In part one we discussed Holloway’s body hooks, knees and spinning back kicks. In part two, we’re going to discuss a few more tools and then take a look at how much they take out of his opponents.
Holloway is well known for his stance switching, and one thing you can always count on is for him to throw a left round kick to the body once he switches to southpaw.
Holloway starts in southpaw and takes a small hop step to his left. He’s attempting to find a better angle for the kick and trick Collard into walking into it. Collard eats the kick but catches it with his right hand. His grip isn’t very secure, so Holloway kicks his leg to the floor while reaching with his left arm to control Collard’s head and break his posture. Collard attempts to step his right leg behind Holloway’s left foot to work a trip but he is off balance as a result of Holloway’s escape and stumbles to his left. Watch Holloway’s left arm—he never lets go of that head control. As Collard retreats, Holloway holds onto a collar tie and stays on him, throwing an awkward punch to the shoulder before landing a brutal knee to the body. Pay attention to the step up he takes with his left foot, walking into the knee and driving up onto the ball of his foot to really dig into the body—a technique we discussed in part one.
Holloway starts in his southpaw stance against Cole Miller. He feints an entry and sees Miller shuffle out of range, almost to the cage. The next time Holloway comes forward, he uses a small stutter step to delay the kick and make Miller hesitate while closing distance. He smashes his leg into Miller’s body as Miller awkwardly defends, spinning himself around in the process. Miller tries to hold on to the leg, then tries a spinning backfist, but it’s all executed poorly and Holloway has no trouble defending then rushing Miller with two hooks. Note in both this example and the previous one Holloway is quick to go on the offensive after landing his body kicks as the opponent tries to defend or counter.
In this example against Cub Swanson, the footwork and timing are the focus. Holloway begins by shuffling back and to his left in his southpaw stance, the same setup he wanted to use against Collard. As he circles that way, Cub steps to his own right in an attempt to cut Holloway off. First Cub steps his right foot out to the right, then he steps his lead foot forward. At the exact same time Cub takes that step with his lead foot, Holloway changes directions—explosively springing off his back foot in a movement that mimics a plyometric exercise. Watch each man’s lead foot steps forward at the same time, but also pay attention to where each foot goes. By circling to the left, Holloway ensures that Cub’s lead foot is stepping towards his left as he comes forward. This makes it easy for Holloway to step right and secure an outside angle where he can blast the kick to the body with almost no fear of a counter.
Another outstanding weapon in Holloway’s arsenal, though one that he hasn’t used as much, is his straight to the body. He brought them out in full force against Pettis:
Note his work to take the outside angle each time he wants to throw the punch. First he feints a low sidekick to Pettis lead leg to hop into range and step his lead foot outside, then he pivots around and uses a hop step to close distance quickly while taking that slight angle and landing the punch—avoiding Pettis’ counter right hook in the process.
And here we see more examples of him looking for that same punch, setting it up by either feinting his jab or feinting a low kick, and being sure to change levels and take his head offline each time. In the last example, Holloway feints a kick with his back leg, steps that leg forward into a southpaw stance while throwing a right hook with his now lead hand to the head, then shifting back to orthodox as he lands a left straight to the body—really creative and tricky stuff. What I’d like to see more of from Holloway is using those body straights to attack low then high.
Holloway feints his jab as he shuffles to an outside angle, lands a right straight to the body, then a left hook upstairs as Stephens tries to circle out with his own hook. A class 1-2body-3 combination.
Holloway shows exactly what I’m talking about here. He starts by pawing with his lead hand, trying to get Miller to extend his own. When Miller does, Holloway slips his head outside of it as he steps in, landing the straight to the body. He comes forward and feints, dropping his level. He then comes forward and dips down again, only this time instead of attacking the body he arcs his left hand around Miller’s parrying right hand to land a clean overhand, then in typical Holloway fashion swarms with a few more quick punches as Miller tries to circle out.
Now that we’re familiar with the diverse and dangerous body attack of Max Holloway, it’s time to examine the effect of all that work. Spoiler alert—it’s not pretty. By the third round most of Holloway’s opponents start looking like shit.
There’s isn’t much technique to analyze here. What we’re looking at is body language. Both guys kick at the same time and both get knocked a little off balance, but the difference in how each guy handles it is significant. Miller, already bloodied, nearly falls off his feet as he stumbles back. More importantly, watch his face as he stumbles back. Mouth open and looking exasperated. Holloway is breathing a little heavy too, but the difference in body language and facial expressions is clear. Holloway looks focused while Miller looks like he’s just ready for this to be over—that’s why he looks at the clock right at the end of the gif. It’s a common sight to see this in the third round of Holloway fights.
Look how exhausted Collard is here. Holloway is able to break his forward momentum by simply pushing him back, then when Collard comes forward again everything is sloppy, awkward and slow. He puts on an incredibly brave assault in the face of that fatigue but Holloway is able to easily knock him back with a sharp counter jab. Collard had absolutely no quit in him but by the end he simply had no energy left to fight back.
