In the lead-up to his UFC 206 main event against Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway walked with the quiet confidence of a champion and on Saturday at Air Canada Centre, he earned the hardware to go with it, stopping Pettis in the third round to win the interim UFC featherweight belt.
But the 25-year-old Holloway, Hawaii’s first UFC champion since BJ Penn, won’t be satisfied until he unifies the belt with current titleholder Jose Aldo, and he’s got just the place for it.
“Meet me in Brooklyn,” Holloway shouted, referring to February’s UFC 208 card at Barclays Center. “Let’s get the real one.”
A fired-up Pettis refused to touch gloves with Holloway to start the bout, and while the first round was largely a tactical one, Pettis looked comfortable in the midst of the battle, as he got back to the creative striking style that he built his reputation on. Holloway got more effective as the round progressed, landing some hard counters that bruised up Pettis’ right eye.
Holloway got the second round off to a good start with a right hand that briefly dropped Pettis. In response, Pettis surged forward and got more aggressive, but his eye was becoming a problem and he also told his corner that he broke his right hand in the first round, making matters worse because Holloway was getting sharper with his attacks. Late in the round, Pettis was looking for the takedown, but Holloway wasn’t having it, and both stayed upright until the horn sounded.
Mixing his attacks well, Holloway also tossed in a sweep in the second minute of round three, adding to his point total. Even in the clinch, Holloway was the busier fighter, but Pettis kept working, hoping to regain the lead. Another sweep by Holloway in the final minute added to the Hawaiian’s point total, and suddenly, Holloway began tagging Pettis with body shots. Stunned, Pettis went back to the fence, and Holloway opened up with both hands, dropping Pettis to the mat, where referee Yves Lavigne stepped in and stopped the fight at 4:50 of the third round.
With the win, Waianae’s Holloway ups his record to 17-3; Milwaukee’s Pettis falls to 19-6.