Max Holloway beats Anthony Pettis for UFC interim featherweight title

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Sunday, December 11, 2016

TORONTO -- UFC's featherweight division has been a confusing place in 2016. Max Holloway might be the one to give it some clarity.

Holloway (17-3) claimed UFC's interim featherweight championship Saturday by defeating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis via TKO in the third round. The 145-pound bout headlined UFC 206 inside Air Canada Centre.

Referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight with 10 seconds remaining in the third round. Pettis (19-6) had fallen to a crouched position and could only cover up from punches.

The win sets up a future meeting between Holloway and official titleholder Jose Aldo.

"We couldn't fight Aldo, so I started calling it Jose Waldo, hashtag 'Where's Jose Waldo?'" Holloway said. "[UFC 208] Brooklyn in February, let's get the f---ing real [title]! This is my ticket to Jose Waldo. You tell me when you find him."

Holloway, out of Waianae, Hawaii, is now on a 10-fight win streak, third longest in UFC. He has not suffered a loss since a unanimous decision defeat to Conor McGregor in August 2013.

It was actually McGregor who held up the weight class this year. The Irish star won the title last December by knocking out Aldo in 13 seconds and has since fought three times without making a defense. UFC was finally forced to take the belt from McGregor last month.

Although McGregor (21-3) will likely point out that the next title fight will feature two men he beat, the 25-year-old Holloway has been nothing short of brilliant since the McGregor loss.

Holloway picked his shots Saturday, showing a clear respect for Pettis' knockout ability. Holloway played with the range in the first two rounds and eventually started to find timing on his right hand.

He opened a cut over Pettis' right eye in the second round and stuffed the Milwaukee native's attempts to get the fight to the ground. Holloway scored a couple of trip takedowns, but he refused to follow Pettis to the floor.

The finish started with a spinning back kick to Pettis' midsection, followed by a right hand to the head. Another kick landed to the body moments later, and Pettis appeared to be done.

Pettis (19-6) would not have won the interim title even if he won the bout. The 29-year-old missed weight by three pounds Friday and said he will move back up to the 155-pound division.

"The first punch I threw, my right hand hit him on the top of the head and broke," Pettis said. "Max Holloway is a beast. He stood with me and got the belt.

"It's too much to make the cut. They literally had to pull me out of the sauna. I have to go up. I can't make 145. The weight cut is too hard."

Once considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Pettis has now lost four of his past five fights.

Aldo (26-2) won the interim title by defeating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 in July. Aldo was promoted to the official champion when McGregor was stripped.

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