As the UFC gear up for the first event of the calendar year, Max Holloway is preparing for his first non-title fight since 2016.
After winning the interim featherweight title against Anthony Pettis at UFC 206, ‘Blessed’ went on to defeat Jose Aldo twice and Brian Ortega in featherweight title fights too. Then came a brief move up to lightweight, where he fought Dustin Poirier in an interim title fight at 155lbs.
That fight seemingly started the end of the ‘Blessed’ era, with his cloak of invincibility pierced. He was well beaten in that fight by unanimous decision, with the power and size of Poirier proving too much to overcome.
He then returned to his natural featherweight division to defend his crown against Frankie Edgar, which he did in expert fashion. The performance was so good, it made it look like the previous defeat was simply down to the fact it wasn’t his natural weight class.
Then came fights against Alexander Volkanovski.
Holloway had established a catchphrase by this point that rung true in everyone’s ears; “to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the best is Blessed.”
But when he came up against the Australian, that went out of the window. In their first fight he was comfortably beaten once more, with Volkanovski too powerful and too fast, chopping away at his lead leg and staying away from the striking war that Holloway wanted.
The rematch was a totally different fight, with Holloway dominating the opening two rounds using his reach well and beating the new champion to the punch. Despite a top performance, Volkanovski fought back in the final three rounds and managed to earn himself a split decision win in a controversial outcome.
It means now that the Hawaiian, who was once seen as the greatest featherweight of all time, has lost three of his last four bouts.
Now as he prepares to enter the octagon againt Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Island 7, he needs to get it back. That cloak of invincibility is pierced, but it’s not destroyed. He is still one of the very best mixed martial artists in the world and can beat anyone on his day.
It hasn’t been his day much recently, but the level of performance has still been there for the most part. Against Kattar though, he will be facing similar challenges as he did as a champion.
A hungry contender looking to make the step up, knowing that a win over the great Max Holloway puts them into title contention no matter how it comes.
Holloway is now among that chasing back, but with consecutive losses to his name he needs this win more than ever before. Another defeat will see him slump down the rankings and to many he will become just an after-thought.
At just 29-years-old, he is still in the absolute prime years but having been around for so long it’s possible that the mileage is catching him up.
To shut those haters down and end those thought processes, Holloway needs a win. Not just to prove to himself and others that he’s still one of the best, but to stay relevant in the conversation at the top of the featherweight division.