The Film Room: Max Holloway

By Kevin Wilson Jul 23, 2019
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Max Holloway will make the walk to the Octagon for the 21st time when he defends his Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title against Frankie Edgar in the UFC 240 main event on Saturday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. The Hawaiian moved up to lightweight to face Dustin Poirier in his most recent appearance and left the cage with his first loss since 2013. Holloway now returns to his natural weight class and looks to pick up a victory over a future hall of famer and continue his remarkable run at 145 pounds.

Holloway supplies the material for this edition of The Film Room.

Holloway is one of the smartest and trickiest strikers in MMA history, and despite his lanky frame, he arguably does his best work when standing and trading in the pocket. In both of his fights with Jose Aldo, many expected Holloway to stay patient on the outside and pick apart the former champion with his length. Instead, he pushed the pace, stayed in Aldo’s face and destroyed him with quick combos in the pocket. In his battle with Brian Ortega, many expected the same, as Holloway would not want to go to the ground with the dangerous submission specialist. However, Holloway again pushed the pace for all four rounds and put on the most dominant striking performance in MMA history. His patience and ability to switch stances in between combos, all while mixing his punches to the head and body, never afforded Aldo or Ortega room to counter. These fights showed that Holloway can keep a ridiculous pace while staying tactical and defensively responsible.

Holloway is one of the most diverse strikers in the sport but relied on an age-old combo to pick apart Ortega for four straight rounds. His timing, range, length and reading ability allowed him to land nearly every 1-2 down the middle that he threw and proved he could rely on his intangibles and the basics of boxing to take out one of the top contenders in the division. It was supposed to be his toughest challenge, but instead, he made Ortega look like an amateur. He mixed up the 1-2 to the body to get Ortega blocking low and then came back up with the 1-2 to the head while the Californian’s hands were low. It was simple but effective and showed that Holloway can mix up his style depending on the matchup -- a rare skill at any level.

A key to Holloway’s success in the pocket is his ability to take angles during combinations. His entire game relies on being able to comfortably fight out of both stances and his ability to cut angles at a moment’s notice. Holloway showed another tricky way to hide one’s stance switches when he took a deep V-step to Aldo’s right side while switching to southpaw. He immediately threw a punch and hoped the switch went unnoticed, allowing the strike to come at an angle Aldo was not expecting. Anybody at the highest levels can fight out of both stances, but few can hide their switches in motion and trick the opponent into thinking he is in one stance before coming forward with a combo from the other. A fighter who can fluidly change stances in motion creates a variety of attacks from which to choose, which in turn overloads the opponent’s reactions due to all the possibilities. When an orthodox fighter faces another orthodox fighter, he knows what is available to him on offense and defense. However, when an opponent transitions to southpaw, a new realm of possibilities opens. Since opportunities are constantly opening and closing, this style is difficult to read.

Holloway provides several other examples of how to effectively hide your stance switches. Against Cub Swanson, he leaped forward into a southpaw stance and landed two hooks to the body before quickly exiting the pocket. Holloway mimicked a favorite combo of boxing legend Roberto Duran against Aldo, as he routinely switched to southpaw while throwing a 1-2 and then threw a hook from what was now his lead hand.

Holloway relied on a low-line kick to the shin and thigh earlier in his career and can still benefit from the technique. He likes to use the low-line kick to hide his stance switches and take a dominate angle before coming forward with a combo. These low-line kicks are perfect for someone who wants to fight on the outside and keep the opponent at a safe range. Holloway did not have his usual length advantage in his last fight, but Edgar is one of the smallest fighters in the division, so it would behoove him to use the low-line kicks again.

Although his grappling has held up and he has mastered the art of coming up with a game plan to take away his opponent’s ground skills, Holloway has been dominated on the mat in the past. Edgar does not rely on his wrestling background often, but this might be the perfect time to showcase it. Holloway is already the best striker the division has ever seen, and being the longest and tallest fighter in the weight class helps him tremendously. Neither of those things matter if the fight hits the ground, so expect Edgar to shoot at his hips early and often to take away Holloway’s best weapons on the feet. Advertisement


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