Max Holloway made it two wins in a row following an impressive third-round knockout victory over the Korean Zombie in the UFC Singapore headliner this past weekend. The question now arises — who should “Blessed” fight next? He's already defeated the majority of the top eight in the featherweight rankings while he's also lost three times to current champion Alexander Volkanovski.
He also has no plans on leaving 145 pounds just yet which could make finding a next opponent tricky for the Hawaiian. However, there remain options nonetheless and so, here are five potential opponents for Max Holloway following UFC Singapore.
It seems unlikely that Max Holloway will get another title shot so soon considering he only lost his trilogy with Volkanovski last year. With that in mind, Holloway will likely have to fight lower in the rankings. Josh Emmett — ranked No. 6 — could certainly work as a potential opponent. Emmett is on a two-fight losing streak, but prior to that, he had won his last five in a row that saw him earn an interim title shot. It's not ideal, but the Team Alpha Male fighter is a fresh opponent who Holloway has never faced.
Ilia Topuria is one of the most exciting featherweights in the world today and he remains undefeated in the UFC. Like Emmett, he is also one of the few featherweight contenders Holloway is yet to fight. Topuria, however, seems likely to fight Volkanovski for the title next. Should it not happen for whatever reason, however, there's no better way for Topuria to seal the next shot by defeating Holloway.
That said, Holloway is undefeated against every active featherweight other than Volkanovski and has proven to be one of the toughest gatekeepers in recent history. It's one of the reasons why Volkanovski has urged Topuria not to fight Holloway next. “Please don’t fight Max. Don’t fight Max. Alright, let just not let that happen. Let me be the guy to beat you up.”
The UFC Featherweight Champ, Alex Volkanovski, has one message for Ilia Topuria:
— AFeldmanMMA (@afeldMMA) July 10, 2023
However, they will have to fight at some point.
If Max Holloway really wants a fresh matchup, he could potentially go further down the featherweight ranks to fight the No. 10 contender Movsar Evloev. Evloev is an undefeated Russian fighter who many view as a future title challenger. However, he is still yet to earn a marquee win to get into title contention with his matchup against Bryce Mitchell earlier this year getting called off after the latter withdrew due to injury.
Maybe Evloev could take a giant step up and fight a former champion in Holloway right away? He'd certainly be down for the opportunity and while it's a big risk for Holloway, he has nothing to lose at this point. Not to mention, he'll still be confident in winning. Plus, given Evloev's wrestling, it'd make for a very interesting stylistic matchup.
Fourth fight with Alexander Volkanovski
The reality is, Topuria aside, there's nobody in the title picture — that hasn't already gotten a shot — that is really an exciting opponent for Volkanovski to fight next. And if Holloway keeps being undeniable and beating just about every top contender, a fourth fight with the Aussie will be inevitable.
In fact, it could even be an option next if Topuria is somehow unable to fight Volkanovski. Holloway is on a two-fight winning streak and has shown no signs of slowing down going by those two performances. It's also fair to say most fans would rather watch him and Volkanovski collide a fourth time than watch the latter fight a Brian Ortega or Yair Rodriguez in a rematch for example. The only question is if Volkanovski would be open to fighting a guy he's already beat three times.
Move up and fight Dustin Poirier
Alternatively, Holloway could make the permanent move up to lightweight. With three losses to the champion and having already beat a good number of featherweight contenders, Holloway may be better served in moving up where he could not only benefit from having to cut 10 pounds fewer, but also have some fresh matchups. Not to mention, a much likelier shot at the title as he would ideally only require a win or two. And what better way to insert himself into the picture by having a rematch with Dustin Poirier?
The pair fought for the interim lightweight title back in 2018 in a fight which Poirier won by unanimous decision with the power difference playing a big role. However, if Holloway can really grow into the weight and remain fully committed at 155, a rematch could go down different.