Calvin Kattar and a lot others would’ve felt justified in their pre-fight pick, for long-reigning former featherweight titlist Max Holloway’s championship experience to pay dividends down the stretch against determined contender Arnold Allen. While there’s comfort from familiarity, it also means featherweight finds itself stuck – at least for a little while – atop the division.
Holloway outpoints Allen, featherweight has a conundrum
49-46, 49-46, 48-47: Max Holloway  bt. Arnold Allen  via UD
Arnold Allen was tied with Alexander Volkanovski for the second-longest win streak in UFC featherweight divisional history, until the leader ended a nine-month layoff this past weekend and added another name to his ever-growing resume.
Afterwards, Blessed refused to give a prediction ahead of UFC 290’s headliner: Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez, as two men he knows well will duel to unify the titles.
He beat the latter during a similarly competitive outing back in 2021, but has fallen short on three occasions against the current champion – most recently last summer.
The 31-year-old cited two-time middleweight champion Israel Adesanya as an inspiration, given how he ended (at least, for now) the rivalry with Alex Pereira by beating him for the first time at the fourth attempt earlier this month.
The heavy-handed Brazilian has since confirmed he’ll move up to light-heavyweight, paving the way for new challenges in a division Israel and former champion Robert Whittaker have already seemingly cleaned (sorry, Dricus du Plessis).
A lightweight return is possible for Holloway, though he kept repeating during media day that it’d be nice to move up with the belt around his waist – ala Volkanovski when he dared to be great and came close against Islam Makhachev in February.
Now the problem is, how do you book Holloway in a way that doesn’t hurt surging contenders? Volkanovski was a decisive winner in the trilogy fight, so will have no appetite for a fourth if he’s successful against Rodriguez come July.
Going down the rankings list, he’s already beaten three of the other top five.
Josh Emmett  defends that spot against Ilia Topuria in mid-June and while Max’s desire to fight Korean Zombie makes sense from a historical, almost nostalgic way, that’s the only reasonable angle given their respective legacies in the sport.
The 36-year-old was thoroughly dominated and stopped by Volkanovski at UFC 273 and is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury, which is never a comforting sign if you’re preparing to fight someone as savvy and relentless as Holloway.
Allen showed over 25 minutes that he certainly belongs and is a top-five contender at 145lbs, Holloway acknowledged as much, but there’s no clear #1 challenger.
It’s probably part of the reason why Henry Cejudo had Volk on his mind pre-retirement, and Aljamain Sterling is eyeing a featherweight move too.
They battle it out for bantamweight gold next month, and it’ll be interesting to see which direction the promotion goes atop two divisions with movement imminent.
Rest of the main card
After contrasting defeats – both comprehensive – by Giga Chikadze and Bryce Mitchell, Edson Barboza ended a 14-month layoff with a stunning R1 KO win.
As such, the Brazilian vet defended his top-15 ranking against Contender Series alum Billy Quarantillo, who has now alternated wins and losses in his last five fights.
The matchup had Fight of the Night potential, but instead, the 37-year-old scored his maiden first-round finish since July 2014 and earned a performance bonus too.
After displaying good takedown defence up against the fence, Barboza landed a series of kicks and jabs as Quarantillo maintained his forward pressure.
He produced an inch-perfect right knee with his back to the fence countering the 34-year-old who threw a high kick, punch and left his chin exposed coming in.
A shot he didn’t see coming, referee Keith Peterson immediately called a stop to the contest as the strike briefly left him unconscious. It was a timely reminder of how Barboza is still very dangerous given the right featherweight matchups.
Elsewhere there were a pair of light-heavyweight fights with much different outcomes: Azamat Murzakanov was more accurate over 15 minutes and scored a second-round knockdown en route to victory over Dustin Jacoby (29-28 x 3).
Then, Tanner Boser’s 205lb debut lasted just 125 seconds as Ion Cutelaba’s pressure and power saw him blasted into a defenceless heap up against the fence.
Perennial bantamweight contender Pedro Munhoz  scored a first-round knockdown and Chris Gutierrez  was punished for a failure to land many more impactful strikes over the subsequent ten minutes during a UD defeat (30-27 x 3).
Rafa Garcia landed the most significant strikes of any Clay Guida opponent (141 of 287, 49% success) en route to a dominant decision win (30-27 x 3) at lightweight, in what quickly resembled a mismatch as he improved to 4-3 in the promotion.
Featherweight: Bill Algeo bt. T.J. Brown via R2 submission (rear-naked choke)
Flyweight: Brandon Royval bt. Matheus Nicolau via R1 KO (knee, elbows)
Light-heavy: Zak Cummings bt. Ed Herman via R3 TKO (punches), before both announced their retirement in the cage post-fight
Women’s Strawweight: Gillian Robertson bt. Piera Rodriguez via R2 submission (armbar)
Lightweight: Daniel Zellhuber bt. Lando Vannata via UD (29-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Women’s Strawweight: Denise Gomes bt. Bruna Brasil via R2 TKO (punches)
Bantamweight: Gaston Bolanos bt. Aaron Phillips via UD (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Catchweight (136.5lbs): Joselyne Edwards bt. Lucie Pudilova via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Up next: UFC Vegas 71 next weekend on April 22, headlined by a battle between heavyweight contenders Sergei Pavlovich  and Curtis Blaydes 
Picture source: Getty Images