Is Max Holloway The Best Featherweight Today?
Max Holloway told fans at UFC 212 that the ‘Blessed’ era had arrived. Many agreed but some didn’t. After UFC 218 last Saturday, Holloway made believers of his naysayers. The 26 year old Hawaiian annihilated former two time featherweight champion Jose Aldo in three rounds, stopping the greatest featherweight of all-time for the second consecutive bout, both in emphatic fashion.
Division in Disarray
Holloway’s win over Aldo last Saturday was the first time the UFC featherweight belt has been successfully defended since October 25, 2014. On that day, Aldo defeated Chad Mendes in the 2014 Fight of the Year at UFC 179. It was the seventh and last victory of Aldo’s title run. After that, the featherweight division was in disarray.
The Brazilian would lose the belt to Conor McGregor in his next title defense over a year later. Instead of defending the 145 pound title, McGregor fought Nate Diaz ( twice at that ), forcing the UFC to set up an interim featherweight title bout at UFC 200. Aldo won that bout, defeating Frankie Edgar to become interim featherweight champion.
McGregor was stripped of the featherweight belt two weeks after winning the UFC lightweight belt from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. Aldo was promoted to regular champion and at the same time, an interim featherweight title bout between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis was set for UFC 206. Holloway stopped Pettis, setting up a showdown with Aldo for the undisputed 145 pound title.
Lighting Strikes Twice
Holloway stopped Aldo in three rounds to become the first Hawaiian UFC champion since B.J. Penn held the UFC lightweight and welterweight championships. Holloway was set to make his first defense against Frankie Edgar but the Answer pulled out of the bout with an injury. That paved the way for a rematch with Aldo, who agreed to take on the new champ on short notice.
The title shot fast tracked Aldo’s quest to reclaim the 145 pound belt a third time. The Brazilian was supposed to fight Ricardo Lamas at UFC on Fox 26 on December 16, 2017. But he gladly accepted the opportunity to face Holloway again, at an earlier date, hoping to rekindle his glorious past. But lightning would strike twice for Scarface.
Just like in their first bout at UFC 206, Aldo was competitive thru two rounds. However, the Brazilian didn’t start as furiously as he did in their first meeting, perhaps hoping to conserve his energy. But just like in their first encounter, Aldo slowed down in round three. Sensing his opponent’s decline, Holloway turned up the heat and stopped Aldo before the bout reached the championship rounds.
With his victory, Holloway has given the featherweight division some stability - for now. Since McGregor took over the UFC, he’s won two belts but has never defended any one of them. When he was stripped of the featherweight title, the division had two interim champions before Holloway unified it. Now Holloway has legitimized his title reign with a convincing win against arguably the best featherweight of all-time.
“This is what champions do, champions defend,” Holloway said. “They always say you’re not a champion until you defend your title. I always wanted to bring stability and I wanted to prove to people if you want to be a champion this is what you gotta do. It’s like me, it took me 10 fights to get an interim title and 11 for the undisputed. I don’t want anybody else to go through that.
That’s correct, not a typo. Max Holloway has won 12 consecutive bouts to get to where he is right now. Yep, he’s dominated the featherweight division six Top 10 fighter en route to the undisputed 145 pound title. Holloway hasn’t lost since 2013, when he lost via one sided unanimous decision to Conor McGregor at UFC Fight Night 26.
An Irish Asterisk
But despite Holloway’s unquestioned dominance at 145 pounds, the loss to McGregor will always remain as an asterisk on his legacy ( at least to Holloway’s detractors )That’s because before McGregor went up to lightweight and beyond ( even to boxing ), the Irishman wiped out Aldo in 13 seconds, ending Aldo’s stranglehold of the weight class.
Aldo Junior was the WEC featherweight champion in 2009 before being promoted to UFC featherweight champion in 2010 after the merger between the promotions. McGregor upset Aldo at the peak of the latter’s powers and at a time when Aldo was supposed to be in his prime.
By virtue of that victory, McGregor is still technically the lineal champion. He beat the man to beat and that was Aldo. Sure, Holloway owns two victories over Aldo now, but he hasn’t beaten McGregor, who incidentally owns a win over him in 2013. That’s just one dilemma. The other is that McGregor may never fight at 145 ever again, not after fighting Nate Diaz, Eddie Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Best Featherweight Today
Although his critics will always continue to point out that Irish asterisk on his resume, Conor McGregor never fighting at 145 again isn’t Max Holloway’s fault. McGregor has outgrew the division and isn’t coming back anymore. That’s the reason why he was stripped of the title in the first place.
The Notorious One is linked to a lightweight title defense against Tony Ferguson for his next MMA fight. But because of his recent off the octagon troubles, UFC President Dana White is unsure when he will return or if he’ll ever fight again. That isn’t Max Holloway’s problem.
Holloway has legitimate claim as the best featherweight today. His 12 fight winning streak is proof of that. It’s the fifth longest winning streak in UFC history. Holloway’s twin victories over top-ranked challenger Jose Aldo are a testament to that. He’s beaten three of the current Top 4 featherweights, with the exception of Frankie Edgar. Edgar should be next in line and if Holloway beats him too for win #13 in a row, then there is no more doubt who the best featherweight in the game is, that Conor McGregor loss notwithstanding.