UFC Singapore takeaways: Max Holloway wins big, swan song for Chan Sung Jung

What were the biggest moments from UFC Fight Night in Singapore? Marc Raimondi and Brett Okamoto react to Saturday morning’s fights at Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Max Holloway has a decision to make, and it won’t be an easy one.

The Hawaiian star is still in the prime of his career and every bit as beloved as he always has been. There was little doubt of that after his third-round knockout of “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung on Saturday in the main event of UFC Singapore. Holloway’s iron chin took Jung’s best shots — as always — and he picked up his first finish since 2018 in violent fashion.

That wasn’t entirely unexpected, to be fair. Holloway was a sizable favorite. But the bigger story is apparent when you look at the UFC’s official featherweight contender rankings. Holloway is ranked No. 1 and has beaten Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Jung is No. 8. And everyone else in the top 10, aside from the up-and-coming Movsar Evloev, is coming off a loss. “Blessed” has cleaned out the division without even being champion. It’s a rare occurrence with no upward mobility, since titleholder Alexander Volkanovski has beaten Holloway on three occasions and there’s little appetite for a fourth fight.

Holloway has done all that he can at featherweight. He is a former champion in the weight class with three successful title defenses. He has the most wins (20) and finishes in division history (11). It’s time for a change. Holloway is too good and young — still just 31 years old — to be a gatekeeper. A move up to lightweight would give him a chance to further a legacy that will surely already land him in the UFC Hall of Fame. Who wouldn’t want to see Holloway challenge Justin Gaethje for the symbolic BMF title?

Holloway failed in his attempt to go up in 2019, falling to Dustin Poirier in an interim title fight. But this Holloway is older and wiser. Fighters moving up in weight is fairly common as careers go on, and they naturally get bigger while the weight cuts get harder. That’s not to say Holloway struggles to cut weight — he’s a pro — but adding some muscle and not depleting himself will only be better for his long-term health. He’s surely not a small featherweight by any stretch. Poirier moved up from featherweight in 2015, and his career took off thereafter. A third fight against Poirier could be fun. So would matchups with Beneil Dariush, Rafael Fiziev or Dan Hooker.

Now, this could all be turned on its head in the next few months. Volkanovski is likely to defend his title next Ilia Topuria, perhaps early in 2024. If Topuria wins, maybe Volkanovski will move up to give it another go against Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title. At that point, Holloway would have a new life at 145 pounds, and his facing Topuria would be a marquee matchup.

On the other hand, Volkanovski could be given an immediate rematch in that scenario, too. So, all signs are that Holloway will remain in that 145-pound limbo — better than everyone but the champ — for the foreseeable future, unless he jumps to 155. On the UFC Singapore postfight show, Holloway made it clear that’s OK with him. He only seems to want another crack at Volkanovski for the title he used to own. Perhaps we should be preparing for Holloway to take on the next generation of the division until that happens. Or maybe if he can’t beat Volkanovski, Holloway will just outlast him.

“I’m going to just keep doing it,” he said. “If it’s more contenders, it’s more contenders. We’ll keep working. I’m a warrior in every way. … I want to be the best and the best guy is the one holding the belt.”

Raimondi: Blanchfield shows room for improvement in win; should be next title challenger

This fight was the best indicator yet of Blanchfield’s complete MMA skill set, showing both reach and limitations. The good news is that she won, despite going 0-14 on takedown attempts. The bad news is … she went 0-14 on takedown attempts. Give Taila Santos a ton of credit for the takedown defense, but it’s still a bit concerning for Blanchfield. It’s not as if her efforts were just shrugged off completely. Blanchfield worked into some fantastic takedown opportunities with good timing and variety. She got deep into Santos’ hips on multiple occasions, clasped her hands together along the fence and executed a nice inside trip — and still, none of it worked. Even when Santos was visibly tired at the end of the fight, Blanchfield couldn’t get her down. But she still won the fight despite all this. When you project forward, you’d like to see her finish some of those takedown attempts.

Now, that’s the splitting-hairs analysis. Overall, Blanchfield is continuing to grow, and she is a fighter. She has a ton of will, and that’s what this fight showed the most — the ability to overcome adversity, bite down on her mouthpiece and walk into the heat Santos was throwing from the opening bell. She has a high fight IQ and ended up clearly winning despite the 0-14 mark on takedowns. Had it been known going in that Blanchfield wouldn’t land a single takedown attempt, the majority would have put their money on Santos. And they would have been holding a losing ticket.

Blanchfield should be the next challenger for the women’s flyweight title, regardless of what happens in a fight between Manon Fiorot and Rose Namajunas next week. She’s won six in a row now, the longest active win streak in the division, and she’s done so against established names. She’s a threat but probably not a favorite against either Alexa Grasso or Valentina Shevchenko, but at 24, there’s no other matchup that makes sense for her. With Shevchenko suddenly human after years of dominance, the top of this division looks extremely competitive. These outcomes are going to be hard to predict.

Okamoto: The Korean Zombie calls it a career

I’m trying to think if there has ever been a more fitting end to a UFC fighter’s career. Robbie Lawler‘s recent knockout win and retirement comes to mind, of course. That was perfect. But what else?

So many fighting careers end like Jung’s, with the retiring fighter on his back, knocked out, staring up at the lights. But the way in which this one happened — Jung deciding to go all-in and live with the results — is how this man went through his career at every stage. It reminded me of his loss to Yair Rodriguez in 2020, when he was on the receiving end of what I believe to be the greatest knockout in UFC history. Rodriguez knocked Jung out with a wild back elbow in the final second of a five-round fight on the 25th anniversary of the UFC. That knockout would not have happened had Jung played it safe and done what most other fighters would do: hang back in the final seconds of a fight he was winning. But Zombie only really knew how to go, man. That was the only style he knew, the only mindset he had. Just a constantly fearless pursuit of putting another man down.

Obviously, he’ll be disappointed that he was never a champion, but I hope he can find comfort in the fact he made it to that peak twice, and lost to two all-time legends, Hall of Famers in Alexander Volkanovski and Jose Aldo. Zombie was entertaining, but don’t forget he was very good, too. Two UFC title fights, against two of the best to ever do it. When fighters retire, many of the emotions and talk surrounding it is about accomplishments, and you can do that with Zombie. But often, it’s about their ability to inspire things in others as well, and Zombie was someone who did that to the very, very end.

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