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UFC 199’s Fighter to Watch: Max “Blessed” Holloway

Peyton Wesner

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The date was August 13, 2013, when Max “Blessed” Holloway took to the octagon for a prospected featherweight battle with current division champion Conor McGregor.

In the bout, which ended up lasting all of the three scheduled rounds (unlike any fight including “The Notorious One”), Holloway lost by the scores of 30-26, 30-27, and 30-27. Though, on a positive note, he left the octagon healthier than his well-known opponent, for McGregor tore his ACL in the act.

Oh, and different than the Irishman, the Hawaiian is undefeated since the loss.

Could a rematch soon be in order?

This weekend’s UFC 199 battle versus Ricardo Lamas could answer such an inquiry.

Holloway (15-3, 11-3 in UFC), is not an unranked fighter anymore like he was less than three years ago. In fact, he currently holds the 4th rank in his division with back-to-back-to-back victories over men who are ranked 6th, 7th, and 8th (Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, and Jeremy Stephens).

The 24-year old has transformed himself into a true martial artist, who is not just dangerous in stand-up but on the ground with submissions and strikes in top position. Furthermore, he fights intelligently by keeping himself out of danger (thanks to elusive movement), not inserting himself into tough spots, and ignoring the temptation to move the action to the ground.

For instance, in Holloway’s first fight of 2015, Cole Miller attempted to transition the battle by laying on the ground in full guard. Logically, the Hawaiian backed away, forcing his opponent to stand back up. Also during this match, a deadly ground and pound element was on display as, when he was on the canvas, he dominated the ground game.

Another big element of Holloway’s attack is his kicks. So fluent in transitions from southpaw stance to orthodox, the 4th ranked featherweight can fire off strikes to the body as well as the head. A concern, though, comes with his kick quantity at the end of rounds. To elaborate, he seems to recklessly ramp up the number of kicks with no variety of offering punches. Holloway must not focus just on one strike, for an opponent, in this case, Ricardo Lamas could catch a kick and then finish the five-minute segment strong, possibly swaying the judges.

It would be blasphemous not to mention Max Holloway’s takedown defense when analyzing his strengths. Against McGregor, he was taken down 4 times in 5 attempts for a clear cut 20% takedown defense. But, he has not been taken to the mat unwillingly since August 23, 2014, when Clay Collard landed one. During the 8-fight span following his loss, Holloway has a 90% takedown defense (45-of-50 defended). He spurns most by quickly putting his back to the cage and fighting off the hand control of the opposition. Other times, the fighter with the longest active win streak in the featherweight division will sprawl and actually take the top position! In such a spot of complete control, Holloway mixes strikes with the possibility of obtaining a submission victory.

The previous was seen at its best against Southern California’s finest Cub Swanson. Additionally, during this bout, Holloway showed great calculation picking his spots and the ability to avoid damage when coming forward with strikes.

On Saturday, Max Holloway shall be tested unlike any opponent before upon stepping into the octagon versus 5th ranked Ricardo Lamas (16-4, 7-2 in UFC).

Lamas, who has one less loss to his name than Holloway, was defeated in a title fight versus José Aldo a little over two years ago and knocked out in the 1st round against Chad Mendes last year.

The 34-year old is similar to Holloway in a few ways. For one, he evades dangerous spots, even with the center of the octagon occupied by his opponent. Also, he displays a tactical approach even when there is “blood in the water.”

Lamas is different than the Hawaiian in the fact that he is a kick oriented fighter, who tries to damage the front leg of opponents early and often. Moreover, he clinches for the purpose of ultimately getting submissions. The Illinois native utilizes low knees in the clinch to soften the legs of the opposition before landing a monster takedown.

To ensure success, Holloway simply has to stay within himself. Specifically, he must continue stuffing takedown attempts and keep great movement when moving in and out of the pocket. A spot of emphasis for the Hawaiian lies with staying calculated if his opponent is hurt. Lamas is a hard-nosed fighter (just look at how long he survived when Mendes had him on the ropes); thus, Holloway can not throw all his preparation and game planning to the wind, even if he is on the brink of victory.

