On one hand, the main event of UFC Fight Island 7 was a sensational fight for the UFC to introduce unfamiliar fans to the sport of MMA. On the other hand, the bloody battle between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar was a gruesome fight to introduce fans to the sport of MMA.
First, the positive.
Max Holloway. The MMA world will talk about his performance at UFC Fight Island 7 for a long time. His work against Kattar could go down as the defining moment of his career — a pinnacle of what someone as well versed as Khabib Nurmagomedov feels could become the best career in the sport’s history.
The 29-year-old Holloway rewrote the UFC striking record book over the 25-minutes he was in the octagon with Kattar. Holloway jammed both feet on the gas pedal from the moment the start of the fight was signaled and he never let up. In his most dominant round, the fourth, Holloway threw 191 significant strikes. He landed 141 of those strikes for a landing rate of 73 percent. It was a testament to Kattar’s toughness that he lasted the entire five rounds. Yes, he headed to the hospital as soon as the fight was over, but Holloway’s strikes never put him to the mat.
I felt the fight could have been stopped after the second round. Others, including UFC president Dana White, said they thought the end could have — or should have — come during the fourth stanza.
That is why I have mixed feelings about how good this fight was for curious viewers who tuned into the ABC event.
This fight was a one-sided beating. Yes, Kattar, thanks to his power, tenacity and ability to take an ungodly amount of abuse, had a chance to end the fight at a moment’s notice, but first time fans would not know that. Those new fans or others who might have been unfamiliar with the rules of MMA might have wondered why the referee, Herb Dean, didn’t step in to end the fight. Others watching the afternoon event might have questioned how something so bloody and damaging could be on a major television network during the day. Then there are those who could have looked at that scrap and decided it was just too much for them and tuned out to never be heard from again.
During the week where MMA Fighting released, “The cost of being ‘The King’,” the detailed and revealing story of how former-UFC fighter Spencer Fisher is dealing with brain injuries stemming from MMA have left him a broken man, Holloway’s pummeling of Kattar should have tugged at the anterior insular cortex, which controls empathy, of even the most callused fight fan. It’s easy to watch that fight and see the 447 strikes Holloway landed and think Kattar absorbed what could turn out to be not just career-altering damage, but life-changing damage. Unfortunately, we won’t know if it did until some time in the future.
When the ratings for the UFC on ABC 1 event come out, it will be interesting to see if the numbers rose during the main event, as they did for the famous TUF 1 scrap between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, or if they fell as Holloway ran up his strike count, which finished with 274 landed significant head strikes. Let’s not forget, even casual sports fans know a lot more about brain injuries in 2020 than they did in 2005, when Griffin and Bonnar delivered what is often mentioned as the best fight in UFC history.
Those ratings numbers won’t tell the full picture of how the viewing public saw the fight, but they will give a fairly good indication if the fight between Holloway and Kattar was good or bad for the UFC and ABC.
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