The UFC kicks off 2021 with a special week of fights that will consist of three events in seven days.
First up is UFC Fight Island 7, where the main event bout has crucial implications for the featherweight division, and fans will be in attendance for the first time since UFC 248 in March of last year.
Former featherweight champion Max Holloway (21-6) will take on the No. 6 ranked contender Calvin Kattar (22-4) in the five-round headliner. Holloway returns to Fight Island for this featherweight tilt looking to snap a two-fight losing streak, both of which were to reigning champ Alexander Volkanowski – with the last one being a controversial decision loss. Kattar also returns to Fight Island, where he last competed and scored an impressive unanimous decision victory over No. 11 ranked featherweight Dan Ige. Prior to that, Kattar put No. 8 ranked Jeremy Stephens to sleep with a ferocious elbow. The first card of 2021 also has fantastic matchmaking with vets and newbies, and even a taste of history.
UFC Fight Island 7 is a must-watch. Here’s why:
1. UFC on ABC
UFC Fight Island 7 will be the first time that mixed martial arts ever airs live on ABC. When the action starts on Saturday, it will be the first time ABC has aired live combat sports since 2000 when Jose Luis Castillo boxed Stevie Johnston for the WBC lightweight title. The UFC on ABC is a big deal. ABC is one of the five major broadcast television networks in the U.S. Three of the major networks (CBS, FOX, and NBC) have all aired mixed martial arts over the years, but the UFC on ABC feels more significant than those of the past – and that might be due to ABC’s rich history in boxing. Legends like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Robert Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson all have had fights air live on ABC. Now it’s time for the UFC to make history of their own on the broadcasting giant.
2. Holloway in a non-title fight
For the first time since 2016, Holloway will compete in a nontitle fight. “The Blessed Era” ruled the featherweight division for years by accumulating three successful title defenses and a record-setting 13-fight win streak. At UFC 236, Holloway’s winning streak came to a halt when he met Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title. Coming up short in three of his last four bouts, Holloway now finds himself in a pivotal spot of his storied career. Is it a must-win for Holloway? Not quite. Holloway is only 29 years old, still one of the pound-for-pound best on the planet, and depending on who you ask – the greatest featherweight of all time. Another loss would surely be a set back from title contention at 145 pounds, but the future is still bright for Holloway. Taking on a hungry and skilled boxer like Kattar will be quite the challenge, but Holloway will have five rounds on Saturday night to prove that the best is still blessed.
3. Joaquin Buckley returns
Joaquin Buckley (12-3) was one of the breakout stars of 2020. After dropping his Octagon debut to Kevin Holland, Buckley returned in October at UFC Fight Island 5 to deliver one of the greatest knockouts of all time. The highlight-reel knockout absolutely blew up on social media by becoming the most viewed tweet in UFC history and most-watched Instagram video ever for the UFC. Kanye West even used the highlight on Instagram to tease a new song he was set to release. It is easily the most viewed knockout of all time and based solely on that, has made Buckley a must-watch for all. But Buckley is not all hype or a one-hit-wonder, he showed that when he brutally knocked out Jordan Wright just a month later. He’ll take on Alessio Di Chirico (12-5) on Saturday. At just 26-years-old, Buckley is one to keep an eye on.
UFC Fight Island 7 takes place on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, live from Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.