UFC 199 takes place at The Forum in Los Angeles, California on June 4th, headlined by a UFC Middleweight Title fight between champion Luke Rockhold and challenger, #4 Michael Bisping.

Other bouts scheduled on the main card include:

  • C Dominick Cruz vs. #2 Urijah Faber
  • #4 Max Holloway vs. #5 Ricardo Lamas
  • #15 Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard
  • #11 Dustin Poirier vs. #13 Bobby Green
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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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Announcement

Mark Hunt Returns to Fight Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221

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UFC 221 in Perth has officially added a another Australian to the main card. Joining Robert Whittaker is the knockout legend Mark Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Hunt will be stepping into the octagon to face #9 Curtis Blaydes. Some weren’t sure if we would ever see Hunt fight again after he was pulled from the main event in UFC Fight Night 21 against Marcin Tybura. The UFC removed him due to “medical concerns” while Hunt was stating he was perfectly fine.

After getting evaluated and cleared to fight by Australian and American doctors, it looks like his time has come to return.  Hunt’s last fight was back in June when he derailed the Derrick Lewis hype train with a 4th round TKO win.

Hunt had been adamant about calling out #3 ranked heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and trying to get that rematch booked, labelling Werdum a “chicken shit” and a “coward.”

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes who has an 8-1 record, is coming off a TKO victory due to doctor stoppage at UFC 217 in November. Since losing to now title challenger Francis Ngannou in April of 2016, Blaydes has rattled off three straight wins over Alexey Oleynik, Daniel Omielanczuk, and Cody East.

With all this momentum from the win streak, Blaydes looks to capitalize and win the biggest fight of his career against Hunt.

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News

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira Officially Booked for Belem, Brazil card

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The wait is over. Valentina Shevchenko (14-3, 3-2 UFC) will make her highly anticipated flyweight debut when the UFC returns to Brazil. She will face Priscila Cachoeira (8-0) on the February 3rd card scheduled for Belem, Brazil. Luciana Andrade was the first to report the match-up last week. On Tuesday, the UFC posted an article which stated the bout had been set.

Now that the flyweight tournament is over and the inaugural champion has her crown, many women shall migrate from the strawweight and bantamweight ranks in search of a more suitable weight class. The division is so infantile means a lot moving parts in the rankings. Yet, only women who fought at one hundred and twenty-five lbs. are ranked. Such practices muddy the title picture for the time being. Essentially ruling out the idea of Montano vs. Shevchenko for the first defense of the belt, illogical. An idea that floated around the internet until today’s confirmation of the newest female flyweight match-up. The TUF 26 winner, Nicco Montano called it, “kinda silly”, earlier this week while on The MMA Hour. Montano believes her first title defense, as it stands, should pit her against the original finalist of the flyweight tournament, Sijara Eubanks. Although Eubanks withdrew from the title fight, she is still ranked as the #1 contender in the division.

Shevchenko explained her desire for the flyweight belt on The MMA Hour, a week earlier than Montano, “For me it’s number one, to fight for the title… It doesn’t matter for me, if I have to have one fight before it, okay I will do it… my main goal is to be the champion… It doesn’t matter I move from one thirty-five to one twenty-five. My goal is still the same, to be the champion”. The Russian fighter is coming off an unsuccessful title shot in the bantamweight division against the current reigning champ, Amanda Nunes. The bout went to a decision after close five rounds, Nunes ultimately defeated Shevchenko via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).

Her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, is not only new to the UFCs female flyweight division but the promotion’s roster as well. Cachoeira originally was scheduled to make her promotional debut against veteran Lauren Murphy at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 26. The Brazilian fighter withdrew from the bout due to visa issues. As a professional, she is undefeated with four knockouts in her eight fights.

UFC Belem is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018. The card will feature Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm in the heavyweight division. It will also have Thiago Santos taking on Anthony Smith in the middleweight division.

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