Preview & predictions for UFC Fight Island 7: Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar.
The UFC kicks off its 2021 schedule in a big way with three cards in Abu Dhabi, complete with a limited amount of fans in the brand new Ethiad Arena, and it all begins with former featherweight champ Max Holloway and rising featherweight contender Calvin Kattar clashing in the main event of UFC Fight Island 7.
UFC Fight Island 7 will also make its own history, as the main card will air on ABC, marking the first time the UFC broadcasts on ABC and the UFC’s return to U.S. network television since the UFC’s FOX deal ended with UFC Milwaukee in December 2018. Additionally, this will mark the first time ABC broadcasts combat sports since airing a boxing card in June 2000.
This marks Holloway’s first fight since dropping a controversial decision in a featherweight title rematch with Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 251. Holloway originally dropped the title to Volkanovski at UFC 245, marking his first loss at featherweight since a 2013 loss to Conor McGregor and ending a title reign that started with a finish of Jose Aldo at UFC 212 in June 2017.
Kattar, meanwhile, will come into this bout off a major 2020 in which he brutally knocked out longtime UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens and scored a win in an entertaining bout with Dan Ige in the main event of UFC Fight Island 1.
In the co-main event, two longtime, popular MMA veterans in Carlos Condit and Matt Brown will meet in the Octagon. The pair was originally set to face off in April 2018 before Brown pulled out after injuring his ACL. Condit most recently fought at UFC Fight Island 4 in October, snapping a long losing streak by defeating Court McGee. Brown, meanwhile, was finished by Miguel Baeza on the May 16 UFC Jacksonville card.
The main card will also feature the likes of Joaquin Buckley and the returning Santiago Ponzinibbio. Fighters competing on the prelims include Phil Hawes, Tom Breese, Sarah Moras, Austin Lingo and more.
Let’s take a deeper look into the UFC Fight Island 7 main card.
Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar preview and prediction
Max Holloway was only 4-0 20 years old when he made his UFC debut in a submission loss to Dustin Poirier in February 2012. He’d win his next three before loses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor. After the McGregor loss, Holloway went on a long winning streak as he rose up the featherweight division with wins over Andre Fili, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas. He’d defeat Anthony Pettis for the interim featherweight title at UFC 206 before unifying the title with Jose Aldo at UFC 212. Holloway would make successful title defenses against Aldo, Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar. He’d, however, lose an interim lightweight title fight with Poirier and drop the 145-pound gold to Alexander Volkanovski. Holloway lost a rematch in a controversial fashion at UFC 251.
Calvin Kattar may be in that rising position Holloway once was. Kattar made his UFC debut in 2017 in a win over Fili before finishing Shane Burgos in the UFC 220 Fight of the Night. Kattar dropped a decision to Renato Moicano before scoring back-to-back finishes of Chris Fishgold and Lamas. After dropping a decision to Zabit Magomedsharipov, Kattar had a major 2020 by knocking out Stephens in brutal fashion and scoring a big win over Dan Ige on Fight Island.
Looking at the Tale of the Tape, the two men are similar physically, but Kattar will come in with a three-inch reach advantage. Per FightMetrics, both are intense, fast-paced, high volume strikers, but Holloway has the clearly better strikes landed per minute on average and has absorbed less damage in his Octagon time. And just looking at the grappling numbers tells you that this fight should remain on the feet for a full 25 minutes.
In this fight, Kattar has everything to gain and Holloway has everything to lose. If Kattar wins, he’s right in the middle of the upper echelon of 145-pound contenders, and if not, he’s still one to watch out for in the division. With a loss, Holloway will have lost three straight and four of five (albeit the controversy against Volkanovski and the lightweight fight with Poirier), which is a big cause of concern for what’d be next for him. The pressure in this one is all on Holloway to show he can still be the best in this division, but he did show a light of that in the Volkanovski rematch.
That all being said, Holloway is clearly the more experienced fighter and has faced a slew of tough competition over the years — tougher than the guys Kattar has had to face on his way up. Holloway’s also so talented that he’ll be able to find ways around the reach disadvantage he has against Kattar. This is one of those experience vs potential matchups in which you have to take the more seasoned pro. Regardless, this should be a hell of a fight to kick off 2021 in the UFC.
Prediction: Holloway via unanimous decision
Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown preview and prediction
Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown is an exciting welterweight matchup that was scheduled to happen twice before — in December 2013 and April 2018 — but both times Brown had to bow out due to injury.
A former WEC welterweight champion, Condit moved to the UFC with the merger between the two promotions, going on to defeat Nick Diaz to claim the interim UFC welterweight title, but ultimately losing a title fight with Georges St Pierre. Despite going 2-2 in his next four, he’d earn another title shot, this time facing Robbie Lawler and controversially coming up short in one of the greatest fights in UFC history. That loss to Lawler, however, marked the start of five straight losses, and questions on how much sooner Condit’s career would be coming to an end. Condit, however, turned back the clock and erased some doubts in his last fight, dominating Court McGee in a unanimous decision.
Having been with the UFC since entering through season seven of The Ultimate Fighter, Brown went on a seven-fight win streak between 2012 and 2014 but then lost a title eliminator to Lawler, the first of five bouts he’d drop in six fights. Brown finished Diego Sanchez in November 2017 in what was supposed to be his retirement bout, but he’d return to the cage in December 2019, knocking out Ben Saunders. In his last fight, Brown was finished by Miguel Baeza in May.
