Getty Images

If Max Holloway wanted to earn another shot at the UFC featherweight championship, he had to first handle business in the Octagon against Yair Rodriguez in the main event of Saturday's UFC Fight Night. After five brutal rounds, Holloway managed to walk out bloodied and bruised, but as a winner.

The fight opened at a blistering pace, with Rodriguez showing off a diverse range of strikes, tagging Holloway with combination punching in between heavy leg kicks. As the leg kicks added up, Rodriguez began mixing in kicks to the body and head. The opening round wasn't one-way traffic, however, with Holloway landing a heavy right hand that opened a nasty cut under Rodriguez's left eye.

Holloway responded with a big strategic change in the second round, mixing in heavy combination punching to the body that seemed to wear on Rodriguez, who was also battling at his own high pace. While Rodriguez continued to work over Holloway's legs with kicks and landed the occasional power shot to the head, his pace slowed noticeably as the second round wore on.

In a third-round exchange, Rodriguez fell to the ground and Holloway quickly pounced, first forcing Rodriguez to cover up under an onslaught of punches before attacking with submissions. Holloway took the mount and landed heavy strikes until Rodriguez managed to scramble and get back to his feet, immediately blasting Holloway with heavy punches.

While Holloway firmly took over control of the fight from that point forward, continuing to use grappling to put Rodriguez on the defensive in between wild striking exchanges, Rodriguez continued to be dangerous, finding his own spots to unload with heavy shots.

By the final horn, both men were cut up and swollen, but the decision was a clear one for Holloway. The official scorecards read 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47, all for Holloway. After five rounds of brutal action, Holloway's admiration for Rodriguez was clear, saying, "All love to Yair, this guy is a beast."

Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including instant analysis of Holloway vs. Rodriguez on Saturday night below.

Rodriguez spent the post-fight interviews being held up by his cornermen. The reason was made clear on the ESPN+ stream when Rodriguez's right foot was shown hideously swollen from a kick landed midway through the fight.

While Holloway would clearly love a third fight with Alexander Volkanovski -- who holds a 2-0 record against Holloway -- and a chance to regain his status as featherweight champion, his message after the fight was clear: fighters need to come to him to prove their worth.

"To be the best, you have to beat the best," Holloway said. "And the best is Blessed. They can come after me, baby."