The UFC makes its debut on the ABC network in the US this weekend, as former UFC Featherweight champion Max Holloway faces Calvin Kattar in a major main event on Abu Dhabi's Fight Island.
The show is the first of 2021 for the UFC, and while all the hype is on next weekend’s UFC 257, this is a strong card in its own way.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC on ABC: Holloway vs. Kattar.
#1 UFC Featherweight Division: Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar
This Featherweight main event is a pretty big deal for both men in terms of UFC title contention. Having lost his UFC Featherweight title to Alexander Volkanovski, Holloway fought just once in 2020 and failed to regain the gold in a rematch.
If he wants a third meeting with Alexander the Great – or indeed, a rematch with Brian Ortega, who looks set to face Volkanovski next – then Blessed absolutely needs to beat Kattar here.
For Kattar, meanwhile, Holloway marks his toughest test in the UFC. He’s on a two-fight win streak, but it’s almost an unwritten rule that the easiest way to gain a UFC title shot is to beat a former champion. Win here, and The Boston Finisher would probably fight for the gold later in 2021.
For me, though, this is a fight that massively favors Holloway. That’s not to play down the skills and accomplishments of Kattar. He’s undoubtedly one of the UFC’s best 145lbers right now. However, styles make fights, and the styles here seem to favor the Hawaiian.
Kattar is an excellent boxing-based striker. He arguably has the best hands in the UFC’s Featherweight division, and when he has an opponent hurt, he lives up to that Boston Finisher nickname.
We saw that when he destroyed Jeremy Stephens in May, but also when he KO’d the likes of Ricardo Lamas and Shane Burgos in previous UFC fights. And interestingly, he reportedly has a 3” reach advantage over Holloway.
However, Kattar has also been picked apart by more well-rounded strikers. For instance, Renato Moicano used leg kicks to chop Kattar down, while Zabit Magomedsharipov mixed up his offense enough to throw the Bostonian off his gameplan entirely.
And it’s arguable that no striker in the UFC Featherweight division – not even Volkanovski – has the ability to chain combinations together quite as well as Holloway. Blessed can open up with his kicks, he can land punches from strange, unexpected angles, and he’ll comfortably be the most skilled kickboxer Kattar has ever faced.
The Hawaiian is also ridiculously tough, too. Concerns about his ability to absorb punishment were raised in 2019. But the truth is that we’ve only seen him truly hurt in a fight by Dustin Poirier – a much harder hitter than anyone in the UFC’s Featherweight division.
Add in the fact that Kattar is somewhat of a slow starter – his win over Burgos saw him come from behind, and he never really got going until the third round against Magomedsharipov – and this seems like a step too far for him.
Can Holloway become the first man to stop Kattar by strikes? I’m not so sure, but I suspect Blessed will open up such a lead on the Bostonian that even a late comeback from Kattar won’t be able to overcome him.