Max Holloway before the fight begins

This Saturday night’s UFC main event is a featherweight clash between former champion Max Holloway and rising contender Arnold Allen.

Holloway vs. Allen will fight for five rounds on the UFC on ESPN 44 card that is set to take place at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri, this Saturday night.

It’ll be the promotion’s second time visiting Kansas City and the first time since 2017. The card will also feature an exciting co-main event bout between Edson Barboza and Billy Quarantillo.

Read on for our staff predictions and UFC fight analysis before the UFC on ESPN 44 main event: Holloway vs Allen.

Betting Odds

According to the betting odds from MyBookie, Max Holloway is the favorite to win the fight with a negative money line of -181, while Arnold Allen is the underdog with a positive money line of +141.

Specifically, a bettor would need to wager $181 on Holloway to win $100 if he wins the fight, while a $100 bet on Allen would result in a $141 profit if he wins.

Staff Predictions

Braeden Arbour

Although scheduled for the main event last October, an injury put a quick stop to Arnold Allen’s recent performance against Calvin Kattar opening the second round. There is no sugar coating that his next fight opposite Max Holloway is a big ask not only as a steep jump in competition but also as his first potential 25 minute contest is against the most dangerous 5 round fighter outside of the champion Volkanovski.

Therefore, it will be on Allen to pace himself through this fight, and where we have seen him unload and swarm hurt opponents in the past, he cannot have the same confidence against the legendary durability of Holloway. Allen is a southpaw, Holloway conventional. Allen should look to utilize a combination of his slick lead calf kick and accurate left cross to open his combinations, and follow up with the lead hand rather than begin with a conventional jab. He should have the power advantage in the matchup but in order to get to his target it’s important that the calf kick eventually starts to weigh on Holloway’s footwork.

Holloway is the more active and mobile fighter, he has a wider range in footwork styles he can adapt to, and typically switches stance often to open angles and float in and out of range. Although his primary stance is conventional, meaning he too has to rely on other leading tactics outside of his jab. A southpaw vs orthodox matchup includes a battle for who can keep the lead leg on the outside, opening the rear cross, makes it easier to parry and the lead hook, for Holloway he needs to dominate this area and when he finds himself losing it, go to the crafty front kicks to the body and knees that he used so well in his last few fights. Allen has good movement and activity but when he does settle he tends to lean heavy on his lead leg, exposing his knee to the higher end of damage that lead front and side-kick can cause. Using these kicks to set up his entries is also important, especially once establishing the front kick, using the knee raise feint to step in boxing he loves so much.

As mentioned before, this could very well be Allen’s introduction to rounds 4 and 5 and it should be a priority for Holloway to bring him there. Allen has not shown a lack of conditioning but he does unload heavily if he smells blood in the water to the point where he tightens up and throws with everything he’s got. A few instances where he over exerted and he could pay for that late. He also tends to unload with a barrage of close hooks, where he loads up and swings back and forth, in a way that is so fast and powerful it swarms his opponents but not in a way that’s particularly unexpected. If Allen gets overly zealous or excited, watch for Holloway to throw down the pipe and have some success, especially his rear uppercut and jump in knee.

Pick: Max Holloway to win (-181 at MyBookie)

Michael Pounders

Holloway v Allen might not be the name recognition draw that even a fight like Masvidal v Burns; but, wow, this fight should be fantastic! Both fighters are highly skilled, incredibly tough, well-rounded, and at the top of one of the deepest and toughest divisions in the UFC.

For many, Holloway, following his mauling of Kattar, earned himself the prestigious moniker of the best boxer in the UFC. Max has elite hand speed, crisp and technical combinations, and high level evasive movement, even though he often doesn’t need it. Max often doesn’t need his defensive footwork and head movement because he also has one of the best chins in the UFC. No matter how clean the shot, how much volume comes his way, or how much volume he’s thrown himself, Holloway seems impervious to strikes, possibly incapable of being finished. On top of all of that, Holloway also possibly has the best striking cardio in the UFC. In 2018, Holloway broke the record for most significant strikes landed in a single fight with 290. Holloway held that record until 2021 when he broke his own record with a historic amount of volume. Holloway landed 445 significant strikes in a 25-minute fight against Calvin Kattar. That is not a typo, Max landed 445 significant strikes, shattering his old record! That performance, while likely one that will never be surpassed, illustrates how Holloway fights. He looks to box with unmatched pressure and volume for the full 25 minutes. He lands a variety of combinations from a variety of angles with speed, precision, and power. Holloway has a wide boxing base but uses fluid and fundamental footwork to evade counter shots, counter opponents himself, and cut angles to increase the success of his own shots. He’s simply the best boxer in the UFC. Holloway also has excellent takedown defense and regularly keeps the fight standing, in his world.

