UFC Fight Night 74 takes place this weekend in Canada and will air live on Fox Sports 1. For this preview let's look at the night’s main event, a matchup between two exciting featherweight contenders, Max Holloway (13-3) vs. Charles Oliveira (20-4, 1 NC).
With this fight, Holloway steps into the Octagon for the twelfth time as a featherweight, the most in the division. Since back to back losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor, Holloway has put together a six fight win streak, five of which were finishes, though four of the finishes came in the third round. He most recently defeated Cub Swanson by submission in the third round of their fight in April of this year.
Oliveira is 6-2 since dropping to the featherweight class, and since dropping back to back losses to Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar, has put together a four fight win streak. He most recently defeated Nik Lentz by submission in the third round of their fight in May of this year.
The odds on this one are slight farther apart than what I would’ve expected, with Holloway as the favorite at -220 and Oliveira as the underdog at +180. I thought the line would be a little closer than that, but I still think the general prediction is correct and Holloway should be the favorite.
At its basest level, this is a striker (Holloway) vs. grappler (Oliveira) match. But fights, and fighters, go far beyond the basest levels, and Holloway is more than a striker and Oliveira is more than a grappler. Holloway has solid submission defense, but he has to be careful with Oliveira on the ground in any position. Oliveira has better than average striking skills, and he’ll have a slight reach on Holloway, but Holloway has a way of picking his opponents apart, especially as the fight goes on.
To have finished so many fights outside of the first round is a feat in itself, and it’s one of the many factors that makes Holloway a tough opponent. With many fighters, it seems that about halfway through the fight, they’re content with coasting to a decision, even if it means they’ll lose. How many times have you seen a fighter in a losing situation in the third round with Joe Rogan blaring on the commentary that they need to “go for broke”, and yet the fighter continues to not mount much of an effort on the way to losing a decision? How many times have you seen a fighter in a winning situation do just enough to win that last round and win the fight?
Holloway is not that guy – he systematically picks apart his opponents, and the longer the fight goes on, he gets arguably more dangerous because he’s still trying to finish. This long game approach certainly favors Holloway, so the longer the fight goes on the more it will favor Holloway, and with this as a five round fight, he could take Oliveira to some very deep waters.
Holloway needs to avoid the danger in the early rounds, and stay away from being on the mat with Oliveira for any extended period of time. Oliveira has a ridiculous array of submissions and can score them from any position. That being said, if Holloway can stay off the ground, he can pick apart Oliveira slowly and consistently en route to a late third round or early fourth round T/KO.