Max Holloway said he trained only via Zoom with his coaches for his rematch for the featherweight title with Alexander Volkanovski on July 12 at UFC 251.
In their first fight at UFC 245, Volkanovski surprised Holloway by attacking him early with calf kicks. He built up a lead and cruised to a decision to take the title from Holloway.
In the rematch, though, Holloway showed his fight IQ. He adjusted to what Volkanovski did in their first fight and largely negated the Australian’s offense, particularly early. It wasn’t until Volkanovski himself adjusted in the rematch and began to use his wrestling that he got his way back into the fight.
Volkanovski retained the belt at UFC 251 with a questionable split decision victory.
Holloway is back on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ABC), meeting Calvin Kattar at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in the new Etihad Arena with a shot at the championship at stake for the winner. UFC president Dana White said the victor will fight the Volkanovski-Brian Ortega winner for the belt.
This is the fight of Kattar’s life, and so he figures to be on point from the get-go. He’s not one to shrivel in the spotlight or in adverse circumstances, as he proved when he went to Moscow in 2019 and went toe-to-toe with Zabit Magomedsharipov while losing a close three-rounder. If that fight were a five-rounder, Kattar, who was coming on at the end, may well have pulled it out.
Holloway has had a tendency to start slowly, but he understands the stakes as well as anyone and he figures to come out quickly. Plus, the one thing that he doesn’t have to worry about with Kattar that he did with Volkanovski is that wrestling.
Both men are stand-up fighters. Kattar has a good jab and is smart in the pocket, where he has the footwork to get in, land his shots and slip out of the way of return fire.
Kattar is also the harder hitter of the two, which makes him somewhat attractive as an underdog. He’s +135 at BetMGM.
But Holloway, who has been bet down to -160, has a more diverse striking attack as well as the better overall game. I’ll lay two units on him at -160 with the hope of making a $200 profit.
The over-under at BetMGM is also interesting. It has over 1.5 rounds, with over at -400 and under at +310. It also has over 3.5 rounds at -200 and under 3.5 at +170.
I think this is a distance fight, so I’m going to play one of the overs. But instead of going over 3.5 and laying the shorter number, I’m going to cover myself in the event of a big Kattar punch and play over 1.5 rounds while laying the -400.
Finally, I’ll bet Holloway by decision, putting two units on him at +125, hoping to make a $250 profit there.
Other plays for UFC on ABC 1
In the Carlos Condit-Matt Brown fight, BetMGM has the fight to finish in KO/TKO/DQ at +130. I’ll lay one unit on that hoping to win $130.
I will bet one unit on Santiago Ponzinibbio at +250 to win by decision over Li Jingliang.
I will lay -150 and bet the Phil Hawes-Nassourdine Imarov to go under 2.5 rounds.
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