Holloway stays in title picture, halts Allen’s run

Max Holloway is still one of the best featherweight fighters in the world, which has been the case for the better part of a decade.

The former UFC featherweight champion beat Arnold Allen via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) in the main event of UFC Kansas City on Saturday. It was a strong performance for Holloway in a crossroads fight in his career. Had he lost, he would have fallen from his place as a top contender for the first time in about eight years. Holloway has not lost a nontitle fight since 2013.

“That man hits like a truck,” Holloway said of Allen in his postfight interview. “He got me in the last round and blacked my eye. Dammit, Arnold. My modeling career is in jeopardy because of you.”

Coming in, ESPN had Holloway ranked No. 3 in the world at featherweight and Allen at No. 8. Allen was looking for his biggest win to date after starting his UFC career with 10 straight wins.

Holloway came out strong in the first round, landing combinations in a southpaw stance. He switched back to orthodox and landed a hard right kick to the body late in the first, a technique he used masterfully all night. Allen rallied in the second with some hard combinations.

The third round was a key for Holloway. Allen cut him early on the inside of his left eye with a punch, but Holloway landed combos and three hard body kicks late.

In the fourth, Allen landed some nice left hands and might have done enough to even things up going into final round. Allen pressured Holloway hard to start the fifth and landed. But Holloway landed a spinning back elbow and, after getting clipped in the closing seconds, rocked Allen with two left hooks and a right hand as the bell sounded.

Holloway said he wanted to re-create the famous finish to his UFC 199 fight against Ricardo Lamas in 2016, when Holloway pointed to the ground in the middle of the Octagon in the final seconds, indicating he wanted to brawl with Lamas until the bell.

“I wanted to remake that moment,” Holloway said. “It was super fun.”

Judges Chris Lee and Sal D’Amato both gave Holloway the first four rounds. Judge Travis Buesking gave Holloway the first, third and fourth rounds.

Holloway closed his postfight interview in the cage by urging the crowd to applaud Allen’s performance.

“Please, when this man — this friggin’ beast of a man — takes the mic, please don’t boo the man,” Holloway said. “Please cheer for him. Let’s cheer for him. It takes two to dance and he did it.”

Holloway (23-7) was coming off a third loss to UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski last July at UFC 276. The Hawaii native has won three of his past four overall. Holloway, 31, is 16-4 in his past 20 fights, with the only losses coming in title fights. The last time Holloway lost a nontitle bout was against Conor McGregor 10 years ago.

Holloway earned his 20th UFC victory Saturday, making him the 12th fighter to achieve that feat. He also became the only fighter to land more than 3,000 significant strikes and surpassed more than seven hours in the Octagon after his bout against Allen, making him the third fighter to do that.

Holloway has indicated he’ll keep taking contender fights to keep himself in the conversation even though getting a fourth fight against Volkanovski seems far-fetched. On the postfight show, Holloway said he could consider moving up to lightweight, where he lost an interim title fight to Dustin Poirier in 2019.

“If [lightweight] is there and there’s a road there, then why not?” Holloway said.

Allen (19-2) had a 12-fight winning streak snapped. The England-born fighter had not lost since 2014. Allen, 29, was coming off a TKO (injury) win over Calvin Kattar last October.

“Max has been around a long time,” Allen said. “He’s an inspiration to me. I love the man.”

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