Max Holloway reminded everyone that despite his loss at 155 pounds, he’s still the king of the featherweight division.
“Blessed” was able to fend off the veteran Frankie Edgar with his striking en route to a unanimous decision victory at UFC 240. The three judges each submitted different scores. Chris Lee scored the bout 50-45 in favor of Holloway, Dave Hagen scored it 49-46 Holloway, giving Edgar the first round and Tony Weeks submitted a score of 48-47 for the champion, giving Edgar rounds one and four.
The win was Holloway’s third title defense and 14th-straight win in the featherweight division.
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“Everybody said I wasn’t going to be able to wrestle with this guy. Everybody said I wasn’t going to be able to stay with his pace,” Holloway said to Joe Rogan after the bout. “I wanted to prove a point and go five rounds with him, so I can let the world know that I’m here to stay and the ‘Blessed Express’ is still on the move.”
As the two fighters met in the center of the Octagon, Holloway’s size advantage was on full display. Edgar has built his career on being the smaller guy in the cage, and he utilized his go-to gameplan. Edgar’s speed moving in and out of Holloway’s range allowed him to land with volume.
Holloway also landed his own offense in his more patient approach. An uppercut knocked Edgar’s head back, similar to the one landed by Brian Ortega that put Edgar out in their bout at UFC 222.
The second round began at a similar pace. Both fighters were able to land clean shots as the opportunities were presented. Holloway clearly wanted to find a home for his uppercut again.
Edgar’s attempts to take the fight to the ground were repeatedly stifled. His closest takedown came less than two minutes into the second round when he was able to drive Holloway from the center of the Octagon to the fence, but Edgar couldn’t finish once Holloway got his back against the cage.
The round ended with a spinning kick from Holloway that landed cleanly, sealing a stronger round for the champion.
— UFC (@ufc) July 28, 2019
Edgar’s wrestling woes continued until the end of the third round. He struggled to get his hands on Holloway cleanly, and when he did, Holloway made him pay. On numerous occasions, Holloway was able to land punches off the break or knees to the body before Edgar could successfully retreat.
Holloway was able to rock Edgar briefly with a jab followed by an uppercut, knocking out his mouthpiece.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 28, 2019
“Blessed” smelled blood and began his pursuit of a third-round stoppage. Edgar took advantage of Holloway’s eagerness and secured his first takedown of the fight with just under a minute remaining.
— UFC (@ufc) July 28, 2019
The fourth round mimicked the second. Both fighters were able to tag each other, but it was Holloway who landed the more significant blows as the round neared an end.
He pushed Edgar back with a combination before the challenger again tried to end the round with a takedown. The attempts fell flat, and Edgar entered the final round knowing he needed to make something big happen.
Instead, it was Holloway’s striking that took center stage. His jab and cross repeatedly kept the shifty Edgar in check, ultimately sealing the deal on a strong performance by the champion.
The two fighters showed respect after the battle concluded, embracing in the cage. Holloway continued his praise of Edgar in his post-fight speech.
“Frankie is a true warrior,” Holloway said before encouraging the crowd to cheer Edgar on. “He’s the guy that inspired me to be here.”
A dejected Edgar complimented his opponent as well in his own talk with Rogan.
“I expected everything he brought,” Edgar said. “Max is a stud, man. He represents our sport to the best. He represents this division to the best. He’s the best guy in the world.”
Edgar suffered his fifth defeat in UFC title fights. His record in championship bouts fell to 3-5-1.
At 37 years old with 31 professional fights to his name, Edgar still has plans to compete in the UFC. The weight class in which he does so is something he will be pondering after this loss.
“I don’t know, man. I need to go back to the drawing board and regroup,” Edgar said. “I’m not done. I got a lot of fight in me, man. Max is the best guy in the world and I fought him pretty damn tough.”
As for Holloway, his future is laid out fairly clearly. Alexander Volkanovski is the clear-cut No. 1 contender at featherweight following his victory over the legend Jose Aldo in May of this year.
Volkanovski was in attendance for the bout. He even weighed in as alternate just in case something happened prior to UFC 240’s main event. He met with Rogan and Jon Anik at the conclusion of the card to discuss his chances against the champion.
“I’m pretty comfortable a little bit out of range as well. I like to pick my times when to come in. I’m very comfortable in the pocket as well,” Volkanovski said. “He likes to really pour it on and you’re seeing that when he’s in your face trying to really suffocate you and give you that claustrophobic feeling, but Frankie didn’t really crumble there and I know I won’t, and I know I can handle that pace, and I know I’m very powerful.”
Volkanovski has a date in mind: October 6, 2019. The UFC will be heading to Melbourne, Australia to host UFC 243 in Marvel Stadium. The card already has a middleweight title unification bout between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya on it, and Volkanovski would like to get in on the action with his own title shot, provided Holloway can handle the turnaround after two-straight five-round fights this year.
“It was a five-round fight, but I still don’t think too much damage was in there. I believe he could turn it around or I’m hoping maybe,” Volkanovski said. “But in saying that, I guess it’s up to him. But let’s fill out this 60,000 seat stadium. It really would be a blockbuster event. We could break records. For that part of the world, it would be huge. I want to be a part of it, hopefully, Max does too. Let’s make it happen.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.