Max Holloway came up short last July in his quest to regain the featherweight championship from Alexander Volkanovski, despite the fact that many were of the belief that he had done enough to earn his title back on the scorecards. Even still, Holloway enters his Fight Night main-event clash with the rising Calvin Kattar on Saturday in Abu Dhabi with the same championship mentality he's always had.
"I told you guys way before when I had the belt -- the belt was just something to show the world that I was the champion," Holloway said during media day for the event. "I'm going to carry myself as a champion belt or no belt. We're going to go out there and fight. I love fighting. I love to fight. People say it's hard to get up. I'm still fighting five, five [minute] rounds. Still championship rounds. We're on ABC. I know a lot of pay-per-view fighters that would kill to be in this position so at the end of the day, it still feels the same. A fight is a fight to me."
It's almost hard to believe that Holloway has lost three of his four most recent fights. Before making a jump to 155 pounds to battle Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title, Holloway had won 13 consecutive fights, including capturing the featherweight championship and successfully defending it twice. Poirier dominated Holloway, tanking Holloway's chance to become a two-division champ and sending him back to featherweight where he was able to pick up one more title defense in beating Frankie Edgar. Then came Volkanovski and the end of his title reign.
Kattar is coming off a perfect 2020, picking up wins over Jeremy Stephens and Dan Ige. The fight with Ige was Kattar's first opportunity to headline a UFC card and he put in solid work to take a clear unanimous decision win. With the victory, Kattar improved to 4-1 in his five most recent fights and established himself as a potential title challenger in a division that feels increasingly wide open.
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The fight with Ige came on Fight Island, the same location in Abu Dhabi where the UFC has returned for a stint that begins with these two in the main event and concludes with Conor McGregor taking on Dustin Poirier. Now, Kattar gets another main event opportunity, this time against a former champion and on the UFC's return to network television as the fight airs on ABC.
Kattar says he isn't looking at Holloway's most recent run as a sign of a larger decline. What he is focused on, however, is the change to his life that could come from beating one of the all-time greats at 145 pounds.
"I'm just chasing the life on the other side of a win over Max Holloway," Kattar told Yahoo Sports. "[A win] would afford myself, my family, my team better living conditions, more money, more influence, more everything. We joke and say that the same bottle of water tastes better off a win than a loss, so I just want the finer things that come with a win over Max Holloway.
"I also get the opportunity to prove I am one of the best in the division and I'm excited about the opportunity."
This card will also see a pair of UFC legends square off when Carlos Condit takes on Matt Brown. Condit is a former welterweight title challenger nearing the end of his career. He picked up a win over Court McGee in October to end a five-fight losing streak that dated back to 2016. Brown, meanwhile, is coming off a TKO loss to Miguel Baeza last May. Each of Brown's last seven fights dating back to 2015 has ended by stoppage one way or the other.
Here's the fight card for UFC Fight Night with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
UFC Fight Night card, odds
Max Holloway -160
Calvin Kattar +135
Carlos Condit -170
Matt Brown +145
Santiago Ponzinibbio -300
Li Jingliang +240
|Joaquin Buckley -300||Alessio Di Chirico +240||Middleweights|
|Dusko Todorovic -160||Punahele Soriano +135||Middleweights|
UFC Fight Night viewing information
Date: Jan. 16 | Start time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Flash Forum -- Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
TV Channel: ABC | Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Kattar's striking chops are legit, and he goes after the finish at all times during a fight, even if he has a clear lead on the scorecards. That was on display when he was still trying to put Ige away in the final seconds of a fight where he was clearly seconds from winning a clear decision. Holloway is still a great fighter. His 1-3 run is a bit misleading. The Poirier fight came after moving up in weight and running into a guy fighting better than he ever had. The two losses to Volkanovski were very close, especially the second, where the majority of media members tracked by MMADecisions.com scored the fight for Holloway. The Hawaiian can stick to a gameplan and has operated at a higher level than Kattar for years. That experience and discipline should tip things in Holloway's favor. Pick: Max Holloway via UD