It was a thrilling war over five rounds as Holloway and Rodriguez brought the best out of each other with some of the wildest exchanges of the year. Holloway’s ability to pour on the punishment round after round while also managing to mix in some very good ground work allowed him to surge ahead on the scorecards.
The final scorecards read 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 with Holloway securing the unanimous decision but afterwards he only wanted to pay tribute to Rodriguez for giving him everything he could possibly handle.
“All the love to Yair,” Holloway said following his second straight win. “This guy’s a beast. I feel great. His boxing’s pretty good. He was moving like a boxer but then he was throwing elbows. Fair game to him. This guy’s a freaking beast. That’s why I wanted to fight him.”
Like always, Holloway was directly in Rodriguez’s face at the start of the fight as he began putting together the volume striking offense that has made him so dangerous over the years. While Holloway was very busy on the feet, Rodriguez wasn’t backing down as he fired back with a series of hard kicks to the leg as well as a well-timed right hand that kept landing on the former champion’s chin.
While Holloway was dangerous as ever with his formidable boxing offense, Rodriguez was quick to fire back with a series of stiff kicks to the body as well as left-right combination that snapped his opponent’s head back. Holloway came back with a punch of his own that put Rodriguez on his heels as he retreated towards the cage.
Holloway continued headhunting into the second round with Rodriguez using a punishing calf-kick to slow down the Hawaiian as well as feeding him more and more body shots. The damage being dished out by Rodriguez was significant but he just couldn’t keep Holloway off of him as he continued to bless the former Ultimate Fighter: Latin America winner with punches in bunches.
As Rodriguez was attempting to even the score with more kicks to the calf, he slipped to the ground and Holloway seized on the opening to jump down into the mount, where he began blasting away with punches and even setting up some potential submissions. Rodriguez eventually worked his way free and once he got back to the feet he was quick to blast Holloway with an aggressive series of strikes to let his opponent know he wasn’t going anywhere.
With the fight moving into the championship rounds, Holloway was just relentless as he began relying more on his grappling, which is where he was dominating Rodriguez. Holloway nearly snatched a guillotine choke and then just started hammering away at Rodriguez from the top position.
Holloway’s non-stop offense was just impossibly tough to deal with but Rodriguez was still throwing back at him with everything left in his arsenal. Knowing that Rodriguez was going to have to pull off something spectacular to get the finish, Holloway was still willing to engage in exchanges as he also sought to secure the victory.
Both fighters were covered in sweat and blood in the closing seconds with Rodriguez still throwing bombs and Holloway coming back at him with just as much fury in his hands and feet until the final horn sounded.
Despite a valiant effort, Rodriguez still came up short but he was nothing but respectful towards Holloway while also sporting a massively swollen foot from all the kicks he threw over 25 minutes.
“I came really prepared for this fight,” Rodriguez said while leaning on his coaches. “Max is an amazing fighter. He was better than me tonight.”
Holloway has often been called the greatest featherweight of all time and while he doesn’t have the title around his waist, it would be hard to disprove his claim as the best 145-pound fighter in history. That said, Holloway still has two losses to reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski but there’s no doubt they’ve been defined as the two best featherweights in the world right now and a third meeting at some point seems likely.
“We’ll see what happens,” Holloway said about what comes next. “I got a win over the 155 [pound] champion [Charles Oliveira], we’ve got Alex [Volkanovski] and stuff. I’m on the shortlist for Conor McGregor.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and the best is ‘Blessed.’ They can come after me, let’s get it.”