Pre-Fight Thoughts: Max Holloway -vs- Frankie Edgar
For such a quality fight, it feels like a bit of a shame that it is being used to prop up an extremely dubious pay-per-view card. Max Holloway returns to featherweight, to defend his title, following an unsuccessful challenge for the interim lightweight title at UFC 236 in mid-April. Max's opponent, Frankie Edgar, is a rugged veteran, a former lightweight title-holder and has challenged for the featherweight title on 2 occasions — twice coming up short against Jose Aldo. It's a very good match-up, albeit one that could benefit from some additional drawing power — for the sake of proper promotion and bringing in more eyeballs to see such top talents. If I'm being completely selfish, it would have been nice to have seen this pairing when both were closer to their primes.
Edgar is vying for the 145-pound title following a dominant decision win over Cub Swanson, a very quick turnaround fight after being KO'ed by Brian Ortega just a month prior. It would be ridiculous to say that Frankie Edgar is shot, or washed up, but he's clearly slowing down and did just notch his first stoppage loss in his 14-year career. Max Holloway is also far from shopworn, although with every passing fight — and especially in light of the damage he absorbed in his loss to Dustin Poirier — one has to wonder how much longer he can fly so closely to the sun before his wings melt.
That all being said, I don't think too much stock should be put into how much mileage each fighter has accumulated. The fact remains that both are still exceptionally talented and have shown no signs of falling off; all we have are concerns with the barest amount of supporting evidence. I expect to see vintage performances from both, with Edgar trying his best to relentlessly march forward, throwing hands and either looking for takedowns or using the threat of them to land punches. Likewise, I'm expecting Holloway to use his footwork and ability to adapt and defend on the fly to nullify Edgar's offence and slowly turn the tide on him.
Of the two, Max Holloway is the much more technical and proficient boxer; Edgar's chief striking attribute is his ability to throw volume followed by his willingness to just wade into the fray and let his hands go. Holloway has a high pressure game too, but he executes differently — using his reach advantage and footwork — and racks up combinations while moving as to avoid being caught flat-footed. I can definitely see Holloway's height advantage being a big issue in this fight, as Edgar will need to cover more distance to shoot for takedowns and Holloway's takedown defence is quite respectable. I don't know how well Holloway would fare off of his back, but I also don't know if Edgar can even get him to that position.
The crux of this match up is Holloway's technique and size versus Edgar's tenacity and veteran savy. If this stays a kickboxing match, then Holloway should win it handily; I think Max could TKO Edgar if it never goes to the ground. Edgar is not a complete longshot, but he absolutely needs to take Holloway down and beat him up on the ground. Holloway's conditioning has never been questioned, but we also haven't seen him fighting off of his back or in grappling-intensive battles — what we do know is he has excellent striking cardio. Still, I think this is Holloway's fight to lose; provided the champ comes into this fight healthy and uncompromised in his durability, then I see Max winning either by TKO or decision. Edgar can certainly win, but is correctly an underdog; there's nothing about this fight that favours Edgar, not that he hasn't made a career of disappointing his critics.
Regardless of the outcome, I'm expecting a fun, competitive fight. The lighter weight classes are absolutely bursting with talent, and this fight is but a meager example of this. Even in the later stages of his career, Frankie Edgar is a tough out for anyone. Max Holloway, for all his dominance as featherweight champ, will still need to be on his A-game to retain his title. I'm going with Holloway, by TKO, but an Edgar win wouldn't shock me — it would be a surprise, but not a massive upset by any means. If Edgar does win, it would almost certainly have to be via decision.
Published: July 28th, 2019.