The biggest combat sports promotion on the planet returned to Kansas City for the first time in 6 years last night, and top billing was reserved for one of our own, as Suffolk’s Arnold Allen took on arguably the greatest fighter the 145-pound division has ever produced, Max Holloway. A mammoth task for any athlete on the Featherweight roster. But considering his unblemished 10-0 record within the UFC, which included victories over long-time top contenders Calvin Kattar and Dan Hooker, as well as former Strikeforce 155-pound king Gilbert Melendez, partnered with his #4 ranking, you can’t argue he had earned his chance to take on the Hawaiian.
And over 25 back-and-forth minutes, the Brit proved that his place at the summit of mixed martial arts was well and truly warranted, as he went toe-to-toe with the future Hall of Famer, matching his infamous output for large quantities of the bout. A clear and definitive 10-9 for Almighty in the second was followed up by remaining competitive throughout rounds three and four. He was also putting together a solid final stanza before the final 20 seconds. Ipswich’s finest would eventually be given one round by two judges, and two by the third. But there was never a round where Allen was completely outclassed. So as much as this sport is about winning, and his perfect record within the UFC has been spoiled, there are clear positives to be taken away from his performance last night, none more so than his graciousness and respect in defeat.
Time to look forward and hypothesize about who could be standing across from Allen in his next bout.
An obvious place to start is the recently announced bout between the heavy-handed Josh Emmett and rising Georgian prospect Ilia Topuria, set to take place on June 17th. With Emmett coming off his defeat at the hands of interim belt-holder Yair Rodriguez, and El Matador probably needing another couple of wins before we start talking title shots, the winner of this high-stakes main event could be a brilliant option for Almighty.
A slightly left-field alternative would be the always-entertaining and dynamic Chang-Sung-Jung. Korean Zombie has not stepped into the Octagon since his ill-fated attempt to dethrone Alexander Volkanovski last April. Rumours were circling about a potential matchup between Jung and kickboxing ace Giga Chikadze in his native South Korea, but they have since died down. Despite being in the twilight of his illustrious career, and coming off a devastating loss, TKZ could be a viable dance partner for Arnold’s return and would be a fantastic name to add to his already impressive resume.
The final, and in my opinion, best, fighter I’d like to suggest is Brian Ortega. Similarly to Zombie, it has been some time since we’ve seen T-City grace the cage, following a dislocated shoulder during his ABC main event fight with the aforementioned Yair Rodriguez last July, which would later lead to surgery for the former two-time Featherweight title challenger. Both Ortega and Allen have only been defeated by either current or former champions within the promotion, and a showdown between the pair would propel the victor right back into title contention.
So, to summarize, the result did not go the way of Almighty last night in Kansas, but his performance, reaction to the loss, and potential matchups going forward show that his stint at the top of one of the UFC’s most talent-rich divisions is far from over.