Featherweight kingpin, Max Holloway, returned to the Octagon at UFC 231 tonight (Sat., Dec. 8, 2018) for the first time in more than one full year after dealing with numerous issues, chief among them a mysterious medical ailment that postponed his bout with No. 1-ranked contender, Brian Ortega. Mixed martial arts (MMA) finally got to see the best 145-pound match up possible, as both Holloway and Ortega entered Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this evening with a shared goal: Prove who is indeed the best Featherweight MMA fighter on the planet once and for all.
And that distinguished honor goes to Holloway, who demonstrated once again that he is a step above the rest of the division, a different breed, battering Ortega from pillar to post in the fourth round to earn a technical knockout (doctor) stoppage.
Ortega — undefeated in professional MMA heading into the bout, scoring six finishes in as many UFC appearances to earn a crack at the Hawaiian’s crown — started the bout on the offensive, pawing jabs and faking attacks to get a feel for Holloway’s distance. Holloway began to warm up, though, landing solid shots upstairs and downstairs. Ortega was game, though, returning fire with several shots that got nods of approval from his Hawaiian counterpart. Ortega performed well, scored a takedown and landed some solid shots, but Holloway got the better of the exchanges, heading into his corner seemingly the more fresher fighter.
Holloway continued his relentless attack to start the second stanza. touching up Ortega repeatedly with with a right hand and jab that Ortega didn’t even appear to be able to defend. It didn’t take long for Ortega’s nose to explode, blood covering his entire face. Nevertheless, he continued to return fire, keeping Holloway honest and landing several significant strikes along the way. It was an exciting back-and-forth round, with Ortega seemingly coming on stronger toward the end.
To start the third round, the crowd roared for Holloway to continue his attack, but Ortega stunned him with a hard shot almost immediately. He got greedy, though, rushing Holloway and looking to take him to the ground and choke him out rather than trying to finish him on the feet. Ortega connected with another big shot after Holloway returned to his feet, but “Blessed” seemingly recovered and once again got back to peppering Ortega with combinations. He once again landed more shots than Ortega throughout the round, but “T-City” had the way more effective, harder shots that really seemed to hurt Holloway.
Holloway ran out of his corner to start the championship rounds, perhaps determined to hunt for a finish rather than enduring more punishment. And he was relentless: Drilling Ortega’s face with repeated blows, turning his face into a bloody, unrecognizable mess. In addition to his nose, Oretga’s left eye was swollen shut, with a deep purple-colored mouse growing under it. It’s a miracle that Ortega was able to stay on his feet — he absorbed an incalculable amount of punishment. The ringside doctor examined Ortega before the final round and it was determined that “T-City” was no longer able to continue.
Good gosh, that was one helluva scrap. He beat the absolute shit out of Ortega over the course of four full rounds. To his credit, though, Ortega fought back like a warrior, proving that he is still one of the toughest, most formidable 145-pound fighters alive today. Perhaps most important, Holloway demonstrated that he can take a punch — lots of big, hard punches — and still beat the best the division has to offer ... even after a tumultuous year-long layoff.
Who’s next? Lightweight, maybe.
For complete UFC 231: “Holloway vs. Ortega” results, including play-by-play updates, click here.