By: King Eddie
On ten days notice, our local phenom, Max "Blessed" Holloway, took to the UFC octagon against a legend of the fistic arts, Leonard Garcia. Neither fighter wanted to give an inch in the bout and both men clashed like gladiators from the days of old.
The first round saw Holloway dropping Garcia with a left hand, but the fight was far from over. As a matter of fact, it may have been the shot that woke the sleeping beast. Leonard began to press forward with hard shot after hard shot. But Max was able to counter over and over with great success.
As the fight wore on, Max found comfort in his ability to maintain distance using his front kicks. When opportunities would arise, leg kicks were fired off like a baseball bat against the thighs of Garcia. Though the pain is great with each solid kick, Garcia showed no signs of struggle. He plunged forward with shot after shot, landing some, missing some, but gaining Holloway's respect in either case. Holloway looked almos as if he could see them coming in slow motion as he ducked and dodged his way out of harms way. Even when blasted by Garcia's shotgun hands, Max never missed a beat.
As the two plunged on into the second round, Max scored hard body kicks of the spinning variety, but Garcia managed a takedown. But quickly back to his feet, Max forged on. A testament to his iron will and heart of a champion. There was no possibility of defeat. In his fourth UFC appearance in his young career, Max was facing his greatest challenge to date.
Though Garcia is known for abandoning his gameplan for the brawl, this fight sparked something different inside of him. Garcia listened to the instructions of his corner and kept the fight as technical as possible throughout much of the passing seconds of the fight. But in a battle of technical striking, Holloway edged his aggressor. With almost effortless ease, Holloway stuck away, frustrating Garcia at every turn.
When the bout moved into a brawling scenario, both men stood in the pocket and exchanged punches and knees that would have leveled any other opponent.
"He hits hard!" said Holloway. " I mean he hits HARD. But I just listened to my corner and stuck to the gameplan. I used my kicks as much as I could to keep him back, but he kept coming forward. I wanted to throw more leg kicks but I didn't want to get taken down again. I know he got me down twice, but my corners told me I got back up pretty quick. He didn't really do anything with them."
As the bout drew to a close, two takedowns had been scored by Garcia, and one early knockdown by Holloway. The rest of the bout was pure determination and heart by both men. Hard shots landed, counter shots hit their mark, and a crowd watching around the world came to their feet.
When both men met in the center of the cage following the final bell. . . a powerful image of both men kneeling, holding onto one another, and praying can be seen. In the end my friends, there is nothing more awesome to watch than a pair of modern day caged warriors taking a step back and becoming humble sportsman in the wake of a war. Each man knelt and gave glory to the man above, moments before the decision came in.
As the judges scores were read, each warrior was sure of victory. Though there had to be a winner in the fight, there was definitely no loser.
"I thought I won the fight. When I heard the second judge had scored it for Max I was a little confused" said Garcia.
The split decision was in, and Hawaii's own Max Holloway took the victory. In a post fight interview he welcomed a rematch, but states, " I will take whatever fight the lord lays on my path right now."
"Max is a great fighter and competitor. He came to fight!" said Garcia. "I'm excited to see him again someday!"
"Looking back to just a few years ago, (King Eddie) did a story on me for the magazine. In that story I said I would be in the UFC one day. Now I'm here and I'm leaving it all up to the lord. I'm doing it his way. I tried doing it my own way, and it got me nowhere. I got the best support in the world in my family and friends, and I'm going to keep going on this path, wherever it leads me."
Congratulations to both fighters, who gave their heart and soul in the cage tonight for our entertainment. Though the decision was split, it is unanimous with the fans that Max "Blessed" Holloway, breathes new life into the sport of MMA, not only for Hawaii, but for all who support it.