Max Holloway, a B.J. Penn for a New Generation

I miss B.J. Penn. Like, a lot. Few fighters have ever captivated audiences with the same fervor as “Baby” Jay once did. Since his retirement and induction into the UFC’s Hall of Fame, fans have been left with a certain void that only a scrappy Hawaiian can fill.

At only 23 years old, Max Holloway could be poised to become the BJ Penn of another generation. With a technical, “punch first, submit later” style, Holloway wins over fans with every fight. Having already amassed a professional record of 13-3, Holloway is currently riding an impressive six-fight winning streak, his only losses stemming from now interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor, and top contenders Dennis Bermudez and Dustin Poirier.

The Poirier loss deserves some unpacking: not only was it Holloway’s UFC debut, but was also only his fifth ever professional fight; come fight night, Poirier boasted nearly three-times as many fights under his belt than Max. To make matters worse, Holloway was too young to even buy a beer after the fight to ease the pain; he didn’t turn 21 for another 18 months.

Since his last loss to McGregor, Holloway has been on a tear, finishing five out of his last six opponents by way of either knockout or submission. He’s a killer in every sense of the word.

Don’t like getting pelted with his super accurate punches? You can try for a takedown, but don’t be surprised if this ends with Holloway’s arms wrapped around your neck.

Nowhere is this better evidenced than in Holloway’s last outing to the cage against Cub Swanson. After frustrating Cub on the feet with angles and hand speed, Holloway timed a beautiful guillotine choke as Swanson shot for an ill-advised takedown late in the third round.

His is a style that, while all his own, was truly pioneered by Penn.

Penn would use devastating power punches and commanding takedown defense to set up eventual chokes against the likes of Matt Hughes, Kenny Florian, and Joe Stevenson.

Holloway will look to utilize the very same style that made Penn a two-division champ when he makes his UFC headline debut this Saturday against Charles Oliveira.

Ultimately, though, what made Penn so endearing to his fans was his willingness to fight anyone, at any time, and, most importantly, at any weight.

And, truly, any fighter that can be compared to B.J. Penn must compete in at least two weight classes (Penn managed five in his career), and while Holloway isn’t there yet, he certainly could be in a few years.

At just 23 years of age, time is the greatest asset on Holloway’s side. If his body allows it, Holloway could easily enjoy another decade in the sport. And with a 70 inch reach, and the most knockdowns in UFC featherweight history, it’s not crazy to think he could also be competitive in the shark tank that is the lightweight division.

Fans that tune in to UFC Fight Night Saskatoon won’t just be treated to a fun clash of styles between Holloway and Oliveira, they may very well be witnessing the breakthrough of what could be the next B.J. Penn.
Main Photo: