can kick well, but he cannot tie together combinations like the Hawaiian kickboxer.
In addition, Holloway needs to ensure his movement and footwork is on point. He can't over-commit to his punches and wind up on his back, as Lamas is very skilled from top position and could use the occasionally takedown to steal close rounds.
Basically, Holloway should be able to utilize his kickboxing and range advantage, but he needs to avoid making any mistakes.
Key Wins: Dennis Bermudez (UFC 180), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 1), Hacran Dias (UFC Fight Night 44)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 169), Chad Mendes (UFC Fight Night 63)
Keys to Victory: Lamas is a crafty grappler with some unorthodox striking. He's really put his game together well in the last couple years, filling in the gaps and transitioning more fluidly.
In this bout, the takedown will be the key to upsetting Holloway. While Holloway's takedown defense and scrambling should keep him upright for most of the fight, the occasional success will be enough to shift the momentum into his favor.
On the whole, Lamas' kicks on the outside combined with the threat of the takedown should allow him to keep the fight very close. That's when scoring the takedown -- or even controlling Holloway against the fence for an extended period of time -- will help him win rounds.
If Lamas is able to frustrate Holloway, it should make the takedown come far easier. Then, should Lamas be able to find himself in top position with some consistency, he can really open up and try to finish his opponent.
Bottom Line: This is a very important match up for the Featherweight division, as the winner is very close to a title shot.
In different times, Holloway would've already earned a title shot. However, McGregor's absence at 145 pounds caused the interim title to be created, and the winner of that bout will surely get a chance to unify the belts.
Therefore, it's still going to be a while.
On the bright side, Holloway will have cleared out most of the top threats in his division with a win here. If he does get another match up before fighting for the title, it'll likely be against an easier -- on paper at least -- opponent.
Alternatively, a loss would certainly be a serious setback for the young Hawaiian. He's on a tremendous win streak, so it would be a disappointment for that to end here.
Lamas doesn't suffer quite as much from the divisional clog, as he still needs time to earn a second title shot. Luckily, a win over Holloway would be a really solid step forward towards that goal.
The stakes are high for Lamas. Depending on the result, he's either won four of his last five or lost two of his last three. The former is a path to the title, whereas the ladder could be a sign of a fall from the title mix.
At UFC 199, Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas will battle in a pivotal Featherweight scrap. Which fighter will have his hand raised?