UFC 172: Andre Fili vs. Max Holloway preview and the prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Max Holloway takes on an Alpha Male prospect in Andre Fili as both look to make some noise in the UFC featherweight division for UFC 172 in Baltimore, Maryland.

I get bored doing the same format over and over, so in the spirit of the prelim previews, we'll once again return to the faux Q & A method.

Max Holloway vs. Andre Fili Featherweight

These guys are on the main card of the most stacked UFC card in history for a reason, right?

Yep. Holloway is a solid veteran with an 8-3 overall record. His losses have come against solid fighters in efforts that were anything but embarrassing: Conor McGregor (who has approximately 2 years and 28 days before he gets called out by Arianny Celeste since everyone appears to want a piece), Dennis Bermudez, and Dustin Poirier. Holloway will remain a mainstay in the UFC, and he's got an entertaining style to boot.

Fili is a product of Team Alpha Male, so naturally he's garnered a good deal of hype with his 13-1 record. He doesn't have much experience against top competition, which is why this is a good(ish) fight for him.

Good(ish)?

Yea, I'm not a huge fan of this bout. By that I mean I think it's excellent in terms of what we can expect to transpire: both men will trade blows, and put up a potential FOTN performance. That's why this fight is here in the first place.

Because they will just bleed for me?

Exactly. And that kind of sucks for Fili. Prospects need seasoning. You need to feed them matchups that favor them, and only gradually feed them matchups that require them to display their flaws when they're against opponents who won't punish them too harshly for those flaws. Holloway is basically like Fili, but with much more experience, and a much more refined game. It's not only a tough matchup for him on paper, but it's the kind of matchup that could hurt his confidence on the feet when that's where he has so much potential.

Screw you Bloomberg. I want my fighters to bleed 16 ounces at a time.

I'm not saying feed the bipedal pigs to Fili like he's a terrifying dungeon beast. I'm just saying the kid is 23. But the fight is set so let's move on.

So we can expect stand and bang?

Yep. Fili is a persistent combination puncher. He's gonna chain that right  hand and left hook all day. He hunts with both hands and in close, he's equally aggressive with knees in close. He can also fight from a distance without too much difficulty because he likes his inside and outside leg kicks. Even though he didn't show it in his UFC debut, he is willing to take cues from his Alpha Male brethren by switching his offense up with takedowns.

Holloway got picked apart by McGregor, but Conor is shaping up to be one of the better strikers the UFC has. Max has some pretty good boxing; he digs to the body, has a mostly functional jab, and a solid straight right. In addition, he's gonna engage in what Nick Diaz likes to call..."that spinning shit". So expect the sporadic spinning roundhouse and backick in this one, which Max will sometimes use to the body.

I'm looking at the odds, and Fili is -150. What should I do?

Bet hard on Holloway. The reason I don't personally like this matchup at this point in time is because Fili leaves himself absolutely wide open in the exchanges. That was Larson's third loss in a row when he fought Fili and just flat out isn't UFC material. Fili was able to showcase his strengths and nothing more.

Part of the problem is that despite being a dynamic striker, he doesn't have blazing speed. I think he looks faster than he does because he times his punches well. However that lack of speed is apparent in watching his defense. His hands are low and loves to throw underneath a lot which will leave him vulnerable to Max's straight down the line striking.

The x-factor is prospect development. How much better has Fili gotten since last October? Prospects can change radically from fight to fight just like Kelvin Gastelum.

That will be the story of the fight. The Fili that fought Larson loses comfortably to Max. But I feel that even an improved Fili has too much to improve upon before being able to take out a veteran like Holloway.

Prediction: Max Holloway by Decision.

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