UFC 172 Preview: Max Holloway vs. Andre Fili

News, Previews

Two young featherweights get the opening duties of the UFC 172 main card as Max Holloway and Andre Fili do battle in a fight that could very well end up being the “Fight Of The Night”. Holloway, despite being just 22-years-old, will be stepping inside the Octagon for the eighth time. He is looking for his second straight win after knocking out Will Chope at UFC Fight Night 34 in January. He is 4-2 over his last six fights. Fili fights for the UFC for the second time and looks to build on a knockout win over Jeremy Larsen at UFC 166 in October. Fili has won his last nine fights.

Fight Breakdown- We have two young studs at 145 pounds squaring off in the main card opener, and they are expected to deliver some solid action when they step inside the Octagon on Saturday night and prove why they got main card recognition over the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Takanori Gomi (not to mention over Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine when they were scheduled for this card). Both are very young in age- Holloway is just 22 while Fili is 23- and both are expected to be a part of the UFC roster in the coming years as long as they can show they deserve the roster spot they have. Both are very tall for the division as they each stand just under six-feet-tall. Holloway has more UFC experience in that he has seven prior UFC bouts, and he has faced the likes of Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Dennis Bermudez and Leonard Garcia in there. He has won more than he has lost in the UFC, and his performances have been better than the results have indicated. He has just three wins by stoppage in his career, and that is something that he is looking to improve on against Fili.

Fili comes from a very tough fight camp as he is a member of the Team Alpha Male camp that houses fighters like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez and T.J. Dillashaw. He is one of their star up-and-comers, and he got a chance to make an early UFC debut as an injury replacement in October. He replaced Charles Oliveira at UFC 166, taking a fight against Jeremy Larsen on two weeks’ notice. What made matters worse is that he was preparing to take a fight at 170 pounds before accepting the UFC offering at 145 pounds, and he had to cut a lot of weight to attempt to get down to the featherweight limit. He never made it as he missed weight by a couple of pounds, but he was still impressive when he stepped inside the Octagon on fight night and finished Larsen early in the second round. That made it nine straight wins for Fili, and also was the tenth stoppage win of his career, and the seventh by knockout. He will be looking to make a more impressive showing for his second fight, and if he can improve on his first showing with plenty of time to prepare for this second bout and ample time in a training camp, then we could be seeing the next future contender at 145 pounds.

Both men have solid striking skills. Fili is an aggressive striker, but he does tend to keep his hands low when fighting. Holloway mixes his punches well between attacks to the head and body, and if Fili doesn’t respect Holloway’s striking, Holloway will start to light him up on the feet. He mixes his other attacks well also, as he will attack with spin kicks and flying knees, and he has sharp elbows in the clinch. Fili has more power than Holloway, but where he will want to take over and dominate the fight is by taking it to the mat. Holloway has decent takedown defense, but he can be controlled on the ground if he finds his back there. Fili comes from a camp with some of the best wrestlers in the sport, so his takedowns and takedown defense should be very sharp. He has a good submission game as well and has submitted lesser foes. Holloway isn’t a lesser foe, but they are about equal right now despite Holloway’s Octagon experience. Fili is active on the ground and will be looking for the submission. Fili is more well-rounded, and Holloway is tough, but Fili should pull this one out as it heads to the judges.

Why It Matters- These are two young and good prospects at 145 pounds. They get a big showcase fight and are expected to deliver. While casual fight fans may not know these two as well, if they deliver what many are calling the best chance for “Fight Of The Night”, then the fans will remember these two. Both are looking to improve their standing in the featherweight division, and bigger fights are in store in the future for the winner. It will take them some years to truly establish themselves as contenders, but for now, getting them on the main card is the start of some good exposure.

Prediction- Fili

Ryan Frederick has been a diehard mixed martial arts fan since he saw UFC 1 at the age of 7. Since then he has yet to miss a show. He also has loves for football, baseball and fine whiskey. He fell in love with covering MMA after having also covered baseball and football, both professional and college, while working towards a journalism degree at Texas Christian University. His work has been seen on FOXSports.com, InsideFights.com, WrestlingObserver.com, Bleacher Report and ToughTalkMMA.com.