The UFC makes its return this weekend with UFC Fight Island 7 in Abu Dhabi. Max Holloway looks to right the ship in his first non-title fight since 2016. Now’s a good time to look back on the future hall of famer’s career.
The way in which Holloway arrived to this weekend’s fight with Calvin Kattar was complex. When he first burst onto the scene his talents were doubted. Then, the ‘Blessed Era’ reigned supreme over the featherweight division for three years before coming to a halt in 2019.
Still somehow just 29 years of age, he takes on another worthy, dangerous opponent at UFC Fight Island 7 in Calvin Kattar. It’s been a long road to this point for the 23-fight UFC veteran, but a historic road nonetheless.
UFC Debut: Feb. 4th, 2012
In many ways, Max Holloway’s UFC debut encompassed the badass he’d prove to be. He accepted a late-notice fight versus future interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier – who by that point was (3-0) in the UFC and slated to face Ricardo Lamas before the latter got injured.
That night at UFC 143, Holloway was the youngest fighter on the UFC’s roster. Additionally, it was his debut fighting at featherweight. Considering all the circumstances, Holloway proved a lot – even in defeat.
At just 21 years old, Max Holloway gained vital experience in his first round submission loss to Dustin Poirier.
Begins Career Middling at (3-3)
Hawaii’s finest made it a point to be active early in his UFC career. Fighting six times (including vs Poirier) in his first 18 months apart of the promotion didn’t yield the results he was looking for though.
Max Holloway clearly belonged in the UFC, but some questioned just how high his ceiling in the sport was. Rattling off three straight wins after losing his debut, ‘Blessed’ appeared ready to takeoff towards the top. However, two straight decision losses – one being split to Dennis Bermudez in a fight many believed he won – and the other being unanimous to Conor McGregor – left him in limbo.
Of course looking back, two of his first three losses were to future champs (Poirier being interim). Yet, not one of the three were much more than prospects at the time of the fight. They were simply a step ahead in their career’s when they fought.
What emerged from these middling times was the spawning of the Max Holloway we know and love today.
Wins & Bonuses Begin Adding Up
In January of 2014, Holloway knocked out UFC newcomer Will Chope in a Knockout of the Night effort. It was his first bonus-worthy performance, and it was just the beginning of his historic run.
Holloway went on to finish five out of his next six opponents. Those he finished included: Andre Fili, Cub Swanson, and Charles Oliveira (injury). His submission over Swanson, along with a knockout over Akira Corassani earned him Performance of the Night bonuses.
Max Holloway became the youngest UFC fighter ever to record 10 wins at just 24 after he defeated Oliveira.
After his seventh straight victory, the UFC awarded him a fight against the battle-tested Jeremy Stephens. Holloway ran away with the decision victory. Six months later, Holloway would make the biggest statement of his promising career by defeating Ricardo Lamas via decision. That victory would earn him his first title shot.
The ‘Blessed Era’ Begins
Max Holloway headlined for the first time in his UFC career when he faced Anthony Pettis at UFC 206. The main event was for the interim featherweight championship – Conor McGregor was stripped a month prior after beating Eddie Alvarez and winning the lightweight belt.
Holloway TKO’d Pettis in the third round; earning him Performance of the Night honors once again. Now riding a 10 fight win streak, ‘Blessed’ took on Jose Aldo in a featherweight title unification bout. Not only did Holloway finish Aldo in the third round – he did the exact same thing in the rematch six months later.
In his second official title defense, Holloway found himself in a spot he’d never been before – welcoming the new wave in Brian Ortega. The result was an overwhelmingly successful defense in which he earned both Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night nods.
At this point, Max Holloway had won 13 straight – which is tied for the second longest winning streak in the history of the UFC.
A Difficult Last Two Years
A brand new opportunity arose for Holloway after defeating Ortega in December of 2018. The lightweight belt was up for grabs with Khabib being stripped. Thus, Dana White offered Holloway the chance to both avenge his loss to Dustin Poirier and become “double-champ”. Unfortunately for Max, he found himself on the wrong end of the judges’ scorecards in what was a Fight of the Year candidate in 2019.
Losing to Poirier the way he did was far from the end of the world. Simply, the still featherweight champ went back down to defend his belt – and he did just that. Holloway spent 25 minutes in the octagon with Frankie Edgar – this time the judges scored the fight unanimously for the champ.
Then, in December of 2019 at UFC 245, Holloway met his match at 145lbs. Well, kind of. Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski spent a total of 50 minutes inside the cage together over the course of two fights. The first fight, two judges scored it (48-47) for Volkanovski with one judge giving all five rounds to the challenger. I gave the fight to the New Zealander, but no way in hell did he take all five rounds.
Nevertheless, they run it back – and somehow it becomes more controversial than the first. This time the public perception was that Holloway did enough to win. Yet again, the judges thought otherwise (well two of them anyway).
‘Blessed’ Era 2.0?
This weekend at UFC Fight Island 7, Max Holloway has the opportunity to put his name right back into the title mix. Beating a guy as respected as Calvin Kattar will likely earn the former champ a title shot his next time out.
Whether he wins or loses, Holloway will again be apart of history as the UFC debuts on the network channel ABC. Moreover, he will be headlining the inaugural card at the brand new Etihad arena on FIght Island.
Remember, Max Holloway is still only 29 years old and he looked far from finished in his last two fights – despite them being defeats. Don’t be surprised if he regains the throne he once sat upon.
Tune into the prelims on ESPN+ at 12:00PM (ET). The main card kicks off at 3:00PM (ET) on both ESPN+ and ABC, headlined by none other than Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway.
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