The Best Moments from Max Holloway's 13-Fight Winning Streak
Holloway will meet Frankie Edgar in the evening's main event, and he will look to complete a third title defense to bolster his resume as the best featherweight on the planet.
The champion did not have a quick rise in the division. He dropped his first fight at 145, to Dustin Poirier, before a three-fight win streak. He would then drop back-to-back bids against Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor.
He was 3-3 in the UFC's featherweight division. While still a young prospect, Holloway wasn't necessarily thought to be a future champion. He was a fun fighter to watch on undercards of events. But then he began his run toward the title.
During his current 13-fight win streak at 145-pounds, fans have gotten to see Holloway's development as a fighter. It isn't a sight everyone typically gets to see, but fans have been able to follow that process from the start and witness the fruits of his labor.
What were those fruits? Well, that is exactly what we are going to look at here: Those sweet moments that have shocked us and made us leap from our seat.
These are the 10 best fights and moments from Holloway's run to featherweight glory.
No. 10: First Post-Fight UFC Bonus, TKO of Will Chope
UFC Fight Night 34 - January 4, 2014
Following his breakout performance in a losing effort against Conor McGregor on August 17, 2013, Holloway met Will Chope in Singapore at the start of 2014.
One of Holloway's calling cards is his bodywork. This fight was one of the instances that made fans recognize his incredible ability to attack and connect to his opponent's midsection. Holloway didn't just box, he utilized the full arsenal of strikes to wilt Chope.
A devastating knee up the center took a lot out of Chope. Eventually, Holloway's pressure forced his opponent to the fence, where he continued to work him over. A left hook to the body landed with a follow-up spinning back kick to the breadbasket as well.
Holloway continued the onslaught and Chope was saved. The performance earned Holloway the Knockout of the Night at UFC Fight Night 34, which marked Holloway's first-ever UFC performance bonus.
No. 9: Submission over Andre Fili
UFC 172 - April 26, 2014
Andre Fili entered the UFC as one of Team Alpha Male's top prospects. He was 13-1 with a 1-0 UFC record. Holloway still wasn't seen as the absolute cream of the crop at this time, and the bout looked to be a possible coming out party for Fili.
Holloway would be the one to come out the other side as the star.
It was a close fight. Fili started strong and likely took the first frame with Holloway coming on strong in the second with his continued bodywork. It was all going to come down to the final five minutes.
Fili got an early takedown but couldn't do much with it. When they moved to the fence, Holloway connected with elbows and punches to overwhelm Fili. Trying to break the forward movement, Fili attempted a single-leg. Holloway was able to sink in a guillotine and force Fili to tap out.
It was the first submission win in Holloway's career.
No. 8: Breezes Past Jeremy Stephens
UFC 194 - December 12, 2015
Holloway's ascent up the ranks continued at UFC 194, and the defeat of Jeremy Stephens put him squarely in the mix for a shot at the featherweight title.
Through the first two rounds, Holloway shined with superior striking. Stephens' power forced Holloway to respect him in the stand-up and made him be the more tactical fighter. And that's what he was. When Stephens would try looping shots, Holloway's shorter blows would be the ones to connect first.
Stephens tried his grappling, but Holloway stuffed multiple attempts and picked him apart on the feet.
In the final stanza, Holloway showed off his own grappling. He was not able to get the submission, but he was actively looking for offense. When Stephens got up and went for broke, Holloway's defense was there to keep him safe.
Holloway was already a force in the rankings, but a clean sweep of the scorecards where only one judge gave one round to Stephens moved him into the elite of the 145-pound division.
No. 7: Performance of the Night Bonus for KO of Corassani
UFC Fight Night 53 - October 4, 2014
2014 was a great year for "Blessed." He started the year with his first Knockout of the Night, subsequently picked up two more victories and closed out his year in October with his second-ever performance bonus vs. Akira Corassani.
It would be a co-main event slot for Holloway—his first time helping the card at the top end. And the fight would only go three minutes and 11 seconds into the first round.
Holloway found his range and timing shortly into the first. A straight right hand put Corassani to the mat, but he was able to recover. Corassani clinched with Holloway, and the scouting report the latter built going into the fight paid off with a knockout.
Knowing Corassani likes to throw something big off a break, Holloway was able to avoid the big shot and counter with one of his own. The overhand right connected flush and put Corassani down. The referee rushed over to step in as Holloway was landing his follow-up shots.
A big KO capped off a big comeback year for Holloway.
No. 6: Defeating Brian Ortega
UFC 231 - December 8, 2018
Holloway's second defense of the undisputed title came against a fresh face in the division, Brian Ortega.
Ortega was a massive threat to Holloway. He had an edge on the ground but also showed power with his strikes. It was a new test for the champion.
Holloway silenced any remaining doubters he may have had with a stunning four-round performance. Take a look at the photo if you need an indication of the work Holloway put in against Ortega last December. He battered the challenger from pillar to post.
Following back-to-back victories over Jose Aldo, the bludgeoning of Ortega raised the question of if Holloway was the best featherweight ever to do it to date in MMA.
Ortega took repeated shots to his eye, which closed it up. The ringside physician could not allow the fight to continue. He was, essentially, a punching bag for Holloway for most of the evening. The win continued to raise his profile as one of the most exciting and technically mesmerizing champions in the UFC.
