Max Holloway And The Case For The Greatest Featherweight Of All Time

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max holloway UFC Featherweight
Max Holloway Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Max Holloway put on another masterful performance at UFC 231 in Toronto on Saturday — but is it time to call him the best featherweight ever? Perhaps.

There are few certainties in life. Death. Taxes. And now, add Max Holloway putting on a show in Toronto to the list. Two years removed from his last title fight in the Canadian city, Holloway returned to what he called the “tenth island” at UFC 231. There, despite the chilly Ontario winter (hey, at least it’s not Winnipeg, so mild in comparison), Holloway set the Scotiabank Arena afire in the main event.

Holloway dismantled challenger Brian Ortega to the point that, following the fourth round, the doctor had seen enough. He waved off the featherweight title battle, giving Holloway not just the win, but a pair of bonuses as well. Fight of the Night. Performance of the Night. Another big win in Toronto. And a weight class nearly cleared out by ‘Blessed.’

Holloway extended his current win streak to thirteen with the victory, a feat that would be unthinkable in nearly any other division. Yet with Jose Aldo claiming an 18-fight undefeated streak from 2006 to 2016, his name continues to come up in talk about “The Greatest.”

Until Saturday. After battering Ortega to the point of medical intervention, suddenly, Holloway seemed to have taken over that spot, at least in the featherweight division. The UFC broadcast team said you wouldn’t get any argument from them, in terms of naming Holloway the best featherweight out there. Plenty picked up the torch for the Hawaiian online. Of course, these arguments are subjective. Yet picking apart Holloway’s resume, there’s certainly a case to be made.

What matters when it comes to MMA is not winning, but who you’re winning against. And how. Holloway, like Aldo, has fought the best fighters of his era: Cub Swanson. Ricardo Lamas. Jeremy Stephens. Former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, in an ill-fated drop in weight for ‘Showtime.’ And, of course, Aldo himself, twice. All of Holloway’s title fights have ended in finish, as have twelve of his twenty wins. To give credit where it’s due, Aldo has seventeen finishes among his twenty-seven wins, but that still gives a slight edge to Holloway in terms of finishing percentage.

More importantly, Conor McGregor may have taken the shine off Aldo with his thirteen-second starching of the Brazilian at UFC 194, but it was Holloway who made ‘Scarface’ look pedestrian in back-to-back fights.

Aldo, mind you, has more title defenses. Beating the man twice, however, has to count for something.

And McGregor? Holloway’s loss to the Irish star came five years ago. The man who would go on to establish the Blessed Era was just 22-years old at the time. Even now, he has just entered his prime. Back then, he was simply another prospect.

Whether or not Holloway heads up to lightweight remains to be seen. Following his win over Ortega at UFC 231, he told Joe Rogan that “a king’s gotta defend his throne. If he leaves his throne, another king can come.” It sure sounds like he wants to keep the 145lb belt for a while. Though with external pressures and UFC President Dana White pushing for him to jump to lightweight, everything is up in the air.

Except this: Holloway has made a very good case for being the best featherweight of all time. Or well, his actions did. Holloway himself rejected the title following UFC 231. Come back in a few years, he suggested.

Let’s just agree to disagree.

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