UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen - Fights to make
All the best, most interesting, and unquestionably coolest fights the UFC needs to book following their latest even in Kansas City, MO.
It didn't have the big highlight finish in the main event or even an amazing bloody war to go out on, but UFC Fight Night: Max Holloway vs. Arnold Allen was a really thoroughly entertaining Fight Night card. In the main event, Max Holloway once again showed why he's head and shoulders above most of his peers, with a crafty, adjustment filled 5-round decision over rising contender Arnold Allen. In the co-main, Edson Barboza stopped Billy Quarantillo's top-15 dreams dead in their tracks with a perfectly timed knee. While down on the prelims, Bill Algeo and TJ Brown threw everything but the kitchen sink at one another for six solid minutes.
So, what the hell does the UFC do with Max Holloway off yet another win over a young contender? Who's the next young prospect ready to try and make his name off Edson Barboza? And is there anyone left in the bantamweight top 15 that Pedro Munhoz hasn't fought?
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To answer those questions—along with several others—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these post-UFC 287 bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
It didn't have the flair of styling on Calvin Kattar, or the boxing lesson Max Holloway gave Brian Ortega, or the violence of his fight with Yair Rodriguez, but this was a fascinating performance from the former champion in its own right. Mostly because Arnold Allen didn't make any of the kinds of footwork and defensive mistakes that dictated so much of the action in those other, more overwhelming wins. He was always in good position, ready to answer the questions Holloway asked, and brought enough power of his own that the Gracie Technics fighter had to respect him.
The result was an intelligent and constantly shifting performance from Holloway. Sometimes he'd dart to one side with a lunging shot in classic Eddie Alvarez style, sometimes he jab the body and fire over the top—or land a body kick and step through to chase it with a right hand. Combinations came in fits and starts with just as many points where Holloway had to simply sit on his jab or wait for counters. This was not a fight of overwhelming offense, but one of craft and problem solving, and Holloway did so expertly.
The result is still very much the same, however. Which is that Holloway firmly shut out another rising contender, and put himself right back in the spot he's been ever since Alexander Volkanovski first took his title away, treading water, looking for another chance at gold. So what's he gonna do? With Volkanovski fighting Rodriguez, Holloway has to be hoping for a win for 'El Pantera', but that would probably just mean a rematch for the Aussie, waiting out that could mean sitting for a year.
If Ilia Topuria beats Josh Emmett, Holloway could always fight him, but that's not doing the 31-year-old any favors; to be the A-side in another non-title fight that has only half a chance of making PPV. This is the time for lateral thinking. Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo are fighting soon, both men have talked about moving up—is that a fight Holloway could get? Holloway himself has talked about trying out lightweight again, but who makes sense at 155?
It's too bad Charles Oliveira is booked, because I'd love to see Oliveira vs. Holloway 2. But if 'Do Bronx' beats Dariush (and if Chael Sonnen is to be believed) then he's back fighting Islam Makhachev in October. He could fight Dustin Poirier again, but I'd much rather see Poirier vs. Gaethje 2, and both men seem to want that anyway. The only way I can see Holloway getting an interesting name for his next fight, guaranteed, is if he takes on the loser of Sterling vs. Cejudo. If Sterling drops the belt, it seems like the perfect time to move up. If Cejudo loses his challenge, why not try see if he can put anything behind all his talk about winning belts in 3 divisions. Holloway vs. the Cejudo/Sterling loser is all I can figure out.
It was a game attempt from Arnold Allen. He hung with Max Holloway, never let the fight slip truly out of reach, and landed solid shots in most every round. He also just could not keep pace with the Hawaiian's high output attack. For every left hand Allen fired, for every body kick or jab or 1-2, there were two of the same coming back at him. He knew things were in desperate straights late and tried to turn it up and go for the win. It nearly resulted in his best round of the fight, except that it also ended up getting him dropped right at the final bell.
It's kind of too bad that it's taken Allen 11 years to get to this fight. It was likely a great learning experience and a chance to show off his clear quality on the big stage. Sure he didn't get the victory, but apart from Yair Rodriguez's few big moments in 2021, this is the best that someone's looked in a loss to 'Blessed' since Frankie Edgar in 2019. Basic point is, Allen's an elite talent and it would have been great to see him get here sooner. Fortunately, as Yair Rodriguez recently proved, losing to Holloway is no guarantee that a title shot isn't still in 'Almighty''s future.
To that end, this is actually a pretty excellent time to be coming off a loss at 145 and in the top 10. Brian Ortega, The Korean Zombie, Giga Chikadze? All of them are looking to rebound from a defeat in their last fight. Not to mention that fight between Josh Emmett and Ilia Topuria. Someone's got to lose that. Hell, Allen could even rematch Calvin Kattar if he wanted. But if Brian Ortega is riding a loss and needs a booking, that's the fight that feels most thrilling. Arnold Allen vs. Brian Ortega would be a great way to bounce Allen right back into the spotlight.
This was supposed to be Billy Quarantillo's coming out party. Edson Barboza has been a top-flight action fighter for many years, but running on the wrong side of 35, and with a string of losses, Quarantillo had the opportunity to step in and steal the Brazilian's thunder. Lord knows he tried.
Quarantillo pressed Barboza right out of the gate, grabbing an immediate single leg and searching for takedowns. But Barboza stuffed his shots and put him back at range, where they traded hooks and low kicks. Never a safe place to be with the former top-ranked lightweight. Quarantillo tried pressing and shooting again and again, to the point he shot right onto a step knee that knocked him six ways from sundown. A huge KO win for the American Top Team fighter, and one that keeps him firmly in gatekeeper mode at the edges of the featherweight top 15.
That could mean battles with Sodiq Yusuff or Alex Caceres, or a rising fighter like Lerone Murphy. Given all the different options, I'll say Lerone Murphy seems like the most interesting. The Brit has top-flight physicality but the consistency of approach hasn't been there. Is he good enough to make a run at contention? A fight against Barboza is the way to find out. Barboza vs. Murphy to see if the old lion can keep the gates once more.
After this fight, Azamat Murzakanov revealed that he'd broken his left arm in the second round. Despite the injury, Dustin Jacoby still couldn't find a way to win. Murzakanov had teed-off on 'The Hanyak' for two solid rounds with that arm, dropping him in both of the first two frames. Given an opportunity to get his own back in the third, Jacoby decided to spam late takedown attempts instead.
Not the best fight overall, but it's impossible to deny Murzakanov's fight-changing speed and power and consistency. After the bout, Murzakanov called for a booking with a top ranked opponent and it feels like he deserves a serious step up. Nikita Krylov is coming off a win. Given Murzakanov's desire to show himself as the best Russian fighter at 205, seems like this is a good way to make the statement. Krylov vs. Murzakanov is a great bout to see which man can turn himself into a contender.