Max “Blessed” Holloway (22-6) proved he is the king without a crown of the featherweight division as he absolutely destroyed Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar (22-5) in front of a limited crowd in the first UFC Fight Night of 2021 on Sunday, January 17 at Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi.
Coming from a controversial decision loss against champion Alexander Volkanovski, Holloway kicked off his journey back to the gold with his non-stop assault and pressure that completely overwhelmed Kattar.
The former world champion started the bout at a very high pace and dictated the fight with his speedy combinations and a couple of spinning back kicks that rocked his challenger in the opening round.
Holloway kept his relentless striking going in the 2nd round and landed some nasty elbows that opened up a cut in Kattar’s head. A last-second left head kick from Holloway almost closed the curtains in Abu Dhabi but Kattar gladly clung to the bell to survive another round.
Kattar finally found his best round in the 3rd as he landed a heavy right uppercut and a right straight. Holloway, though, absorbed the blows without breaking a sweat and continued to hold on to the driver seat with his speed.
The 29-year-old Hawaiian came out with more firepower as the championship rounds started. Holloway unleashed a flurry of punches and solid body strikes that made his foe wobble.
But for some miracle graced in the octagon, Kattar survived and still managed to throw punches, just enough to keep the fight away from the referee’s stoppage.
Holloway never slowed down and wrapped up the main event with the same pace, while talking trash and having a conversation with the people on the sideline.
“I felt great,” Holloway said. “‘The “Blessed’ is blessed to have fans back, blessed to be the first card of the year. I found out I hit him 700 times or something. That’s pretty cool. I was having the time of my life.”
Per UFC stats, Holloway landed 445 out of 744 total thrown strikes – 141 strikes in the 4th round alone. Kattar only landed 133 strikes in the whole 5 rounds.
Despite his very impressive performance, Holloway said he’s willing to wait for another title shot but would like to take fights to cement his legacy.
“I want legacy fights,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to force someone to fight me. We’ll see what happens.”
This is now the first victory of Holloway since losing back-to-back against Volkanovski, while Kattar suffered a loss after winning both of his fights in 2020.
In the co-main event, two veterans put up fantastic performances as “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (32-13) picked up a hard-fought decision victory against Matt “The Immortal” Brown (22-18).
There was no shortage of action in the full 15 minutes of the bout. Brown looked to execute his game plan and took Condit to the canvas immediately but opened up a cut in his head in the process.
Condit, though, landed more strikes on the ground and out-wrestled Brown to neutralize all potential submission attempts in the first round.
And while Condit looked a bit more comfortable and more dominant on their feet at the start of the 2nd round, the former UFC interim champion delivered a very crafty takedown and pummeled Brown with his ground and pound.
Brown, though, survived Condit’s strong performance and had a decent 3rd round as both veterans went on the ground for some grappling exchanges. But Condit did just enough to pull away in the scorecards.
“I feel good,” Condit said. “I had the hair standing up in the back of my neck, I was so stoked to get in there and get my hand raised. I’m very happy.”
“I expected a little more back and forth on the feet, we ended up grappling quite a bit, but I’m not sad about the way that went because I got the better of those exchanges,” he added.
With his win, Condit now recorded his first win streak for the first time since 2012. Before his victory against Court McGee last October, Condit had a five-match skid.
While all the bouts in the preliminary round went the distance, the first 3 bouts of the main card went the opposite way.
Punahele “Story Time” Soriano (8-0) opened up the main stage and finished the fight in the opening round as he knocked out the Slovenian fighter Dusko Todorovic (10-1).
Soriano, who scored the first knockout of 2021, let his left hand do all the talking to keep his unbeaten record while giving Todorovic’s first loss at the same time.
Meanwhile, Joaquin “New Mansa” Buckley (12-4) found himself on the wrong side of an impressive knockout finish as Italian fighter Alessio “Manzo” Di Chirico (13-5) ended his three-bout losing streak with a spectacular round-one knockout victory.
Di Chirico landed a solid head kick that immediately dropped Buckley, who won his two fights via knockout, including the knockout of the year contender against Impa Kasanganay.
On the other hand, Li “The Leech” Jingliang (18-6) extended the trend of early finishes in the first main card of the year as he landed a clean left-hand counter to put the lights out of Santiago “Argentine Dagger” Ponzinibbio (28-4).
This was a bounce-back victory for the Chinese juggernaut, who won 3 straight fights before taking a decision loss against Neil Magny last year. – Rappler.com