In their sophomore efforts, featherweights Max Holloway and Pat Schilling will meet on the main card of Friday's The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale. Welterweight contenders Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann anchor the main card, which is constructed of 4 bouts and will air on FX at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Both Hawaiian Max Holloway (4-1) and Team Ambition's Pat Schilling (5-1) were finished in the 1st round of their Octagon debuts but had little time to prepare as late replacements. Holloway faced Dustin Poirier at UFC 143 and, in what little we saw, looked quite comfortable on the feet. He had quick hands, good balance and combinations and the flying knee and a spinning back kick would indicate a diverse arsenal. He also showed a solid grasp of fundamentals with takedown defense, though Poirier eventually grounded him before securing the triangle-armbar. Holloway is the UFC's youngest competitor at age 20.
For a guy with a background in wrestling with 4 of 5 wins by submission, Schilling looked to have decent stand up as well. He threw a nice counter left hook, had some snap on his punches and attacked the body with a roundhouse kick. A minute in, Pineda scored a takedown, immediately passed to full mount, fired a few blows and then locked in a rear-naked choke when Schilling gave his back. In his UFC.com pre-fight interview, Schilling makes no excuses for the loss but expresses his confidence after having 8 weeks to train instead of just 1.
As a white belt in BJJ, Holloway's takedown defense will be crucial. Having won 3 of 4 by decision (the other is a TKO), I assume he's not a big power puncher and, since it's unlikely he'll submit Schilling, 15 minutes is a lot of time to repel takedowns and/or survive on the mat. Holloway, who has a stretchy 70" reach, will also have a 3" height advantage (5'11" vs. 5'8") and will need to apply that on the feet and in the clinch. He'll want to stay active with long, straight punches and use footwork to avoid being pinned against the fence.
If he is tied up, his height and length must convert to leverage in order to stay afoot. In the clinch against Poirier, Hollaway controlled the head well, used the whizzer to prevent Poirier from clasping his hands together and kept his hips out of reach. Poirier eventually exploded for a takedown and submitted Holloway quickly, but Pineda did the same thing to Schilling, who's being touted as a ground specialist.
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While both competitors are green in professional fighting, Hollaway won 3 titles in 3 months on the amateur circuit and Schilling was undefeated at 6-0. There is a pretty distinct disparity in their pro competition: in his 3rd fight, Holloway defeated a stubborn and experienced veteran in Harris Sarmiento (34-23) who, despite facing Holloway late in his career, has wins over Jonathan Brookins, former UFCer Shane Nelson, "Razor" Rob McCullough in the WEC and Bellator's Ed West. Schilling's opposition has been mediocre at best. The following passage is from the Dissection before his match with Pineda:
While Pineda will have a significant edge in experience with four-times as many fights, Schilling's past level of competition leaves much to be desired. His opponents have a poor cumulative record (14-31) and two are yet to win (0-1, 0-7). In fact, he's only beaten one fighter with a winning record, which was Tom Waters (4-3).
The stylistics might favor a Schilling submission, but I think Holloway will unload some fan-friendly striking and shuck off enough takedowns to sway the judges.
My Prediction: Max Holloway by decision.