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UFC January Recap: In-Depth Breakdown + Biggest Takeaways

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We made it through the crazy year that was 2020 and that means we have another full year of fights lined up in the UFC. There are a lot of great things scheduled already for the first quarter of 2021, and it started off with a triple header at everyone’s favorite place, Fight Island! In this new series, I will be recapping each month, the in-depth stats on each card, and finishing with my biggest takeaways from that respective month. Let’s get right into it!

The “Nitty Gritty”

UFC Triple Header

UFC Fight Island 7 (1/16/2021)

  • 10 Fights
    • 7 Decisions
      • 4 Unanimous
      • 3 Split
    • 3 Finishes
      • 3 KO/TKOs
        • 3 in Round One
  • Bonus Winners
    • Fight of the Night: Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar
    • Performance: Alessio Di Chirico (KO) and Li Jingliang (KO)

UFC Fight Island 8 (1/20/2021)

  • 14 Fights
    • 8 Decisions
      • 7 Unanimous
      • 1 Split
    • 6 Finishes
      • 3 KO/TKOs
        • 1 in Round One
        • 2 in Round Two
      • 3 Submissions
        • 3 in Round Two
  • Bonus Winners
    • Fight of the Night: Mike Davis vs. Mason Jones
    • Performance: Warlley Alves (TKO) and Umar Nurmagomedov (Submission)

UFC 257 (1/23/2021)

  • 11 Fights
    • 6 Decisions
      • 5 Unanimous
      • 1 Split
    • 5 Finishes
      • 4 KO/TKOs
        • 1 in Round One
        • 2 in Round Two
        • 1 in Round Three
      • 1 Submission
        • 1 in Round Three
  • Bonus Winners
    • Fight of the Night: N/A
    • Performance: Dustin Poirier (TKO), Michael Chandler (TKO), Makhmud Muradov (TKO), and Marina Rodriguez (TKO)

January Totals

  • 35 Fights
    • 21 Decisions
      • 16 Unanimous
      • 5 Split
    • 14 Finishes (0 in Rounds Four or Five)
      • 10 KO/TKOs
        • 5 in Round One
        • 4 in Round Two
        • 1 in Round Three
      • 4 Submissions
        • 0 in Round One
        • 3 in Round Two
        • 1 in Round Three
  • Total Bonus Money Awarded = $600,000
    • 2 Fight of the Night Awards
    • 8 Performance Awards

My Biggest Takeaways

UFC Debuts on ABC Network

UFC Debut on ABC
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Kattar Promotional Image Credits to UFC

The UFC wasted no time making a statement in 2021. In their very first event of the calendar year, they gave us an incredible fight night, headlined by Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. Don’t worry, I’ll dig into this fight in a second. But let’s not forget that this was the first time ever that the UFC aired on ABC Network, one of the largest television channels in the United States. And the numbers sure backed that statement up, because this main event peaked at 1.6 million viewers. This is the most viewed UFC Fight Night main event since 2019. Needless to say with numbers like this, we will be seeing the UFC back on ABC in the future, and multiple times at that. 

This is a huge step, not only for the organization in terms of garnering new fans to their brand but also for the sport of MMA as a whole. Just think about it, there were people that tuned in to their first-ever MMA fight that day and it just so happened to be the incredible bout between Holloway and Kattar. I’d say those people were not just entertained, but in awe of what they had witnessed, which in return, should bring them back for more in the future. As a fan of MMA, you have got to love this because we want this beautiful sport to be showcased to as many people as possible, and this ABC show is 100% a step in the right direction!

Max’s Masterpiece

Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar
Max landing one of many creative strikes against Calvin Kattar (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

As mentioned above, the very first UFC fight card on ABC Network was headlined by former Featherweight champion Max Holloway and top-ten ranked contender, Calvin Kattar. I do just want to say first off, Calvin, you are as tough a fighter as there is in this sport. The heart and perseverance that Kattar showed in this fight were second to none and if you weren’t sold on him before, you should be now. Win or lose, a performance like this in front of such a large audience will give Calvin many well earned fans and more importantly, respect amongst his fellow fighters.

Now, it is time to talk about the fighter in the red corner, Max Holloway. This man came out with a chip on his shoulder. The amount of doubt and concern over Max can surely be put away for now because this was one of the most flawless performances I have ever had the pleasure to watch. From the sound of the first bell, until the last second of the twenty-fifth minute, Max Holloway showed how world-class his striking is. He showed that there truly are levels to this game and he is that far ahead of his peers. 

Max not only set striking records in this fight, but he shattered them. In total there were eight UFC records broken by Holloway in this bout with Kattar, including 445 significant strikes landed. Yeah, you read that right… 445! If you were curious, the previous record was 290. Oh, and just to put this more into perspective, he attempted 744 significant strikes, and the previous record for that you may ask? 515 to be exact. My mind can barely comprehend how Max threw this many strikes in one single fight. One last little breakdown, just to really hit home with these stats. On average, per minute, Max was throwing thirty strikes and connecting with eighteen of them (60% accuracy). This is unbelievable stuff and really paints the picture of how amazing this performance was.

