While Max Holloway had already built a case for his championship ability before Saturday, he only solidified it with a stunning win against Calvin Kattar.
Max Holloway didn’t have much to prove on Saturday. Having fought for years at a championship level, everybody knew about his toughness, cardio, striking ability and so on. But after losing his belt via decision and a follow-up loss to Alexander Volkanovski in 2020, it only made sense that the UFC would put him a level below challenging for a title – a position he was absent from for years.
It’s safe to say that his next fight shouldn’t be at that level again. When watching his fight, it became clear pretty quickly why he was at the championship level for so long and why he deserves to go back to it.
With a five-round striking clinic against Calvin Kattar on Saturday night, Holloway showed that not only does he deserve to compete at the highest level in the featherweight division, but also that the gap between the upper echelon in the division and the rest is so wide.
The bloody and damaging 25-minute win on Saturday for Holloway saw him connect with quick combinations that would stun and back Kattar up consistently. Holloway’s confidence lead him to a final round that could have been from a movie, as he matrix’d through a combo of punches from Kattar while he put his hands down while audibly proclaiming to be the best boxer in the UFC.
The toughness of Kattar and the long-lasting performance from him could have arguably been stopped before the fight touched championship rounds. That decision, left up to the referee and his team, was never opted for.
As Holloway proved himself to be championship worthy, a sentiment shared by UFC President Dana White, then it’s worth looking at his options going forward.
Holloway’s next opponent can’t be guaranteed at the moment. The featherweight title picture, a position he undoubtedly deserves to return to, could change dramatically before he gets his shot. Volkanovski’s next title fight is currently scheduled to be in March against Brian Ortega, who defeated Chan Sung Jung, also known as The Korean Zombie, to earn the fight.
Depending on who wins, Holloway has a rematch in both instances.
Should Ortega win, he puts himself in the position for a rematch against Holloway three years in the making. Ortega’s first fight against Holloway was in December of 2018, where Holloway won an absolute fire-fight due to a doctor stoppage following the fourth round. Years later, a rematch between the two would be about how Ortega has changed since then, especially since he has been mostly out of the spotlight since losing the title shot.
If Volkanovski were to retain his belt, a trilogy fight between him and Holloway might be hard to sell but would also be necessary. While fans might shrug off the fact on paper that Holloway has lost twice-in-a-row to Volkanovski, the reminder of how close the fight was and how greatly debated the outcome of the fight is might sway their opinion. The pure results of the two meetings between Volkanovski and Holloway don’t do their rivalry justice – this is something Holloway claims at least, as he said “80 to 90 percent” of viewers believes he won.
Both options for Holloway present a fight that carries a storyline with it and a backstory that includes incredible battles. The choice of who Holloway can fight can’t be made now. It could be predicted, but besides that nothing can be done. Although, if there’s one thing that should be a closed case, it’s that Holloway deserves the best possible fight at featherweight when he fights again – because he’s just that good.