Allen is a polished and well-schooled fighter who, like many other young prospects turned contenders, have trained the full gambit of MMA from a young age, rather than starting in just one facet. Allen’s training shows in each of his fights. He is able to smoothly transition back and forth from striking to grappling with impressive comfort. Allen fights from a southpaw stance with technical kickboxing. While his kickboxing is technical, it is anything but robotic. He flows in and out of range well as he looks to pressure his opponent back to the cage. Typically, Allen is at his best when he can trap his opponent with their back against the octagon. When he has an opponent pinned like prey, Allen is able to attack from all angles with his full arsenal of weapons. He reads his opponents so well and so quickly it sometimes appears like he knows what they’re doing before they do it. Because of his complete skillset, Allen can hurt and opponent with strikes against the cage, clinch and land more heavy blows, clinch and transition for a takedown, or even take the back for a submission. No matter what his opponent tries to do, when he sees an opening, Allen has the skills to exploit it. Allen has the skills, cardio, killer instinct, and level-headed approach in the octagon to be a champion. The only question remains is how he responds when the lights shine brightest. Allen was on his way to proving he can handle the big stage in his last fight, clearly winning round 1, but a knee injury to Kattar caused an early stoppage. He’ll look to prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is ready for a shot at the belt with a win on Saturday night.

I’ve gone back and forth on this fight several times a day since the fight was announced. I think the line is exactly where it should be, giving Holloway is a -175 giving him implied odds of 65%. I think that is spot on. Holloway deserves to be the favorite and has the tools to dismantle Allen’s attacks with his typical high volume pressure boxing. But Holloway has struggled against southpaws, Allen seems to improve drastically fight after fight, and Allen’s biggest question is simply that he hasn’t done it yet. That results in Allen deserving to be a small underdog against one of the best fighters in the UFC. My best bet is for the fight to go over 4.5 rounds at a -130. Holloway might truly be unfinishable and Allen has the defense, youth, cardio, and toughness himself to push a decision. I also like a sprinkle on either fighter to win by split decision. I think this fight will be a back and forth masterclass in MMA that results in a razor thin decision. But, as far as picking a fighter to win, I’ll ever so slightly side with Holloway. In a fight that I expect to be close, I like backing the guy I know will throw volume for 25 full minutes.

Best Bet: Over 4.5 rounds (-130 at MyBookie)

Joe Pounders

Max “Blessed” Holloway is one of the best non-champions in the entire UFC. Often, when a division has a generational-level champion, there is a contender just below that would be champion if it were not for the generational talent. For the featherweight division, the generational champion is Alexander Volkanovski, and the contender that would be champion if it were not for him would undoubtedly be Max Holloway. I say undoubtedly because Max has not lost a featherweight fight to someone other than Volk in 10 years. This parlayed with him beating the likes of Aldo, Ortega, Kattar, and Yair, rationalizes this statement.

Max is an arguable top 10 pound-for-pound fight currently on the roster, and this stems from a unique ability to weaponize cardio through strikes. Often, the best fighters that weaponize cardio do so via wrestling, i.e. Merab Dvalishvili, but Max is unique by throwing constant strike output with non-stop forward pressure. This style smothers his opponent through taxing cardio, but also, also him to land at a rate that puts on serious damage as the fight ensues, as seen in the Calvin Kattar fight. Beyond elite striking and cardio, Max has very good grappling, as he understands how to use his large frame to poster up when a shot is taken against him and understands how to time a takedown himself if he so chooses to wrestle. All in all, Max is an elite UFC fighter, a future HOF’er, and someone who has little to no flaws in his game.

Arnold Allen is an elite well-rounded fighter in his own right. From lightning-quick, in-and-out movement strikes, to solid offensive wrestling, Allen has become one of the biggest problems to contend with in the division. What is quite interesting is that he, being an ascending prospect who is undefeated in the UFC over 10 fights, is just now entering his prime. This proposition of just now entering the fight prime where he has fine-tuned his skills is scary for his opponents to contend with, as he has learned to keep his well-rounded, highly technical skillset to now, having fight-ending capabilities. This ability, to now find the finish, is not only beneficial to avoid questionable judging, but more importantly, is an indicator of eliteness given many fighters are well-rounded, but those fighters who have the ability to finish both on the feet and mat against elite contenders are fighters who fight for, and potentially win, the belt.

Diving deeper into Allen’s fight game, he is comfortable standing southpaw against orthodox strikers, and this stance opposition allows him to let his hands go freely without the need to worry about wearing damaging outside leg kicks. Moreover, Allen understands how an overhand left can lead seamlessly into a takedown, and this style of throwing a big shot directly into a takedown is highly effective, particularly against an opponent with technical takedown defense. Once on the mat, he does a good job staying heavy on top position while finding angles to land slicing elbows and/or a submission finish. In total, Allen, similarly to Max, has very few flaws in his fight game, making this matchup highly entertaining!

I, as with many other fight fans, am a big fan of Arnold Allen given his success in the UFC has paid dividends from a handicapping standpoint. His style is very repeatable in the octagon, and he has shown intelligence in choosing the easiest path to victory when needed. With all that said, Max Holloway is simply too elite to go against here. Simply put, Max is one of the best strikers, one of the best at weaponizing cardio, a more than good enough grappler, and for a little cherry on top, has one of the best chins in the entire UFC. While it wouldn’t surprise me one bit that Allen makes this fight close by landing powerful blows and even a takedown or two, Max is simply too good to go against here, and at a price of -180, he is easily bettable.

Pick: Max Holloway to win (-181 at MyBookie)

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