The former featherweight king is looking for a path back to the crown. Max Holloway will face Calvin Kattar in a pivotal featherweight bout in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is the first UFC show of the year, and the main card will air on ABC, the home for boxing over several decades.
The winner of this fight could be next in line for a title opportunity. ESPN has Holloway ranked No. 2 and Kattar at No. 6 in the featherweight division.
Holloway (21-6) has dropped two in a row to current champion Alexander Volkanovski. Both bouts were very close and many thought Holloway won the second at UFC 251 in July. Holloway, 29, is the most decorated featherweight in UFC history. He held a 145-pound title in the UFC from 2016 to 2019. The Hawai’i native has the most wins (16), the most KO/TKO wins (8) and the most stoppage victories (10) in UFC featherweight history.
Kattar (22-4) has won two in a row and four of his past five. The Massachusetts native has four finishes in six UFC wins. Kattar, 32, is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Dan Ige last July.
In the co-main event, two of the most exciting fighters in UFC welterweight history — Carlos Condit and Matt Brown — square off. Condit (31-13), a former UFC interim welterweight champion, snapped a five-fight losing streak in his most recent bout, a win over Court McGee. Brown (22-17) had a two-fight winning streak snapped in his latest bout against Miguel Baeza.
Also on the card, welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio returns after more than two years away because of illness to face Li Jingliang, and knockout artist Joaquin Buckley meets Alessio Di Chirico in a welterweight bout.
A strong card will get an extra boost of adrenaline as fans will be allowed in the Etihad Arena. The building can seat 18,000, but only 2,000 fans will be allowed in.
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
Fight in progress:
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley (12-3, 2-1 UFC, -300) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (12-5, 3-5 UFC, +240)
Middleweight: Punahele Soriano (8-0, 2-0 UFC) defeats Dusko Todorovic (10-1, 1-1 UFC) via first-round TKO
Punahele Soriano drops Dusko Todorovic with a massive left hook late in Round 1 of their bout.
Soriano finished the UFC’s first-ever fight on ABC — the longtime home of boxing — with a finish right out of boxing.
Soriano dropped Todorovic three times in the first round with the latter one finishing things at 4:48 via TKO in a middleweight bout. All of the knockdown punches came with Soriano’s powerful left hand. Both men came into the bout undefeated.
Todorovic did a good job playing the matador in the opening minutes, just evading Soriano’s ferocious blitzes. But that didn’t last long. Soriano sent Todorovic reeling with a left hand against the cage. Todorovic was able to recover, get up and pull Soriano into his guard. But Soriano wasn’t having it. He got up and then landed another booming left with Todorovic’s head against the cage.
On impact, Todorovic’s mouthpiece flew out of his mouth and landed in between the cage and canvas. Referee Herb Dean had some difficulty trying to fish it out of the area. During that time, Todorovic had time to recover from the two knockdowns. But it didn’t matter at all. As soon as Todorovic got his mouthpiece back and the fight restarted, Soriano was right back as the aggressor, landing another left hand with Todorovic backing up. Todorovic fell and even though he was still attempting to fight, Dean had seen enough — the fight was called with Soriano winning via TKO.
Soriano, 28, has finished both of his UFC fights via TKO. The Hawaii native has seven finishes in eight career victories. Todorovic, a 26-year-old Serbia native, won his UFC debut back in October, a TKO win victory over Dequan Townsend.
Women’s bantamweight: Joselyne Edwards (10-2, 1-0 UFC) defeats Wu Yanan (11-4, 1-3 UFC) by unanimous decision
It took Edwards about a minute into her UFC debut to show that she was ready for the short-notice opportunity. Taken down by Wu, the 25-year-old from Panama immediately set up an armbar attempt. When that did not earn her the submission and Edwards ended up on her back, she reversed position and took a dominant position on her opponent’s back.
Edwards had to fight the full three rounds, but she led the dance the whole way and took the unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) for her ninth victory in her past 10 fights.
Wu, 24 and from China, kept coming forward the whole way, her awkward footwork at times keeping Edwards out of range. But Edwards was dangerous no matter where the fight was being fought. At one point, she lost balance while missing a strike attempt and fell to the canvas, and when Wu went at her to attack, the Chinese fighter was greeted by a two-footed up-kick, to the face.
For Wu, who had not competed in over 16 months because of fight cancellations, it was her second straight loss.
Heavyweight: Carlos Felipe (10-1, 2-1 UFC) vs. Justin Tafa (4-2, 1-2 UFC) by split decision
With 20 seconds left, Felipe and Tafa stood in the center of the Octagon throwing hard punching combinations at each other. The 2,000 paid fans in attendance — the first to witness a UFC event since last March — loudly cheered.
