Welcome back for the first UFC card of 2021. We are back to Fight Island for three fight cards in eight days, capped off with the UFC 257 banger of Conor vs Poirier. That fight is the crown jewel of this Fight Island stint, but the next best fight is this Holloway vs Kattar main event, it will be extremely entertaining and is great matchmaking. The final three fights on this card are quite high end for a fight night, and that is where the name-value sits. In addition to the main event, vets Matt Brown and Carlos Condit face off and we get the anticipated return of Santiago Ponzinibbio as well. Let’s get to those three fights.
Note: This card has an early start time, the prelims kick off at noon EST. Keep that in mind when going to place your wagers.
Max Holloway -160 vs Calvin Kattar
Fight is five rounds at 145 lbs and is +145 to end inside the distance.
If you are a fan of volume striking, this fight is absolute must-see tv. So as to not have to touch on the grappling side of things later in the breakdown, I expect zero takedown attempts from either fighter, and we will get volume and high end striking from both sides, and very realistically for five full rounds.
Unless you are wholly and completely new to watching and/or wagering on UFC fights, you are at least somewhat familiar with former champion Max Holloway. He is a rangy featherweight that pumps out insane amounts of volume, and often overwhelms opponents with that volume while showing off an iron chin. While this fight is also five rounds, this will be the first fight for Max that is not for a title since 2016, a span of eight fights. The slight worry for Max is that he’s faded some, as he’s lost three of his last four fights, but it should be noted that was to Dustin Poirier at 155 lbs and twice to champ Alexander Volkanovski. It should also be noted many, if not the majority of analysts scored that fight for Holloway.
Calvin Kattar is an ascending featherweight who would be throwing his name in the title picture with a win in this fight. He is also a rangy featherweight who will give Holloway looks he is simply not accustomed to. Kattar matches Holloway on height and actually has a 3” reach advantage, and that will be significant in this matchup. Holloway often relies on his reach and his boxing to win his fights, and he does not have the advantage in either aspect in this matchup. Kattar is an elite boxer whose precision with his punches remains absolutely elite. He does not have the biggest power but his power is adequate and he is just an expert at putting shots exactly on the button. This is a problem for Holloway, who gets hit an insane amount for a truly high-end fighter.
I mentioned the volume Max pumps out, but he gets hit at a very high clip as well. Holloway has absorbed 765 significant strikes in just his five most recent fights, and that level of damage eventually takes its toll. Even if it does not catch up with him in this fight, you can bet Max will have to survive picture perfect strikes from Kattar getting home. Given that the Kattar strikes will be the more damaging and precise ones, I want the value on Kattar at +130 all day long. If Max didn’t possess the durability that he always has, we could start looking at ITD lines on Kattar, but the +130 flat line is the play.
Carlos Condit -170 vs Matt Brown
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -135 to end inside the distance.
When I called this pair of fighters vets in the intro, there was no exaggeration. Brown has just turned 40 years old this week and Condit is 37, and the pair share 25 combined years of UFC experience. Condit is favored, and is the tighter striker of the two, but this line is somewhere between too wide and the wrong fighter being favored altogether for my liking.
Prior to Condit’s October win over Court McGee, he was on a five fight skid and was winless since May of 2015. There is a common denominator in all of Condit’s last eight fights. In the two wins in that span, his opponents have attempted zero takedowns. In the six losses, five of the six opponents have taken him down, and the 17 takedowns came at an 81% success rate, as there were just 21 total attempts. This illustrates the hole that remains in Condit’s game and how Matt Brown can exploit it. Essentially, takedown attempts will lead to completed takedowns.
Brown’s path to victory is not solely through a finish on the floor. While he is not the tighter striker of the two and will likely be at a slight volume disadvantage, he is certainly the more dangerous striker in terms of one shot power. Despite the loss to very real prospect Miguel Baeza in his last fight, he had a very good showing and nearly finished that fight himself.
The worry for Brown is the cardio, particularly in the third round, and that is where Condit would run away with the fight, should it last that long. For as long as the gas tank lasts however, Brown will be the fighter with finishing intent and the more capable of delivering that finish. All in all, I expect Brown to be the fighter to bull forward and ultimately secure a finish, whether it be a clinch strike, distance strike or a floor finish. The flat line on Brown of +140 is a value, but the ITD line of +310 is the most attractive in this fight.
Santiago Ponzinibbio -300 vs Li Jingliang
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -140 to end inside the distance.
After 26 months away due to injury and bacterial infection issues, it will be great to see Ponzinibbio back in the Octagon. The elite striker will look to pick up where he left off, riding a seven fight UFC win streak. With Ponzinibbio’s last three wins coming against Neil Magny, Mike Perry and Gunnar Nelson, this matchup feels like a step down due to the layoff.
While ring rust might be a thing for Ponzinibbio, it is difficult to envision any version of him having any real difficulty with Li Jingliang. Jingliang is a striker whose UFC track record has essentially been dictated by the level of competition, and this is the most difficult matchup he has ever received. Jingliang’s most impressive win to date was a KO of Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos, but he followed that up with being dominated by Neil Magny.
This is notable because it was Ponzinibbio utterly dominating Magny in his last fight prior to the layoff. Jingliang likes to go first, and this is a matchup that simply sets up terribly for that style. When he goes to land shots, he will be touched and touched with precision and power by Ponzinibbio, and it is highly likely we see a KO from Ponzinibbio on his return. -300 on the flat line is fair but slightly steep. I prefer the ITD line of +130 for Ponzibbio.