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Here’s everything that happened at UFC 231: ‘Holloway vs Ortega’ last night

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) journeyed to Toronto, Ontario, Canada last night (Dec. 8, 2018) for UFC 231. A pair of titles at stake headlined the event: a pair of ultra high-level match ups that likely determined the next couple years of dominance in their respective divisions. All in all, it was a strong pay-per-view (PPV) event with a deep undercard, and there was a fair amount of great technique and some interesting results throughout. Let’s take a look!

Holloway is Here to Stay

Too many people doubted Max Holloway, the man who entered the cage — and left it! — with the longest win streak in the UFC. A couple weight cut issues or no, there was absolutely no reason for Holloway to enter his second title defense as an underdog.

Holloway’s game is so seemingly simple, as he pummels opponents with dozens of jab-crosses and wears them down to a bloody pulp. However, his footwork, timing, and particularly his volume are brutal. They break opponents, either mentally or physically. Ortega was definitely a victim of the latter, as he gamely tried to keep fighting while his face broke into something unrecognizable.

The message to take from this one? Don’t ever count out Max Holloway again. That man is one of the greatest fighters of all time, and he’s still just 27 years old with plenty of time to put the hurt on many more fighters.

Shevchenko Finally Earns Her Crown

Valentina Shevchenko is my absolute favorite woman to watch fight.

There are reasons — on paper — that she shouldn’t be. Shevchenko is hardly a knockout artist, so many of her fights could be considered point fights even if it isn’t her intent. Worse, she frequently goes for the headlock throw, which is truly a sin and should be abandoned from Women’s MMA.

However, Shevchenko is truly the ultimate picture of efficiency. There is no wasted bouncing around, excessive stance-switching, or fancy tricks. Shevchenko maintains the kickboxing range and trusts her incredible defense to not only keep her safe but also allow her to immediately counter strike. Even if my own style as a martial artist is very different and incorporates some of those elements that she avoids, it’s inspiring.

You cannot out-volume Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Shevchenko did not try. In one of my favorite sequences that occurred early in the third round, Jedrzejczyk stayed active and threw nine or 10 strikes in a short burst. All were blocked or avoided by “Bullet,” who simply spun into a back kick and sent Jedrzejczyk reeling back.

Efficiency.

As a final note, Shevchenko’s size proved valuable, and her clinch wrestling is quite good even if I make jokes about the headlock throws. Judges cannot be trusted to know who is landing, but an easy slam takedown is an effective way to win rounds.

MARRETA!

I wrote about being a fan before this fight — frankly I try to show some love in every article I write about the man — but Thiago Santos is fucking awesome. The Brazilian walks into the cage focused on kicking his foe into oblivion each and every time, somehow maintains a high-pace despite throwing forth an absurd amount of energy, and deserves a similarly large following and reputation like Justin Gaethje.

Last night was next level. Santos hurt Manuwa with the literal first two strikes he threw: a hard left body kick and check hook as his leg returned into place. Immediately, Santos threw any caution (an already very tiny amount) aside, going after Manuwa and hurting him a couple more times. Manuwa recovered from the knockdowns though, pushing his foe into the fence and wobbling him with elbows and punches.

Ultimately, Santos was too offensive, and Manuwa has never been known as hard to hit. Santos simply threw so much — double high kicks, sprinting overhands, and spinning jump kicks all made an appearance. In the second, an uppercut slipped through Manuwa’s defense one time too many, and a follow up overhand ended the night.

All Hail The Brazilian Hammer!

Additional Thoughts

  • Gunnar Nelson defeats Alex Oliveira via rear-naked choke: This was the wonderfully weird fight we all hoped for. In the first, Nelson worked his way past an offensively blatant fence grab to take his foe down and take the back, but Oliveira’s insane length and strength allowed him to simply grab Nelson’s head and yank him over. From top position, he smashed the Icelandic fighter, turning his whole skull red. In the second with both men tired, Nelson’s superior technique took over and landed him in the mount. After taking his time, a single elbow caused one of the most immediate and bloody cuts I’ve ever seen (see it), making the follow choke easy pickings.
  • Nina Ansaroff defeats Claudia Gadelha via decision: Gadelha was originally supposed to reign over this division with in iron fist. Instead, her cardio seemingly gets worse with each fight, and her footwork remains plodding. Ansaroff wasn’t quite as dominant as the former champion, but she copied Jedrzejczyk’s strategy quite well: jabs, pivots, and low kicks largely kept her ahead of the former title challenger.
  • Gilbert Burns defeats Olivier Aubin-Mercier via decision: Burns is developing into something of a Lightweight “Jacare” Souza. His kickboxing and wrestling are simple but powerful, and his jiu-jitsu is tremendous. The Brazilian found his power a couple years ago and has been making the most of it, heaving big shots at his opponent and generally being more willing to exchange. Aubin-Mercier was game, but he simply wasn’t as dangerous as his foe and was forced to find from behind as a result.
  • Brad Katona defeats Matthew Lopez via decision: Katona capped off a tremendous Fight Pass “Prelims” with a great Bantamweight debut. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner is a really well put together fighter, utilizing well above average footwork and feints the let his grappling and boxing open up. Those feints and his in-and-out movement kept Katona ahead of Lopez throughout — along with dozens of low kicks — but his excellent conditioning allowed him to really pull away late, culminating in an at-the-bell rear naked choke attempt that left Lopez (sorta) conscious and stumbling all over the cage.
  • Dhiego Lima defeats Chad Laprise via knockout: Lima was screwed. One minute or two into the round, his leg started to buckle from Laprise’s low kicks. The commentators didn’t notice yet, but Lima bounced and tried to regain feeling in his leg a few times, but he was wobbly very early. Then, he slipped a left hook through Laprise’s guard. One well-timed power shot ended Laprise’s night in an instant (watch it), and Lima walked off with no follow up. More accurately, he slightly limped away, but it was a spectacular ending.
  • Carlos Diego Ferreira defeats Kyle Nelson via technical knockout: Nelson’s short-notice debut did not end well, but he showcased some slick kickboxing. The highlights? Lots of power punches with his head off the center line, brutal snap kicks to the guts, and a clean high kicks on the break. Unfortunately for the Canadian, he slowed down a bit, and Ferreira is damn good. Once the Brazilian survived the early madness, his own clubbing punches began to land, and Ferreira’s top game is brutal. He did a great job of mixing submissions and strikes from half guard, working to isolate the kimura and then battering the ribs and face with elbows when Nelson defended the submission.
  • Aleksandar Rakic defeats Devin Clark via knockout: Rakic is the best young Light Heavyweight prospect not currently in the rankings, although that will change by the next update. Opposite Clark, Rakic put his Muay Thai on display, chopping at Clark with hard low kicks consistently throughout. It was a classic strategy from the Austrian: feint and show hands, taking a step back, then hammer the leg when Clark steps forward to recover distance. Clark did manage to time him with a nice left hook and some follow up illegal knees, but Rakic recovered well and soon countered with a back fist to end the fight (watch highlights here).

For complete UFC 231: “Holloway vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE!