UFC president Dana White proclaimed earlier this week that UFC 172 was "the most stacked card in UFC history," and while that’s most definitely a bold-faced lie, there are a few intriguing matchups this weekend.
One of those is a featherweight fight between young guns Max "Blessed" Holloway and Andre "Touchy" Fili, an exciting 145-pound bout between two up-and-comers that’s the frontrunner to be the “Fight of the Night” at UFC 172.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch UFC 172 prelims Saturday on Sportsnet 360 starting at 8 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. PST
Just 22 years of age, Holloway is already a veteran of seven Octagon bouts and has compiled a solid 4-3 record in those fights with the only losses coming to fighters ranked in or near the top 10 in Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Dennis Bermudez. Although his wins haven’t come against the best opposition in Pat Schilling, Will Chope, Leonard Garcia and Justin Lawrence, he’s shown terrific standup skills and all of those wins. The UFC clearly believes in Holloway’s talent, which is why he’s opening up the UFC 172 pay-per-view card while former flyweight title contender Joseph Benavidez was relegated to the prelims.
As for Fili, the Team Alpha Male product has only fought once in the UFC but he made it memorable as he came in on short notice and destroyed veteran Jeremy Larsen with his brutal muay Thai attack in mere minutes. I wasn’t sold on Fili before he made it to the UFC, but he was ultra impressive in his debut and I have high hopes for him going forward because he has some of the best standup in the flyweight division and a marketable personality to go along with it. Plus, his nickname is awesome.
The odds for this fight are relatively close, with Fili being a slight favourite heading into the weekend. Although both men are extremely talented fighters, Holloway has shown some holes in his wrestling game. If Fili can sneak in some takedowns he’ll have a much better shot of winning this fight than if it stays on the feet, where it should be highly competitive.
However, I don’t think Fili is going to shoot for takedowns. As a young guy fighting on the biggest stage of his entire MMA career up until this point, his ego is going to get in his way and he’s going to stand in the centre of the Octagon and trade blows with Holloway to the crowd’s delight. I have no doubt that the Hawaiian Holloway will oblige him, and the true winner of this madness is going to be the fans in attendance and those watching at home.
A win for either Holloway or Fili, especially if it’s in devastating fashion, will be huge for both in their young careers. If Holloway wins, I expect him to get another opponent in the top 10 in his next outing. If Fili wins, I expect the same for him, although considering he has only lost once in his career and it was due to a knee injury, UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby would put him on the fast track to a title shot should he take out Holloway via stoppage.
The thing is, I don’t think this fight ends inside three rounds. Both men are just too good on the feet and want it too badly that they’re going to do whatever it takes to last the entire 15 minutes and, hopefully, get their hand raised at the end of the clock.
Although White said UFC 172 is stacked, there are honestly only four or five intriguing matchups — at least on paper — heading into this weekend. But Holloway versus Fili is at the top of the list as it is almost guaranteed to be “Fight of the Night.”