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Max Holloway's epic performance vs. Calvin Kattar is an all-timer

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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Max Holloway’s walkout music on Saturday should have been former boxing champion Roy Jones’ iconic rap, “Ya’ll Must’ve Forgot.”

It would have been appropriate because apparently half of the MMA world forgot how good Holloway is heading into his bout Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi against Calvin Kattar.

There was the talk about the back-to-back losses to featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski or the three losses in his last four fights. There was plenty of chatter that this was Kattar’s moment, that he was ready to rise and stake his claim to a title shot.

All Holloway did was go out and put on one of the greatest performances in a UFC main event ever and break records as if he were Tom Brady.

Holloway’s 445 significant strikes set a new UFC record, obliterating the old mark of 290. He set a record for significant strikes thrown with 744 to break the previous record of 515. He landed 439 distance strikes, breaking the mark of 281 and he landed 274 head strikes, surpassing the ex-record of 244.

Holloway’s performance among the best ever

When you think of great performances in a UFC main event, several stand out. Jon Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history at UFC 128 in 2011, destroying the legendary Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jones’ performance in a win over arch rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 on Jan. 3, 2015, also is one of the best.

Throw in fights like Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez over Junior dos Santos, Conor McGregor over Jose Aldo, Khabib Nurmagomedov over Justin Gaethje, Gaethje over Tony Ferguson, Anderson Silva over Rich Franklin and, yeah, Holloway over Brian Ortega, and you have a pretty high bar set.

Kattar isn’t the same caliber opponent that many of those fighters were. He’s good — very good, in fact — but he’s not quite into that elite class.

Still, Holloway treated him like he was a beginner, as if Kattar were an inexperienced and out-of-shape sparring partner.

He never stopped throwing, but he never became predictable. He fought as if he were going downhill all night and he always seemed to have the perfect combination ready.

His conditioning was first-rate, which is remarkable when one considers how active he was.

Max Holloway put on the performance of a lifetime on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Max Holloway put on the performance of a lifetime on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

It may be recency bias to suggest it’s the best, but it’s definitely among the best there have been. He stepped up in front of a major audience in a big situation, having lost two in a row and three of his last four, and delivered the performance of a lifetime.

If you didn’t see that coming, well, yeah, maybe you forgot.

Maybe you forgot those epic victories over Jose Aldo, or the KO of Anthony Pettis, or the decimation of Ortega.

But you won’t forget this one.

Holloway was so good, he felt confident enough to begin a running conversation with the announcers late in the fight. He told his friend, former double champion Daniel Cormier, that he has the best boxing in the UFC and then joked about them fighting each other.

He clearly earned another title shot. Volkanovski will defend his title against Ortega in Las Vegas in March, and Holloway will get the winner.

If it’s Volkanovski, whom he’s already fought twice, so be it.

‘Blessed’ looks as good as ever

This performance will have far-reaching consequences. Imagine what Dustin Poirier must think when he sees it. Poirier fights McGregor in the main event of UFC 257 next Saturday, and he lost his first fight to McGregor in 2014 when he was stopped in the first round.

If he saw Holloway raise his game, it had to have let him know that it’s possible that he could do the same in his fight and reverse the outcome of the fight with McGregor.

Holloway was joking — I think — when he said after the fight that he’d step in if anything happened to either McGregor or Poirier or, for that matter, Michael Chandler or Dan Hooker. The latter pair fight in the co-main event of UFC 257.

Holloway is the epitome of a professional. He comes in shape and he gives the best that he has each time out. He never stops looking for ways to improve and he eagerly promotes himself, his bouts and the sport, in general.

He’s a great role model who has shown his young son, Rush, and thousands of others how to handle defeat and accept victory graciously.

He’s one of those guy you’d want to hang out with and shoot the bull, unless he decided it was time for a fight.

He loves to fight and, as he proved on Saturday, he remains one of the best in the world at it.

He destroyed a very good opponent while looking as good as he ever has in an MMA career that began a decade ago. It’s a career in which he’s fought McGregor, Poirier, Aldo, Volkanovski, Charles Oliveira, Frankie Edgar, Ortega, Jeremy Stephens, Pettis, Cub Swanson and more. He signed to fight Nurmagomedov on short notice, but was yanked by the New York State Athletic Commission when he was struggling to cut weight.

This guy is a remarkable fighter and a brilliant ambassador for the game.

Appreciate him while he’s here. It may seem like he’s been around forever, but the truth is, that day will come even for a legendary figure like Max “Blessed” Holloway.

The one thing we know for certain, though, after his one-sided win over Calvin Kattar Saturday is this: That time in nowhere near at hand.

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