This is a recurring theme with Holloway. He tends to surge in the third round, swarming his tired opponents, hurting them then either continuing to pound away until the ref pulls him off or locking in a submission when they make a mistake.
With Fili (who’s normally the stronger wrestler) pinned against the cage, Holloway begins his assault. He uses his left forearm to frame against Fili’s face, allowing him to create space. He withdraws his overhook and smashes Fili with a right elbow. Fili turns his back and tries to run, but Holloway cuts him off with a long left hand then hits him in the temple with his right straight before narrowly missing a 1-2. With Fili again pinned against the cage, Holloway uses a short left hook to set up a nice right uppercut before missing with a left hook. Fili takes the opening created by the miss to shoot, opting for a high crotch. Holloway gets his left forearm in the way of Fili’s head then pivots hard away from the shot, which allows him to create space between his ribs and Fili’s head. Through this space, he shoots his left hand and immediately connects it to his right. Fili runs the pipe to finish his single, but that only puts Holloway in better position for the finish. Holloway goes for the high elbow guillotine, and takes advantage of the angle his hips landed at to kick his right leg over and turn Fili onto his side. Holloway cranks on it for a brutal guillotine finish. Ironically, maybe 10 seconds before this finish the commentators had been discussing how good Fili’s guillotine defense is from training at TAM.
Sometimes his opponents fade early. No matter when it happens, as soon as Holloway notices his opponent slowing down he speeds up. Will Chope was ready for the fight to be over by the second round, so Holloway was generous enough to send him home early. Again, pay attention to the body language. Chope doesn’t throw a single strike or do anything that indicates he wants to fight back. He just shells up and hopes nothing gets through, but Holloway easily hooks around the static guard and puts him down—going for his signature body hook at the end. Holloway’s body work is always vicious, but once his opponents slow down it really stands out.
Cub eats three hard shots to the body in a row here. First, an intercepting knee as loads up on a left hook. Even though he pushes Holloway all the way back to the cage, he is deterred enough by the knee to start backing up. Holloway follows him, hopping outside his lead foot and landing a nice uppercut to the body. He stays on Cub, who starts ducking down to his right. As a result, Holloway blasts him with a body kick. Cub takes a slow, sloppy shot and is easily reversed. Soon after he was finished.
Holloway feints, tricking Cub into slipping right. Cub highly prefers head movement to his right side, and a natural tendency is to turn the lead foot in when you slip to the right. This exposes you to the outside angle, which Holloway easily moves to and lands a left straight while Cub’s back is turned. The straight snaps Cub’s head around to cause him to look completely away from Holloway, and Holloway keeps that left hand framing in Cub’s face to force his head to stay turned until a right hand comes and hits him in the temple. Cub goes stumbling back and Holloway chases him down with alternating punches. Both men slip, but Holloway gets back to his feet faster. Cub tries to shoot the rushing Holloway, but his shot is terrible. He ends up with his legs straight, head way out in front of them and being forced downwards by pressure from Holloway. As he struggles to walk his feet up and regain his posture, Holloway locks in the guillotine. Again, he goes high elbow and cranks it hard. Note the step he takes to his right, outside of Cub’s left foot, which he uses combined with the high elbow to twist Cub to the mat, step over into mount and squeeze for the tap.
His most impressive finish on paper came when he stopped Anthony Pettis in the third round.
The gif starts with Pettis raising his lead leg to feint. As he puts it down, Holloway cracks him with a left hook to the head then follows it with a hard right kick to the body—a classic muay thai combination. Pettis walks away and takes a deep breath, which you should have noticed by now is a common occurrence for Holloway’s opponents. A few seconds later, Holloway backs Pettis up with another body kick and, sensing Pettis fading, his killer instinct kicks in. Holloway starts teeing off on a shelled up Pettis, completely overwhelming him and forcing the ref to step in. From a better angle, you can see how brutal Holloway’s body hooks are.
Many will blame Pettis’ bad weight cut for him breaking in the third, and that was absolutely a factor, but Holloway’s relentless body assault led directly to the finish. No matter how much gas you have in the tank, body shots cause that tank to leak—and by the end of the fight Holloway’s opponents tend to be running on empty. Tonight, he fights Jose Aldo vs the Featherweight title. There are many interesting aspects to this fight. Will Holloway be able to keep up his usual output in the face of Aldo’s brilliant counter punching? Will Aldo struggle with Holloway’s rangy style and tricky set ups? Will Holloway have an answer for Aldo’s chopping low kicks? Will Holloway be able to snipe Aldo with his long counter straights? I don’t have the answer to those questions, but one thing I do know is that body work should be one of the main focuses of Holloway’s gameplan. It’s one of the few things he does better than Aldo, and better than anyone else in the sport.