Felipe ended up winning a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Tafa in a very close fight. But what people will remember about this battle of big heavyweights won’t be who won and who lost. It’ll be how they brought the first UFC crowd in 10 months to its feet with an incredibly entertaining brawl.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 16, 2021
Tafa controlled the first round. He landed hard kicks to Felipe’s body and legs. At one point, he nearly took Felipe off his feet with a right leg kick. You could see red toe marks on Felipe’s thigh from Tafa’s brutal kicks. In the second, though, Felipe took momentum. He rocked Tafa with a big combination culminating with a big right hand. Tafa retreated against the cage and Felipe hurt him again with hooks to the body as Tafa winced. The two finished the round with a big exchange in the center as the crowd cheered.
In the third, both men had their moments. Tafa landed some hard body shots in close. It was as if the two giant men were fighting in a phone booth. Later, Felipe landed a big elbow that momentarily stunned Tafa. The bout ended with the two going at each other, risking the loss of consciousness to set the crowd afire.
Felipe, 26, has now won two straight following a loss in his UFC debut. The Brazil native also has pro boxing experience. Tafa, a 27-year-old Australia native, has now dropped two of three in the UFC.
Welterweight: Ramazan Emeev (20-4, 5-1 UFC) defeats David Zawada (17-6, 1-3 UFC) by split decision
Emeev had to dig deep in Round 3. Actually, both men did.
After being taken down and finding himself in full mount position, Emeev managed to escape from danger, reversing position to get on top. And even after he lost that position, the 33-year-old Russian went back to work with aggression and pressure, earning the decision on the scorecards of two of the three judges for his ninth victory in his past 10 fights.
All three scoring at cageside had the bout 29-28.
Zawada had something to overcome in Round 3, as well, and he almost did. He had been taken down multiple times in the first two rounds, and a right hand from Emeev right at the horn ending the second round — or a split second after the horn — opened a cut next to the left eye of the 30-year-old German. He fought most of Round 3 with blood dripping into his eye, yet he nearly got the job done by gaining dominant position.
Instead, it was the third loss in his past four fights for Zawada, who had not competed since 2019.
“I was confident I won all three rounds, but when one of the judges scored it for him, I was kind of shocked,” Emeev said. “I believe it should have been an unanimous decision, but at the end of the day I got the win so it’s all that matters.
“At first I wanted to take it easy, move around, but Zawada set a high pace right away, started damaging my leg with low kicks, so I accepted his pace and fought back. I feel great. I felt the fans’ support, I could see they were cheering for me, it was good for me.”
Women’s bantamweight: Vanessa Melo (11-8, 1-3 UFC) defeats Sarah Moras (6-8, 3-6 UFC) by unanimous decision
For three rounds, Melo stalked forward, throwing power punches. She ate some jabs in the process, and not every big hook landed, but enough did for her to earn the win.
Melo defeated Moras via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a women’s bantamweight bout, the first UFC women’s bout of 2021.
The most significant strike came in the second round. Melo whipped a combination that culminated in a shovel left hook, cracking Moras in the nose. Moras’ mouthpiece fell out after the punch landed and her nose ended up bloodied. Moras had some success with her jab and leg kicks. But there was little doubt that Melo was landing the harder punches throughout the fight.
Melo, 32, had a three-fight losing streak snapped. The Brazilian picked up her first UFC win. Moras, a 32-year-old Canada native, has now dropped two straight and five of her past six.
“I feel really happy and honored to get my first UFC win,” Melo said. “I can’t even explain how happy I am. I just want to keep evolving, train harder and keep growing.
“I’m honored to be here, was an honor to be on the first Fight Island, an honor to be here with the fans for the first time – it’s not that many fans, but it’s nice, it’s a new beginning for the UFC and everyone.”
Men’s featherweight: Austin Lingo (8-1, 1-1 UFC) defeats Jacob Kilburn (8-4, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision
Lingo had not fought since his first defeat last February. But he did not take long to get back on track, dropping Kilburn within the first 30 seconds. But his work was not yet done.
After Kilburn climbed right back to his feet, Lingo proceeded to pepper him with sharp jabs, left hooks and more right hands on his way to securing the nod on all three scorecards.
It’s Buffer vs. Fly at #UFCFightIsland7 ?
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 16, 2021
Two judges scored the fight 30-26 and other had it 30-27.
Kilburn, in his first fight since 2019, did not make it easy, despite the lopsided scorecards. The 25-year-old from Clarksville, Tennessee, tried takedown after takedown, and as the fight wore on, he did appear to be the fresher competitor. But he couldn’t get out of the way of Lingo’s punches, and suffered his second straight loss.
Lingo, 26 and fighting out of Dallas, had not competed since last February’s unanimous decision loss to Youssef Zalal.
Still to come:
Men’s featherweight: Max Holloway (21-6, 17-6 UFC, -160) vs. Calvin Kattar (22-4, 6-2 UFC, +135)
Welterweight: Carlos Condit (31-13, 8-9 UFC, -170) vs. Matt Brown (24-17, 15-11 UFC, +145)
Welterweight: Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-3, 9-2 UFC, -310) vs. Li Jingliang (17-6, 9-4 UFC, +250)
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