Max Holloway’s jump to lightweight didn’t go as planned. Many had expected Holloway to look better than ever at lightweight, but he came up short at UFC 236 against Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier. The current 145-pound champion faced Dustin Poirier in a fight of the year contender, but come up on the losing end.
Holloway ended up with his second loss to “The Diamond” who looked too big, strong, and powerful throughout the fight, picking up a deserved unanimous decision victory on the judges’ cards.
With his UFC career now at a key stage, we at The Scrap assess Max Holloway’s options and ask what’s next for the featherweight champion?
Stay at Lightweight.
Max Holloway, despite looking outsized at lightweight, gave a good account of himself against Dustin Poirier. Holloway was taking countless big shots and even came on strong in the later rounds. If Holloway decides lightweight is his new home, he’ll need to make a few adjustments.
First and foremost, put on some size, the Max Holloway who stepped in at UFC 236 looked no different than the one who has been competing at featherweight. Growing into a new weight class takes time, Poirier is a true example of that, today he is one of the bigger 155-pound guys, but it took time for him to grow into the weight class and Max will need time too.
Style-wise, Holloway may need to make a few adjustments. His tendency to absorb damage early on to suck the energy out of his opponent is amazing to watch and at featherweight a safe strategy due to the fact he is much bigger and with a better chin than most at that weight. At lightweight, this simply won’t be do-able. Especially not if he’s going to be champion. Poirier showed that the lightweights hit too hard for Holloway to continually move through the power to get his own volume strikes off. A slightly more cautious approach may be needed. Holloway took the shots, but the damage he endured was much greater than the damage he returned.
These changes are simple and once implemented will have Holloway competing and beating the best lightweights in the world. In the meantime, there are plenty of fun fights for him in the division as he works his way back into a title shot. The top 10 is littered with massive fights for Holloway. Donald Cerrone (#8), Tony Ferguson (#2), Justin Gaethje (#5) and Conor McGregor (#3) are a few names in the most stacked division which provides the biggest pay days for Holloway. At this point, Holloway is one of the biggest stars in the sport. He’ll be keen to cash in on that fact.
Create a legacy at 145lbs.
A common misconception among fight fans it that Holloway has cleared out the featherweight division, he hasn’t. After two defenses and a 13-fight win streak in the division, Holloway still has some work to do before these claims can be justified.
Up-and-coming contenders such as Zabit Magomedsharipov (#6) and Alexander Volkanovski (#4) present a new threat to Holloway’s reign. Both men are looking phenomenal in their rise and seem to be on the cusp of a title shot. Whilst long standing contenders such as Frankie Edgar (#3) and the resurgent Jose Aldo (#1) will be looking to propel themselves back to championship status this year.
Featherweight is not stacked with the mega fights that lightweight is, that’s undeniable. It does however, offer Holloway a chance to dominate for years to come in a reign reminiscent to Anderson Silva or Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Holloway truly looks untouchable at the weight and if he’s able to make the weight safely, get big fights, and make great money, why move up?
A tough decision waits for the featherweight champion in the coming months. A true commitment to the 155lb division means totally abandoning featherweight, putting on the muscle and mass required to compete at lightweight which effectively rules out a return to 145lbs. Or he may stay a featherweight, the home of all his success and solidify his position as the best to ever do it at the weight.