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UFC Fight Island 7 preview, ‘Holloway vs Kattar’ predictions

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UFC 226 and The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Open Workouts Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Is Max Holloway the new featherweight gatekeeper?

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will ask the former champion to prove he’s still got the chops to compete for the division title when he collides with surging 145-pound bruiser Calvin Kattar, who looks to establish himself as more than just a mid-card mauler with knockout power. They’ll get down to business in the UFC Fight Island 7 main event this Sat. night (Jan. 16, 2021) on ESPN+ and ABC from inside Etihad Arena on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Before that fast-paced clash of styles gets underway, former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit will try to turn back the clock against Matt Brown.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon under COVID lockdown.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Fight Island 7 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Holloway vs. Kattar” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work.

145 lbs.: Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar

Max “Blessed” Holloway

Record: 21-6 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -150
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 69” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.47 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.52 | Striking Defense: 61%
Takedown Average: 0.22 (83% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 83%
Current Ranking: No. 1 | Last fight: Split-decision loss to Alex Volkanovski

Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar

Record: 22-4 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +130
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 9 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.01 | Striking accuracy: 41%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.66 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 0.47 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 88%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Dan Ige

Most of the talk surrounding Max Holloway has been (and continues to be) his close decision loss to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 251 last July. And while the “Blessed” team is parroting promotion president Dana White, who believes the Hawaiian got robbed in his 145-pound rematch, I’m not sure it was the injustice the narrative is making it out to be. Most of the major media outlets including MMA Junkie and Sherdog scored it for Volkanovski, because it was a close fight and close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. I think the question I have heading into this fight is how much Holloway is thinking about his Volkanovski loss. Yes, he says all the right things during the pre-fight videos — Calvin Kattar is my only focus and blah, blah, blah — but those of us who’ve been around the fight game know that bad losses are like bad teeth, they are hard to ignore because they hurt so much. I also have to be “that guy” and wonder about that brain scare we had back in summer 2018. The tests came back normal and Holloway claims to feel fine, but it’s worth pointing out that “Blessed” went on to lose three of his next five.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

It’s hard to know what we’ve got in the form of Calvin Kattar, a talented boxer with good power and a rock-solid chin. I think the reason “The Boston Finisher” is joining us this weekend atop the promotion’s return to Abu Dhabi is because of his knockout win over Jeremy Stephens. They certainly aren’t showing you any highlights from his Dan Ige headliner on ESPN because there aren’t any. I don’t want to poo-poo on a win because it certainly beats a loss, I just prefer not to get overly excited about what Kattar has been doing at 145 pounds. Case in point: Stephens is ranked No. 8 in the division but “Lil’ Heathen” has lost four straight fights (not including his No Contest) and was knocked out in two of those losses. Similarly, Kattar took Ricardo Lamas behind the woodshed when “The Bully” was already 37 years-old by that point and tumbling down the 145-pound ladder. It’s also fair to point out that Kattar’s loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov was just over a year ago, so we can’t pretend “The Boston Finisher” is light years ahead of where he once was. Remember, he’s going up against the No. 1-ranked fighter in the division who has fought (and beaten) just about every big name at featherweight. If there was ever a time to nitpick, this is it.

This is a dangerous fight for Holloway because he’s lumbering to the cage with something to prove and wants to unload his offense on Kattar. What worries me is that we don’t know when the levee is going to break; meaning, Holloway has taken so much abuse over the course of his hall-of-fame career that we can’t predict which punch is going to be the one to close the show. It happens to all the greats and it will eventually happen to “Blessed” ... but is this the fight? As nervous as I am about the Hawaiian’s doomsday clock, I still think he’s got the championship chops to make this a one-sided affair. Kattar can bang but the knockout is hardly a foregone conclusion. Ige went 25 minutes with “The Boston Finisher” and Holloway can too, the difference is Kattar won’t be able to put the hurt on Holloway the way he did “50k.” I would expect a close, competitive contest for the first couple of rounds, but sooner or later Holloway is going to find his rhythm and pull away in the latter half of the fight.

Prediction: Holloway def. Kattar by decision

170 lbs.: Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown

Carlos “Natural Born Killer” Condit

Record: 31-13 | Age: 36 | Betting line: -165
Wins: 15 KO/TKO, 13 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 6 DEC
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.69 | Striking accuracy: 39%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.52 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 0.55 (55% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 36%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Court McGee

“The Immortal” Matt Brown

Record: 22-17 | Age: 40 | Betting line: +145
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.81 | Striking accuracy: 54%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.51 | Striking Defense: 47%
Takedown Average: 1.60 (47% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 63%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Miguel Baeza

Carlos Condit is competing on what amounts to the final fight of his UFC contract and he’s already talking about free agency. I would hate to see him go, but considering what “The Natural Born Killer” has done over the last five years, it might be time for a change of scenery. Condit, one of the shining stars of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), failed to capture the welterweight title from Georges St-Pierre at UFC 154 and it’s been downhill ever since, to the tune of 3-8 with four losses by way of knockout or submission. It’s been kind of a shock to see a fighter with his durability — along with his well-rounded skills — fall off the cliff so fast and so hard. I guess now is a good time to mention the longtime Jackson-Wink product turns 37 in April so it’s not like time is on his side. I know 37 isn’t over the hill in this day and age but let’s also consider that Condit has 44 professional fights under his belt after 19 years in the fight game.

Simply put: there are a lot of miles on those tires.

The same can be said for opponent Matt Brown, who turned 40 earlier his month but looks 102. Seriously, go back and watch his media day appearance because “The Immortal” looks like he drank from the false grail. Like Condit, the years have not been kind to the former “Ultimate Fighter” and Brown is coming off a technical knockout loss to Miguel Baeza. It’s bad enough to lose by TKO but it’s even worse to lose to a fighter nicknamed “Caramel Thunder.” Prior to that, Brown was able to sedate shopworn welterweight TUF guys in the form of Ben Saunders and Diego Sanchez. That probably would have been impressive in 2009. These days it’s nothing more than a box to check. Brown hits hard and fights like a caged animal but he also has a staggering 10 losses by way of submission. I get that not everyone likes to train jiu-jitsu, but 10? That could end up costing him against Condit, who ends nearly half his wins by way of tap, nap, or snap.

If Condit was interested in fighting intelligently and winning at any cost, he could probably end this bout by way of first-round submission. I’m not convinced he doesn’t take that route with his contract up for grabs, but there’s also a reason he’s nicknamed “The Natural Born Killer.” Condit wants to go out the same way he came in — on his shield — and that is the kind of fight Brown excels in. But even if Condit gives him what he wants, Brown can be so damn inconsistent that it makes picking him a risk (the “Cowboy” Cerrone fight comes to mind). The fan is me is expecting a “Fight of the Night” between two killers who are looking to go out on top but the analyst in me sees Condit fighting for his immediate future and not for his combat sports legacy.

Prediction: Condit def. Brown by submission

Remember, the rest of the UFC Fight Island 7 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 7 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ABC and ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 7 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete UFC Fight Island 7 fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.