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Holloway to fight at UFC 223
No way. Not again. AGAIN??!!

And on April Fool’s Day? My goodness, sometimes the mixed-martial-arts Gods are absolutely ruthless.

For the fourth time, a scrap between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov has been cancelled. This time, Ferguson pulled out after tripping and tearing a ligament in his knee on Friday while completing UFC pre-fight media obligations in a studio.

Ferguson has now pulled out of a fight with Nurmagomedov twice due to injuries. Nurmagomedov withdrew with an injury once and was unable to make weight the last time they were scheduled to fight.

Although injuries often prevent fans from seeing fights they’ve been craving, these situations can often lead to intriguing last-minute matchups. The best example of this was when Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of his lightweight title defense vs. Conor McGregor. That led to Nate Diaz vs. McGregor and the subsequent rematch, which will eventually require a rubber match.

With its UFC 223 pay-per-view headliner six days away, the promotion faced a daunting task in finding a replacement for Ferguson. McGregor wasn’t an option because his fights are epic international events that are priced higher and need time for proper promotion.

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So the UFC turned to its featherweight champion Max Holloway, and ‘Blessed’ accepted the offer. Now he has the chance to join McGregor as the only fighters in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously.

Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) has won 12 consecutive fights and hasn’t tasted defeat since dropping a unanimous decision to McGregor at UFC Boston on August 17 of 2003. The Hawaiian was only 21 years old when he lost to ‘The Notorious.’

Holloway became the 145-pound champ when he beat Jose Aldo by third-round knockout at UFC 212 in Rio. He defended the belt in a rematch with Aldo, winning against by third-round KO at UFC 218 in Detroit.

Holloway was scheduled to make his second title defense last month against Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar, but he had to withdraw due to an ankle injury. Brian Ortega stepped up to face Edgar and became the first fighter to finish the former lightweight champ with a first-round KO. Ortega and Holloway are slated to throw down this summer in the UFC 226 co-main event.

However, this could change those plans. First of all, if Holloway wins the 155-pound strap, there’s no telling what will be next for him. McGregor in September would be on option. Also, if Holloway goes down to Nurmagomedov, will he incur injuries that make it difficult for him to be ready for Ortega in July?

Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0) is off dominant wins over Michael Johnson and Edson Barboza. He’s one of the best grapplers in all of MMA and will want to get Holloway to the ground early and often. If ‘Blessed’ can keep the fight standing, that’s where he’ll have the advantage with his nasty striking skills.

William Hill opened Nurmagomedov as a -500 favorite early this morning, with Holloway as the +350 underdog. 5Dimes.eu has one proposition wager available: -160 that the fight doesn’t go the five-round distance, with +120 odds available for the fight to go to a decision. There was no total for ‘over/under’ wagers yet.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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