Condit has a two-inch height edge in the Tale of the Tape but that’s all the difference physically. According to FightMetrics, Brown has a slightly better strikes landed average and a quite bigger striking accuracy percentage. Brown also averages a takedown or two in a fight, and Condit has been submitted in some of his more recent fights, but would he take a fight like this to the ground — especially when he’s still got some notable power at 40 years old and all this time in the Octagon later?
There is definitely a chance for Brown to win this fight — he’ll need to close the distance and land elbows and punches inside and in the clinch, and that’s where he’ll get the chance to take Condit down to the ground should he so choose to. But Condit looked better in keeping his distance against McGee, and he should look to employ the same strategy in this one.
Overall, this is an exciting fight that’s a bit unpredictable, ironically enough. This one could fall either way, but while Condit is a little younger and the more decorated, don’t count Brown out of what could be a very close fight at all.
Prediction: Brown via split decision
Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Li Jingliang preview and prediction
This will mark Santiago Ponzinibbio’s first MMA fight since defeating Neil Magny in November 2018. Ponzinibbio has been stuck on the sidelines with injury, but prior to his hiatus, he was making big strides in the UFC’s welterweight division, as he’s currently on a seven-fight win streak and has won nine out of his 11 total UFC bouts. In addition to the aforementioned Magny, his current win streak has seen him score wins over the likes of Court McGee, Zak Cummings, Gunnar Nelson and Mike Perry.
Debuting in the UFC in 2014, Li Jingliang went 2-2 in his first four fights before gaining momentum by winning four straight and seven of his next eight. In this time, he scored wins over Bobby Nash, Frank Camacho, Zak Ottow and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Jingliang, however, was defeated in his most recent bout by Magny at UFC 248.
Both fighters are similar physically on the Tale of the Tape, with Ponzinibbio holding just a two-inch reach advantage. Looking at the FightMetrics, both men hold pretty close striking stats. Ponzinibbio has landed a little more on average, while Jingliang is slightly more accurate, whereas Ponzinibbio has absorbed more but has a better defense percentage. Jingliang does have a slightly better striking differential, however. Jingliang usually accounts for a takedown or two in a fight, but Ponzinibbio does hold just a little better of a takedown accuracy.
Both men are more standup guys, so expect this to be a striking battle on the feet and a pretty good one at that. The striking of Ponzinibbio is perhaps a little bit better, but you also have to count in that he hasn’t fought in over two years. Jingliang, while on his way up, didn’t exactly have the best performance against Magny, but this is an opportunity for him to right the track and continues his way up at 170. And while Ponzinibbio does have finishing power and could have a successful return, Jingliang is a tough guy to finish.
Prediction: Ponzinibbio via unanimous decision
Joaquin Buckley vs. Alessio Di Chirico preview and prediction
Joaquin Buckley’s time in MMA has seen him in runs with Shamrock FC, Bellator and the LFA before landing in the UFC in 2020. After losing his Octagon debut to Kevin Holland, Buckley became a viral sensation when he landed an amazing spinning back kick to knock out Impa Kasanganay, giving him a performance bonus and the 2020 FanSided MMA Knockout of the Year. Buckley returned a month later and got another performance bonus with an early second-round knockout of Jordan Wright.
Alessio Di Chirico made his UFC debut in 2016 and only won one of his first three fights, losing to Bojan Velickovic and Eric Spicely, while sandwiching in a win over Garreth McLellan. Di Chirico bounced back with wins over Oluwale Bamgbose and Julian Marquez but has since dropped three straight to Holland, Makhmud Muradov and Zak Cummings.
Even though Buckley hasn’t been in the UFC as long as Di Chirico has, it’s clear Buckley’s the one heading into this fight with momentum on his side. Even though Di Chirico’s losses have come to some decent, respectable competition, he’s still struggled to breakthrough in his Octagon performances. With two big knockout wins in a row by Buckley, and his only Octagon loss coming to FanSided’s 2020 Fighter of the Year in Holland, it’s clear the UFC has high hopes for the 26-year-old.
Expect Buckley to utilize his striking en route to another highlight finish.
Prediction: Buckey via second-round KO/TKO
Punahele Soriano vs. Dusko Todorovic preview and prediction
Punahele Soriano started his professional MMA career by racking up five wins on the regional scene, including a win in the PFL (pre-season days), a win in the LFA and a win in Titan FC. Soriano then got the chance to compete on the 2019 season of DWCS and defeated Jamie Pickett by unanimous decision. Soriano made his official Octagon debut later that year at UFC 245, knocking out Oskar Piechota in just over three minutes. Bouts with Eric Spicely and Anthony Hernandez were both scheduled in 2020 but neither came to fruition as the UFC first dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
Dusko Todorovic also had his own unbeaten regional run, going 8-0, before reaching DWCS in 2019, where he defeated Teddy Ash by unanimous decision. After a bout between him and John Phillips was canceled three times, once in Cage Warriors and twice in the UFC, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Todorovic finally made his UFC debut in October, finishing Dequan Townsend.
Not too much previous UFC information to go by with this one, but while they don’t have too much differential on the tale of the tape, Todorovic just seems bigger as a welterweight, that or Soriano is small for one. Regardless of which, Todorovic, on eye alone, seems to have the physical advantage. In spite of his cancelations, Todorovic is the more active fighter — as stated by James Lynch in his preview, Soriano has been dealing with concussion issues, which is a big concern for a fighter. And looking at their first true Octagon tests (not counting DWCS), Todorovic seemed to have the slightly tougher test and the better performance.
Still learning about both of these gentlemen, but expect Todorovic to hopefully make an impression inside the cage.
Prediction: Todorovic via second-round KO/TKO
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.