No. 5: Clean Sweep vs. Ricardo Lamas
UFC 199 - June 4, 2016
If we are talking about moments in Holloway's career, then the final 10 seconds of the fight against Ricardo Lamas has to be mentioned. It is one of the most memorable portions of Holloway's entire fight catalog.
Holloway won the fight with relative ease. It was a 30-27 performance on each and every judge's scorecard. However, the final 10 seconds were what captivated fans across the globe.
Holloway pointed to the center of the cage, Lamas acknowledged the invitation and then they started swinging.
It was risky. Lamas was down on the cards and has big power. Holloway could have got clipped and finished. But that is precisely why it was an amazing moment. Fans love fighters that accept risks. Instead of running out the clock, Holloway gave fans what they wanted.
Sure, there wasn't too much that landed, and Holloway got the best of what did connect, but that's not the point. They tried. They stood in the center of the cage and went for it for 10 glorious seconds. It will be a moment that lives on and is a part of both men's fight reel until the end of time.
No. 4: Cub Swanson Gets Choked out
UFC on Fox 15 - April 18, 2015
Now on a five-fight win streak, the UFC was ready to test Holloway as a contender. Enter Cub Swanson.
This was a test for Holloway's prospects as a contender, but it was also a chance to get Swanson back in the win column following a loss to Frankie Edgar. It was a win-win for the UFC brass and for the fans as it was a fantastic stylistic battle.
The performance remains one of Holloway's best as it encapsulated his maturation as a fighter.
Holloway was in control in the first two rounds with superior striking. His jab was on point, but he stayed true to his nature of mixing it up with spinning back kicks and knees. Swanson took a lot of punishment to the body. Holloway managed the distance and looked for crisp counters.
Swanson was hurt to the body in the third, which began a scramble on the mat. Holloway attempted an arm-triangle choke, but Swanson would survive. Back on the feet, Holloway stunned Swanson again, putting him to a knee. Swanson looked for a leg to survive, but Holloway got his neck. He moved to mount with the choke quickly and got the tap.
It was a complete performance on the feet and the mat for Holloway that helped to establish him in the upper echelon of the division.
No. 3: Holloway Stops Pettis to Earn First Title
UFC 206 - December 10, 2016
All it took to finally get a shot at gold was a nine-fight win streak, but it wasn't even undisputed gold. Aldo was promoted to undisputed champion earlier in the year. With Aldo unavailable, the UFC made the call for another interim title tilt with Holloway and Anthony Pettis.
Pettis came in overweight. He was not eligible for the title, but Holloway could still win it.
The fight was competitive in the first round. Both men found some success. Holloway would start to get the better of the action in the second round. Pettis' face began to show the work of Holloway, but he was still in the fight.
As the third round moved along, the body shots from Holloway would once again be the story. He laced in several kicks to the body late that hurt Pettis. Eventually, the pain was too much, and Pettis backed away to the fence. Knowing the end was near, Holloway blitzed him with a flurry until the referee stepped in to save the former lightweight champ.
UFC 206 was the crowning for Holloway, but it was not his magnum opus. It did announce a new era in the 145-pound division, though.
No. 2: Title Unification
UFC 212 - June 3, 2017
Aldo was the greatest featherweight to ever do it. He got his title back in 2016, and surely the interim titleholder couldn't dethrone the king. Holloway had an unlikely rise to the title. He couldn't possibly beat Aldo.
Except, he did.
It didn't look like it would go that way at the start, though. Aldo had a strong opening stanza. Holloway was not being dominated, but the champion looked strong in front of a home crowd in Rio de Janeiro. Aldo continued on in the second round, although Holloway was starting to close the gap. The second frame ended with Aldo having a slight lead but the youngster staying in the fight.
And that's when the changing of the guard began.
Aldo looked noticeably slower in the third. A credit to Holloway's striking, pace and cardio. He upped the tempo and got to work. Two straight rights landed, with the second dropping the champion. Holloway got on top and began unleashing his ground and pound. Aldo covered up to avoid big damage, but he was not able to give the referee a reason to let the action continue.
Holloway's well-earned finish was a stunning display that gave the featherweight division a breath of fresh air.
No. 1: Holloway Confirms Dominance over Aldo
UFC 218 - December 2, 2017
Almost six months to the day, the rematch was set.
Aldo had time to adjust to what Holloway did so well earlier in the year and prepare himself to recapture the title that was his for so long. Holloway made his adjustments as well, and in those adjustments, we got to see a performance that was simply masterful.
In their first meeting, Aldo had a slight edge early. In the rematch, it was dominance from Holloway.
Holloway's technique is underappreciated, and the rematch with Aldo is a great case study in MMA striking. Fundamentals with his jab were on point to sting Aldo in the first. His footwork aided in slipping the oncoming attacks from Aldo.
Just like their first meeting, Holloway assumed top position late in the round against a tired Aldo. This time he was also battered from over 10 minutes of Holloway connecting with strikes. After some shots connected flush on the canvas, referee Herb Dean saved Aldo from the new king.
To beat Aldo once is incredible, but to do so a second time in a more dominant performance is jaw-dropping.
That's exactly what Holloway did at UFC 218 in Detroit, and he cemented his claim as the best featherweight in the world.