Selling a third fight after one man loses the first two is an impossible task.
I am among the seeming majority of fight fans who believe Max Holloway deserved the nod in the second Volkanovski fight. I certainly would not label the decision a robbery, but Holloway landed the better shots across 25 minutes and appeared to win three rounds. The judges disagreed, and Holloway was handed a second consecutive loss to the champion.
The circumstances do not matter. Holloway has lost twice, and the general public does not want to watch the fight repeated endlessly. Fresh match ups are in demand regardless of the quality and competitiveness of the original fights between the same two men.
Change keeps the UFC machine rolling.
That’s why losing two fights to the champion is such a damning position. The best comparison to Holloway’s spot prior to last night’s bout with Calvin Kattar was Frankie Edgar post-Benson Henderson 2. Like Holloway, most believed Edgar deserved the nod in the rematch. When that didn’t happen, Edgar completely abandoned the division to keep his title dreams alive.
In another example, Joseph Benavidez lost twice to Demetrious Johnson. As a result, he spent literal years beating up all the other toughest Flyweights on the planet, put together a great win streak, and was still unable to score another shot at gold until UFC shipped “Mighty Mouse” to Singapore.
It’s simply a No Man’s Land in terms of forward progress.
That’s what makes Max Holloway’s performance last night so special: he broke the historic mold! Holloway is a decorated former champion with a number of amazing performances to his name (at just 29 years of age!), but his destruction of Calvin Kattar stands on a completely different tier.
Part of that is a credit to Kattar’s considerable abilities. Holloway’s beatdown opposite Brian Ortega was amazing, but it was a kickboxer smacking around a jiu-jitsu guy. Even the Jose Aldo wins can be mildly criticized when one remembers that Holloway’s piece defeated the Brazilian more than his actual technique.
Again, that’s a trio of incredible wins, but this one is different. Kattar is no grappler; he’s a hard-nosed knockout artist who was making his case as the best boxer in his division. Nor was it fatigue that slowed him, as Kattar still occasionally showed flashes of nasty punching in the midst of his mauling.
Holloway went at an incredible dangerous contender from the first bell. He wasted very little time in attacking, working to establish his lead hand and movement. As soon as the jab was landing, Holloway began building combinations, targeting the mid-section and chin alike with his cross. He gave Kattar so many different looks, alternating right low kicks and right stomps, hiding his rips to the body behind head movement, working spins into his game, and discovering a love for elbows somewhere around round four.
Technique, creativity, conditioning — Holloway had it all. Perhaps equally important, Holloway demonstrated his greatness with a genuine swagger, talking with the commentary and simply stunting on Kattar. It made an amazing night even more memorable, and it convinced even more of the combat sports world that a trilogy was necessary.
Maybe Ortega upsets Volkanovski, at which point Holloway could have pulled a title shot with a more conservative win. However, with his legendary performance last night, Holloway defied all historic precedents to all but assure himself a title shot despite his 0-2 hole vs. the current kingpin.
For complete UFC Fight Island 7 “Holloway vs. Kattar results and play-by-play, click HERE!