Max Holloway will put his featherweight belt on the line against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 240 on Saturday. It will be Holloway's first fight back at 145 pounds after moving up for an ultimately unsuccessful attempt against Dustin Poirier to claim the interim UFC lightweight title last April.
Both fighters have had prolonged success in the promotion, as evidenced by their total significant strike numbers. Holloway has landed the most significant strikes among all active fighters in the UFC with 1,808, while Edgar has landed the third most with 1,463. While those career striking numbers are similarly impressive, a deeper dive into a few key statistical categories illuminates multiple stylistic differences and tendencies that could go a long way in determining the winner on Saturday night.
Few fighters have striking numbers as impressive as Holloway's. His striking differential, which is measured as significant strikes landed per minute minus significant strikes absorbed per minute, is +2.6. That measure is more than three times the average for a ranked featherweight (+0.8). His differential is buttressed by his prodigious offense. For his UFC career, Holloway has landed 6.93 significant strikes per minute, which is the third-best striking rate of all time (with a minimum of five fights) -- trailing only Shane Burgos (7.06) and Justin Gaethje (8.5).
In terms of offense, Holloway has a pretty distinct advantage over Edgar. The former lightweight champion has landed only 3.59 significant strikes per minute, which ranks 11th among ranked featherweights. Despite this offensive shortcoming, Edgar has distinguished himself when it comes to defense. He avoids 70.1% of his opponents' significant strikes, which is the seventh-best striking defense of all time. Edgar has absorbed only 2.22 strikes on a per-minute basis, which also makes him the third-hardest person to hit among the top 16 featherweights. Thanks greatly to this defense, his striking differential stands at +1.37.
Even though Holloway has taken a lot of punishment from his opponents, he is normally able to overcome those hits due to his prolific offense. However, his high-volume approach has certainly gotten him into trouble in the past -- most recently against Poirier. In a pure striking battle, Edgar likely will struggle to keep pace with Holloway. If he can make the champion miss while he scores with counters, Edgar might be able to leave the cage as featherweight champion.
Holloway will look to go toe-to-toe vs. Edgar
Gilbert Melendez breaks down Max Holloway's strategy on the feet against Frankie Edgar. Watch UFC 240 here on ESPN+ https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.
One of the ways Edgar has limited his strike absorption is that he does a large chunk of his striking on the ground. Like most fighters, he lands the majority of his significant strikes at distance (65%). However, 26% of his landed significant strikes have come on the floor. He is overly accurate in the position, as he lands 76% of his significant ground attempts. During his UFC career, Edgar has outlanded his opponents 383 to 43 in terms of significant ground strikes.
While Edgar has supplemented his traditional striking game with some ground-and-pound, Holloway is much more of a traditional striker. In the UFC, 82% of his landed significant strikes have come at distance -- standing and not in the clinch. Despite this seemingly one-dimensional attack, Holloway has done a good job of avoiding ground strikes from his opponents. In his 20-fight UFC career, he has absorbed only 32 significant strikes on the ground, or 3% of the total significant strikes he has absorbed.
Edgar has never been entirely reliant on his ground striking to win fights. However, in certain matchups -- most notably his first fight against Cub Swanson and his fight against Yair Rodriguez -- he was able to thoroughly dominate with his ground-and-pound. If he is able to establish ground position against Holloway, the fight could really swing in his favor. However, very few have had success with this strategy against the champion.
The good news for Edgar and his hopes of bringing the fight to the ground is that his 67 career takedowns is the second most among active fighters. The bad news is that he lands only 34% of his takedown attempts. Even though he has the third-worst takedown accuracy of any ranked featherweight, he makes up for that with volume. He has attempted 7.29 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time. Thanks to that persistent approach, he has landed 2.47 takedowns per 15, which is the fourth-best rate among the same group.
In terms of stopping takedowns, Holloway does a pretty solid job of staying on his feet. He has stopped 83% of his opponents' attempts throughout his UFC career. That being said, he has faced a large number of attempts due to his ability to overwhelm opponents with his volume striking approach. Despite solid defensive numbers from a percentage perspective, he still has been taken down 1.09 time per 15 minutes. Though Holloway has been hard to take down, Edgar's persistence might actually pay off if he is determined to wrestle. It will certainly put him in an advantageous position while forcing Holloway to play defense, at the very least.
Neither one of these fighters has ever really displayed fight-ending power on a consistent basis. Edgar averages only 0.11 knockdowns per 15 minutes, while Holloway is slightly ahead with 0.46 knockdowns per 15 minutes.
However, in his recent performances against Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis, Holloway showed that he can eventually score a knockdown due to an overall accumulation of damage. Edgar has been mostly durable in his career, but there has been some worrisome evidence to the contrary as of late. Through his first 20 fights, Edgar had been knocked down only by Gray Maynard. But over the course of his past four fights, he has been dropped by Jeremy Stephens and Brian Ortega. Both of these fighters have displayed above-average power during their careers, so it is entirely possible that Edgar's chin remains resilient. If he has experienced a decline in durability, however, he might have trouble staying in the fight when faced with the offensive onslaught of Holloway.