Does Max Holloway need to change Weight Class?

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Max Holloway is set to face off against Arnold Allen this weekend April 15th at UFC on ESPN 44. This is a pivotal moment for the former champion and is a must win fight for him if he wishes to ever regain his former glory and place at the top of the UFC featherweight division.

Holloway was a long time champ in the organisation holding the belt for almost 3 years. He beat Jose Aldo twice, defended handily against Brian Ortega and then made another successful defence against Frankie Edgar. Holloway was one of the stars of the sport and after dominating Aldo in a way that no one before ever had it appeared that he would remain king of the featherweights for the foreseeable future.

This of course was before the arrival of Alexander Volkanovski. Holloway was defeated by the Australian at UFC 245 and would lose an extremely close rematch six months later at UFC 251. Losing twice to Volkanovski would see Holloway forced to take a step back in the line of contenders and he would produce utterly brilliant displays against Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. This put him right back into contention and a third fight against Volkanovski was set. Ultimately though, Holloway would come up short yet again, emphatically so on the third occasion being decisively beaten by Volkanovski at UFC 276. He must now work his way back towards the top of the division and if he wishes to ever challenge again while Volkanovski reigns he will have to be utterly dominant. Starting with Arnold Allen this Saturday. 

Allen sits at number #4 in the featherweight rankings and is undefeated in the organisation. Currently riding a 10-fight winning streak Allen has picked up victories over Sodiq Yussuf, Calvin Kattar and Dan Hooker firmly establishing himself among the cream of the crop at featherweight. An overall record of 19 – 1 gives Allen a considerable amount of credibility and certainly shows that he is deserving of a fight against the former champ Holloway.

Allen is just the type of young prospect that Holloway will need to beat in order to show that he still belongs at the top of the division and that he is without a doubt the most worthy contender. At the age of 31, Holloway is still only 2 years older than Allen yet he has been fighting for over a decade and many fans and pundits alike have wondered whether the wear and tear has become too much for him. Ultimately the real question remains, what is next for Holloway if Saturday results in a win or a loss?

A win sees Holloway jump back right up into featherweight contention, yet because of the three losses to his name it is unlikely that the UFC will book him for a rematch with Volkanovski. Ultimately much of Holloway’s future in the featherweight depends on Volkanovski and whether or not he holds the belt.

If Volkanovski loses the belt to Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 then suddenly Holloway finds himself as the number #1 contender to the belt, being the last man to defeat Rodriguez back in 2021. Yet if Volkanovski defends yet again and opts to stay in the division it is not hard to imagine the UFC giving the title shot to a new fighter such as Ilia Topuria, Josh Emmett or even perhaps a rematch against Brian Ortega

Lightweight run?

After Volkanovski’s fight against Islam Makhachev, it seems more and more likely that the Australian will be leaving the featherweight division sooner rather than later and will possibly make the move to 155 lbs to chase gold there. It is easy to imagine Volkanovski making one final defence of the belt, he would have then defeated top contenders Max Holloway, Brian Ortega, Chan Sung Jung and then Yair Rodriguez. After beating the best the division has to offer he may then relinquish the belt and then Holloway has the opportunity to swoop in. 

Of course, if Holloway loses his next move becomes even more unclear. A move to a different weight class may be needed and as fighters progress in their career, typically they may move up a weight class, no longer having to cut weight as they used to be able to. In fact, a move to lightweight could possibly be the best move Holloway could make, a fresh start and fresh opposition could see him gaining a chance at the belt if he provides just one or two impressive showings. Ultimately even a fourth fight against Volkanovski is more sellable at lightweight given that it will be at a new weight class. A single differing factor is all it can take to change the outcome of a fight.

Ultimately though whatever Holloway chooses to do, one thing is clear. His future path in the featherweight division rests on whatever decision Alexander Volkanovski chooses to make. In order for Holloway to break himself out of this limbo that he finds himself in a change in weight class may be the most beneficial thing he could make for his career right now. 

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