The UFC could not have asked for a better pair to represent them for their debut on ABC Saturday. One on side, Max Holloway, one of the most likeable fighters in all of MMA. A well-spoken, thoughtful former champion, and one of the all-time greats at 145lbs. On the other, Calvin Kattar — a rising star capable of exciting finishes.
Colliding atop UFC Fight Island 7, the promotion’s return to broadcast television, Holloway vs. Kattar felt like it could kick off 2021 in a big way. A win for Holloway would keep him in the mix at 145lbs despite two losses to the current champ, Alexander Volkanovski. For Kattar, a win would likely mean a title shot against the winner of Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega. Something Dana White hinted at earlier this week.
Holloway opened up the affair double-pumping his jab and displaying his trademark movement. The Hawaiian’s strikes were lightning-quick, and when Kattar did return fire, be it with his hands or a kick, “Blessed” simply wasn’t there.
As the round wore on, Kattar found his range. But for every strike the New England Mafia fighter landed, Holloway hit home with two or three. Kattar’s calf kicks landed enough for Holloway’s leg to show some damage — but his own kicks were landing on Kattar in turn. Holloway’s volume, as expected, was the difference-maker, giving him the clear edge in the opening frame, which he punctuated with a spinning back kick to the body.
Round two opened with a couple of Holloway combinations before Kattar could even throw a punch. That was becoming a trend, and Holloway’s pressure soon led to a knockdown (or at least put an off-balance Kattar on his backside), not that it lasted long. Kattar didn’t seem able to find enough time to launch a counter-attack, as he was constantly under pressure. Finally, Kattar popped off a couple of rights, landing — but that success was short-lived. Holloway was back in the driver’s seat a moment later. Then, Holloway hit an elbow, and began teeing off on Kattar. Kattar was bloodied and under fire. He survived, but a second volley followed. Kattar’s toughness got him out of the round, but he ate several elbows before the buzzer, and a head kick that rocked him.
And despite that, Kattar finished the round smiling. Despite being beaten, bloodied, and down two rounds.
Once again in round three, Calvin Kattar found himself under fire. He came close with an elbow off the break in a clinch, then managed to land a couple of rights, for his biggest moment in the fight to that point. But Holloway regrouped, and went body-head with a kick and a left hand that clipped Kattar. Kattar had his back to the fence again, but moved off it and landed a right. Before long, however, Kattar shot for a desperation takedown. Very telling, given how things were going for the Boston native.
By the end of the third, Holloway was even doing a bit of showboating. In the fourth, he continued to put on a clinic. Wave upon wave of combinations. Punches to the body and head. Well-timed kicks. Constant pressure. And then came the barrage from hell. Holloway landed elbow after elbow, rocking Calvin Kattar. He was visibly wobbled, covering up, and swinging blind. Somehow, Kattar stayed standing. Holloway ripped into the body. Repeatedly. Landed more elbows. Tagged him in the head. And still Kattar stayed standing. He even moved to center later in the round, firing a few strikes, but just before round’s end ate a partially blocked head kick.
Kattar, through sheer will alone apparently, made it to round five. But his only hope of victory, a lucky punch, was seeming less and less likely. Breathing heavy between rounds, it was clear Holloway’s body attack had done its job. And Holloway had proven too hard to hit. Another Holloway punch appeared to damage Kattar’s nose. With Kattar fading, Holloway actually turned to talk to the commentary team, while slipping punches. Holloway would go on to win the round, the fight, and put on an all-time classic performance.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
If Holloway receiving another shot against Volkanovski was a hard sell before Saturday, that might not be the case any longer. Arguably the best performance of Holloway’s career, or at least the best performance since his fights against Jose Aldo. In short, Max Holloway looked brilliant at UFC Fight Island 7.
Official Result: Max Holloway def. Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision (50-43, 50-43, 50-42)