In my preview for this fight, I even questioned which version of Max we would see. Little did I know, we would be witnessing quite possibly the best version of Max Holloway ever. A man that may just now be hitting his prime, which is hard to imagine considering all he has already accomplished. Following this bout, Khabib Nurmagomedov is even on record saying “This was his best performance, but in [the] future, in a couple of years he has the chance to show and become maybe the best fighter of all time.” Coming from a man that is labeled by many the GOAT or one of the best, this is very high praise.

One last thing that I just had to mention before I move on. In the final round, with about 1:35 left in the fight, Max showed how much of a savage he is. This man looked over at the broadcast team (Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Dan Hardy) and yelled “I’m the best boxer in the UFC” and then proceeded to dip out of the way of four or five strikes thrown by Kattar and managed to land a nasty right cross of his own in the process… ALL WHILE LOOKING AWAY FROM HIS OPPONENT. This truly was one of the most insane things I have ever seen in any sport, let alone MMA. This really just capped off this performance for Max and let the entire Featherweight Division know that he isn’t going anywhere. The “Blessed Express” is full speed ahead on the tracks right now and I would not want to be on the opposite end, that is for sure.

Fans are Back… Kinda

Etihad Arena
Setting the stage for the brand new Etihad Arena (Photo Credit: DCT)

Now I get it, the arenas are still very far from being full, but you’ve got to admit it was nice to have a small bit of normalcy for these fights. At all three events that went down on Fight Island, which took place at the brand new Etihad Arena, there were a very limited number of fans allowed to attend. Again, while not many, it was still very cool to hear the audience react to those big moments. UFC Fight Island 7 (Holloway vs. Kattar) was the first UFC event to have fans since UFC 248 back on March 7, 2020. It is still mind blowing to me just how long ago that seems and maybe that is why this was such a neat experiment for the UFC.

Dana White has already said once they are back on US soil, they will continue doing fights at the Apex in Las Vegas with no fans in attendance. However, this was great to see, even if only for three events. We also had a ceremonial weigh in for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, taking place for Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor, and the rest of the UFC 257 card. 

While we may not see events like this outside of Fight Island for the foreseeable future, it does give us something extra to look forward to when the UFC returns for its next trip to Abu Dhabi. But for now, we go back to the silence outside of the octagon and the sound of brutal strikes landing between world class athletes. Safe to say, fans or no fans, we are always in for a treat in the fight business!

The Diamond Shines Bright

UFC 257 - Dustin Poirier
Dustin Poirier going for the finishing sequence over Conor McGregor at UFC 257 (Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

All eyes were on UFC 257 and it is safe to say this event delivered on every level. With the energy of the small crowd in attendance, four of the five main card fights finishing via TKO and last but not least, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier silenced the critics. A man that never once has taken the easy road, but instead has chosen to take the road less traveled. Dustin was doubted by many heading into his main event bout and rematch with Conor McGregor. Now, I can’t blame anyone who picked against him, because McGregor is not only the biggest star to have ever stepped into the UFC octagon, but has also backed it up on several occasions, including the first bout with Poirier, where he finished him in less than two minutes. Little did everyone know that over six years after these two first got locked in the cage, the outcome would be so similar, yet so different.

Right from the get go, Conor took center control of the octagon, forcing Dustin to work with his back against the fence. Poirier however shocked myself, along with many others, when he landed a takedown around thirty seconds into the bout. Now, this by no means was a Khabib style takedown and mauling, but instead a way to let Conor know that the threat is prevalent should the fight go into deep waters. From here the two exchanged a multitude of shoulder strikes in the clinch, along with what I’m sure was friendly banter in each others’ ears. After the clinch was broken, we began to see that all so familiar striking of Conor McGregor, definitely landing some solid shots during the opening round. However, don’t let this cover up the fact that some very crucial low calf kicks began to be implemented by Dustin to finish out the round. 

These calf kicks continued into the second round, and we were now seeing just how damaging they were becoming to Conor. His leg swelling up and becoming very red, Dustin realized just how compromised McGregor was, essentially fighting off of one leg, just a minute and some change into round two. From here the tide changed immensely and Dustin smelled blood in the water, forcing Conor’s back toward the fence, a complete “180” from the first round. With a variety of dirty boxing combinations and crisp right hooks, Poirier managed to do what no man has ever done before in Mixed Martial Arts, defeat “The Notorious” via TKO just 2:32 into the second round. 

I was in utter disbelief at what had just transpired in front of my own eyes. After years of scratching and clawing his way to the top, Dustin had finally done it, he had silenced the doubters and solidified himself in the talks as one of the greatest to ever put on the four-ounce gloves. This is a moment that will stick with me for years to come, as the fan-favorite, charity-driven family man, Dustin Poirier proved how elite he truly is. The look of pure happiness on his wife Julie’s face, and the odd calmness and confident look on Dustin’s face truly put into perspective how special this moment was. In what I can only imagine is an undisputed title shot lined up next for “The Diamond”, one thing is certain, this man will not stop until the gold strap is wrapped around his waist.


Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images

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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!