Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight champion, Max Holloway, entered the Octagon last Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2018) as the betting underdog against undefeated 145-pound challenger Brian Ortega.
Four rounds later, “T-City” was so busted up, the cageside physician refused to let him continue.
And so, once again, Holloway left the cage as the king of the featherweights and without question the greatest fighter — and champion — the division has ever seen. His victory in the UFC 231 pay-per-view (PPV) main event marks his thirteenth straight, a span that includes 10 violent finishes.
Not bad for a kid who started his UFC career at just 3-3.
There’s more to being the greatest than just wins and losses and what was most impressive about his performance against Ortega, was how easily and effectively he was able to showcase his skills after more than a year on the sidelines.
And what a year it was.
Not only did Holloway suffer a leg injury, he was pulled from his Khabib Nurmagomedov fight at UFC 223, then yanked yet again in front of his return at UFC 226. Fans and media were quick to write his eulogy and there was talk about “Blessed” being washed up.
At UFC 231, he never looked better.
That means the Hawaiian was able to shake off all that talk about concussions, weight cuts, and how good Ortega is at 145 pounds. Holloway is as mentally tough as he is physically gifted and at age 27, he continues to get better.
Sure, he’ll be eating through a straw and wearing adult diapers by the time he’s 40, but I’m not going to spoil his championship showcase by talking about stupid stuff like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
At the end of the third round, Holloway walked over to the
cheerleading announce table and promised that he was going to end the fight in the fourth. Considering Ortega was unable to answer the bell for the final frame, I’d say that counts as calling his shot.
Speaking of shots, here’s who’s next in line for the title, based on the official rankings:
1. Brian Ortega
2. Jose Aldo
3. Frankie Edgar
4. Renato Moicano
5. Chad Mendes
Ortega heads to the back of the line, Aldo has already fallen to Holloway in back-to-back fights, Edgar was beaten by both Ortega and Aldo, Moicano missed weight as the back-up for UFC 231, and Mendes has just one victory (Myles Jury) over the last three years, though a win over Alexander-Volkanovski at UFC 232 could certainly help his cause.
Holloway may not be able to match Demetrious Johnson in consecutive title defenses and who knows how much longer he remains at featherweight, but his current body of work and the performances that comprise it are certain to withstand the test of time.
Simply put, enjoy what you’re watching, it doesn’t come along like this very often.