Holloway has the belief necessary to be champion

All week in the build-up to this UFC fight, Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway had made clear how certain he was of his victory. He said the bout would be the fight of the night. He was right about winning. It wasn’t much of a fight, though, as Anthony Pettis barely showed up. 

As our new interim champ Holloway will go on to fight featherweight champ Jose Aldo, Anthony Pettis will have to do some soul searching about his place in the sport.

There have been some serious highs in the career of Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. In the now defunct WEC (kind of like the UFC of the lighter weight divisions, before the UFC, had them), Pettis secured the lightweight belt in a glorious performance against Benson Henderson- capped with a now-infamous ‘showtime kick’, where he jumped off the cage and slapped Benson right across the face with his toes. 

Both Pettis and Henderson headed into the UFC, as the larger organisation absorbed the WEC. Pettis, unfortunately, lost his first fight, as his flashy striking was irrelevant in the face of Clay Guida’s grinding wrestling. He then put on a great winning streak and ended up fighting for UFC gold against none other than his old foe, Benson Henderson. He made short work of the man he had already bested and was on top of the World. 

I was happy for him. I’m a fan of his exciting style, and he comes across as a genuine, likeable and hard-working guy. The UFC seemed to think he was a marketable guy, too. He was even the first UFC fighter to appear on the Wheaties cereal box (a genuine honour for an athlete in the U.S.A, I then found out).

Things took a turn for the worse, though, when Pettis lost the belt in a brutal beating from Raphael Dos Anjos, and things went from bad to worse after that, losing two more decisions. It’s clear that Pettis struggles against wrestlers and against pressure and volume fighters. A guy like Dos Anjos, who mixes in the takedown threat, with high volume punching and kicking, is Pettis’ worst nightmare.

Dropping down to featherweight seemed to make sense for Pettis. He always looked a little small for lightweight, particularly proven by how easily he could be taken down. But for this fight against Holloway, Pettis apparently couldn’t get within 3 pounds of the 145lb weight limit without putting himself in genuine medical danger. Missing weight is something the UFC hate, and it was the beginning of a bad week for Pettis.

In the fight, cardio seemed like an issue for ‘Showtime’, and already by round 2, Holloway looked like the guy who was ready and eager to go 5 rounds, and be aggressive the whole time. The way Pettis was throwing his kicks, it was like he just wanted to keep Holloway away from him. They weren’t aggressive minded- it was more like he just wanted to buy himself some time.

After the KO came in the 3rd, Pettis told Joe Rogan that he broke his hand with the very first punch he threw. It’s one of those really unlucky things, and it sucks as a fight fan. I went back and rewatched the fight, and Pettis doesn’t throw a single right hand in the 2nd or 3rd round. He throws some palm strikes, but that’s it. You’d have to be Superman to beat Max Holloway without the use of one of your limbs, so I don’t blame Pettis for this loss too much.

Pettis was incredibly direct in the interview with Joe Rogan and stated unequivocally that he’ll go back up to lightweight, as he simply can’t make the weight down at 145. I think this might be a little premature. Pettis just isn’t physical enough for lightweight, and I think with a new plan, he can comfortably fight at featherweight. It could be time to give nutritionist Mike Dolce a call. But before that, I think Pettis needs to take a little time off and think about his career. He’s achieved a lot, but also run into some big issues that he hasn’t addressed properly. I hope he can come back stronger because he’s a great fighter. 

A guy who hasn’t had any of the problems facing Anthony Pettis is Max Holloway. He’s now won 10 straight since being comfortably beaten by Conor McGregor who had a torn ACL. That was back in 2013, and Holloway was only 21! He’s 25 now, and he’s ludicrously confident. But he backs it up. He’s tall and rangy for the division, with great timing and movement and understanding of range. He’s hard as hell to take down, and he has a submission game if you do get him there. His cardio is great, and he’ll likely throw more than you all fight long. He could see that Pettis wasn’t all there in the cage this weekend, and knew exactly when to move in for the kill. To finish him where Dos Anjos, Alvarez and Barboza couldn’t is impressive. 

Holloway could be the featherweight champion, and in time (of which he has more than a decade to fight in) he could even have an epic rematch with McGregor. He’s come a long way since that one. In the upcoming fight with Aldo, I expect there to be very little grappling, as both men will believe they can get it done on the feet. I would give a big cardio edge to Holloway, and if he can drag the champion into the later rounds, he can get it done. What he’ll have to watch out for are the leg kicks. Aldo’s leg kicks are legendary; probably the best there’s ever been in the game. Holloway is pretty skinny, and if his lead leg gets chewed up by Aldo, it could decimate his attack. He’s got a great camp and an even better fight IQ though, and I believe he can get it done. 

War Holloway!

By Laurie Williams

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