LAS VEGAS — It has been nearly three years, and five fights, since Max Holloway last finished a fight. Quality of opposition has a lot to do with that, of course, and few have had a tougher strength of schedule than Holloway.
He’s had two bouts with featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, another with No. 2 pound-for-pound Dustin Poirier, one with former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and his last fight was with Top 10-rated featherweight Calvin Kattar.
Finishing guys like that isn’t easy, though Holloway made it look easy in 2018 when he finished Brian Ortega after four rounds at UFC 231 in Toronto
On Saturday, he’ll face No. 3 Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Vegas 42 at Apex. The top-ranked Holloway is a massive -650 favorite at BetMGM, while Rodriguez is +450.
This should be a pure striking battle and one that thrills anyone who loves toe-to-toe battles.
Rodriguez is 13-2, but has been stopped in both of his losses, to Edgar at UFC 211 in 2017 and to Roberto Herrera in 2012.
BetMGM hasn’t released its prop bets yet, but I think this might set up to be the fight where Holloway breaks the string of fights going to decision. He likes to call himself the best boxer in the UFC now, and the man has a point.
He’s steadily improved and had a huge night against Kattar.
Now, if you’re going to put your money on Holloway to win inside the distance, there are reasons to be concerned. In that huge night against Kattar, he connected on 59 percent of his significant strikes and landed a jaw-dropping 445 of them. Yet, not only didn’t he finish Kattar, he didn’t drop him once.
Rodriguez has a chin, and has been in there with plenty of hard hitters to prove it. But if there is a time where he may be at risk, this is it.
First, he’s been off for two years since a spectacular 2019 KO of Jeremy Stephens. While recent history has shown that’s not as big of a deal as is often made out, against an accurate striker like Holloway, it could be an issue to start slowly.
Second, he fights a risky style and uses a lot of spinning shots. They’re spectacular if they land, but if a wise veteran like Holloway times it, it could be lights out.
I expect BetMGM will have the fight to go the distance a slight favorite. If I can get Holloway inside the distance at plus money, I’m on it. I like Holloway to win, but given I don’t want to lay $650, I’ll pass on that. I will play Holloway to win if the number gets under -500.
Others bets for UFC Vegas 42
• I’ll play Angela Lee at +105 to win over Cynthia Calvillo, who is -120.
• Thiago Moises at -210 to win over Joel Alvarez, who is +170.
• Cortney Casey -200 over Liana Jojua, who is +165.