Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Future Lightweight Max Holloway Still Has Unfinished Business At Featherweight

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway continued his historic winning streak this past Saturday night in Toronto at UFC 231 with a record-setting, vicious four-round beating of Brian Ortega that saw the doctor forced to step in and stop the contest after 20 minutes of violence. The win upped Holloway’s record to a brilliant 16-3 mark, including 13 straight wins, and he’s now made consecutive title defenses since unifying the title against former long-time champion Jose Aldo.

The victory over Ortega helped Holloway tie Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Demetrious Johnson for the second-longest win streak in UFC history behind Anderson Silva, who holds the record with 16 straight wins. It’s a record that thousands of other fighters who have stepped into the Octagon couldn’t touch, but it’s one that Holloway is now within striking distance of achieving.

Instead of talking about Holloway defending his featherweight crown some more and trying to set the record for most UFC wins in a row, UFC president Dana White instead wants Holloway to challenge himself and move up to lightweight. We know that Holloway has had trouble making weight in the past and has had several health issues that may be attributed to tough weight cuts. But he made weight easily for UFC 231 and from what we know he didn’t have any issues. Sure, there’s plenty of interesting fights for Holloway at lightweight and while that move should happen eventually, I’ll argue that right now Holloway should stay at featherweight and continue to build his legacy. Holloway himself said he still considers Aldo the best ever at 145lbs, so Holloway should continue to win fights in the featherweight division until he surpasses Aldo in his own mind. Then he should move up.

Yes, the prospect of Holloway fighting lightweights like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson and having rematches with guys like Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier is fascinating. And those are all fights that should happen, but not right now. Not with Nurmagomedov and McGregor still waiting for the commission to hand out their punishments following the brawl at UFC 226. And not before the other lightweights who actually deserve a title shot get it.

Let’s face it, if Holloway drops the featherweight title to move up to lightweight then he’ll most likely want an immediate title shot. But with Poirier and Ferguson both very deserving of a title shot first, it wouldn’t make sense or be fair for Holloway to cut the line and get the next crack at the belt. We see what’s happening in the bantamweight division right now with TJ Dillashaw’s temporary move to 125lbs making other top contenders like Morales Moraes and Raphael Assuncao wait to fight for the belt, and that’s not what we need at lightweight right now.

Instead, Holloway should stay at featherweight and finish his business there, possibly setting the record for longest UFC win streak in the process. There are still plenty of fresh, intriguing matchups for him at 145lbs. First and foremost, Renato Moicano, who was the backup fighter for UFC 231. Aside from Ortega, no one has been able to beat Moicano, and many look at the Brazilian as a future champion. Holloway vs. Moicano is a great fight that still needs to happen.

Also, Holloway against the winner of UFC 232’s Chad Mendes vs. Alexander Volkanovski. Although Holloway has cleaned out the majority of 145lbs, Mendes has been someone he hasn’t fought yet, and he hasn’t fought the surging Volkanovski either. Holloway against the winner of that fight would be a tremendous matchup. As well, Holloway still hasn’t fought Frankie Edgar, Mirsad Bektic and Yair Rodriguez. So there’s still plenty of challenges left for Holloway at featherweight before he moves up.

Ultimately, it’s just a matter of time before Holloway moves up to lightweight, but right now just doesn’t seem like the right time for him to do so when there are still fresh, intriguing fights for him left at featherweight. It may come down to health reasons why he is forced to move up, but if the UFC and Holloway have a choice in the matter and can hold off on the move for a bit, he should stay at 145lbs for now and clean up the unfinished business he has. Then he can move up to lightweight and start his legacy there. It’s inevitable Holloway makes the move up in weight, but now is not the right time for that to happen.

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