On Saturday night in Atlanta UFC featherweight world champion Max Holloway will look to add the latest title to his growing collection as he faces off against longtime contender Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier for the vacant interim UFC lightweight title at UFC 236.
It’s just the latest chapter in a remarkable journey for the Hawaiian fighter, who has gone from raw, young prospect to one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
Ahead of his interim title tilt this weekend, let’s take a look back at the fights that have defined Holloway’s career to date.
LOSS: VS DUSTIN POIRIER, UFC 143, FEBRUARY 2012
Holloway’s UFC debut came against ‘The Diamond’ back in February 12, as Holloway, then a 4-0 prospect out of Hawaii, took on a man who had three times the number of fights on his record.
And while Holloway may have succumbed to a mounted triangle armbar submission in the first round, he showed enough in that fight against hot prospect Poirier that he had the talent to potentially go far in the UFC.
It was Holloway’s first career defeat, and one that he’ll be particularly keen to avenge when the pair meet again this weekend.
LOSS: VS CONOR McGREGOR, UFC FIGHT NIGHT BOSTON, AUGUST 2013
Following his debut defeat to Poirier, Holloway hit the gym, and made it his business to fight as frequently as possible. And just 18 months later, he’d fought four more times when he stepped into the cage to face rising Irish star McGregor.
Holloway went into the bout injured, while McGregor suffered a knee injury of his own during the contest, meaning we almost certainly didn’t see the best of either man. But in retrospect, it seems Holloway was the more hampered of the two as he found himself second-best to his older, more experienced opponent.
Holloway’s defeat in that fight was the third of his career and took his record to 7-3. At that point in his career, Holloway was already a superb fighter, but since that loss he’s taken his game to a whole new level.
He hasn’t lost a fight since.
WIN: VS ANTHONY PETTIS, UFC 206, DECEMBER 2016
Holloway moved one big step closer to the UFC featherweight title at UFC 206 when he finished former UFC lightweight world champion Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis in the third round to capture the interim featherweight belt.
Faced with a seasoned former world champion with top-drawer striking skills and a dangerously underrated submission game, Holloway approached the contest with what seemed to be a total lack of respect for Pettis’ striking as he walked down the Milwaukee man and battered him with strikes until he finally got the finish his superb performance deserved.
It was the win that too Holloway over the top and into the upper echelon of the UFC. No longer was the Hawaiian a lively prospect. He was a world-class fighter who could finish the best fighters in the world.
WINS: VS JOSE ALDO, UFC 212/218, JUNE/DECEMBER 2017
The torch was emphatically passed when Holloway faced legend Jose Aldo for the unified featherweight title, and the Hawaiian obliterated the Brazilian with strikes not once, but twice in back-to-back performances that elevated Holloway from world-class level to pound-for-pound level.
His first performance – a third-round TKO stoppage victory – was impressive enough, but in the immediate rematch six months later, Holloway completed the job even earlier in the same round with an even more impressive performance.
It eliminated any suggestion that Aldo was off-form, or that Holloway had somehow fluked the first performance. In short, ‘Blessed’ was just a better fighter than the pound-for-pound great.
WIN: BRIAN ORTEGA, UFC 231, DECEMBER 2018
Holloway’s last fight against Brian Ortega had some pundits and pugilistic prognosticators split on the winner. Ortega was undefeated, had world-class submission skills and in his previous fight lifted Frankie Edgar off his feet with a stunning uppercut KO.
But when fight night rolled around, it was all Holloway. The Hawaiian world champion totally dominated Ortega, pushing the pace and landing strikes on the challenger almost at will.
Such was Holloway’s dominance and comfort during the performance, he even stopped mid-exchange to reposition Ortega’s hands to give his opponent a more effective boxing guard to defend his punches.
And after turning to the UFC commentary team and telling them he would end it in the fourth round, Holloway turned up the heat and battered Ortega so badly that his corner stopped him on his stool at the end of the round.
It cemented Holloway as one of the very best fighters – in any division – in the UFC, elevated him way above his competition in the UFC featherweight division and prompted his move up to lightweight, where he’ll face Poirier in a rematch for the UFC interim lightweight title on Saturday night.
Holloway may be the man moving up, but he’ll be the odds-on betting favourite heading into the contest, and for good reason. With a resumé like his, it’s impossible to look past the ‘Blessed’ express this weekend.