UFC 231 – Time For Holloway To Become The New Top Dog?
December 6, 2018
With Connor McGregor on his whiskey travels and Khabib Nurmagomedov heedlessly chasing a Floyd Mayweather fight, space has opened up for a UFC fighter to assert himself as the sport’s new mainstream media star. A space in the shape of Max Holloway.
The 2017 fighter of the year has been a man on a mission over the last four years, winning his last twelve fights in a row and becoming the UFC Featherweight Champion in the process. At the age of just twenty-six, the Hawaiian born fighter is currently one of the sport’s most respected names and his rise through the rankings is a testimony to his own technical ability and more specifically, his grinding work-ethic. These two traits are the reason why Holloway currently stands with a Featherweight belt deservedly draped over his shoulder.
Heading into UFC 231 though, Holloway faces stern competition to defend his belt for a second time, as he is lined up to face the undefeated Brian Ortega. The fight is certainly expected to be a close one, with the odds for either winner being virtually inseparable. It may be a tough one to call as neither fighter will leave anything in the cage, but one thing is certain –the occasion is an early Christmas present for fans.
13 The Lucky Number?
Since his defeat against McGregor back in 2013, Holloway’s route to the top has drawn in praises from fans and pundits in the sport, as he now looks to embark upon a new journey in establishing a legacy as a UFC champion. During his bout with ‘The Notorious’, Holloway was just 20 years of age and was easily controlled by the Irishman who won the fight with ease via unanimous decision.
It was the Hawaiian’s second defeat in a row and already the third in his short career. However, you learn more about a man in his defeats than his victories and Holloway’s determination to get back to the top is a reason why many loyal UFC supporters are huge fans of the fighter. On the back of the Mcgregor fight, Holloway steamrolled through the division and won his next nine fights, before challenging Anthony Pettis for the interim Featherweight Championship.
Despite Pettis coming in three pounds over 145lbs and therefore being eligible for the belt, Holloway defeated the experienced fighter in round three and just like that, his dreams were made a reality. It was ten in a row for the Hawaiian and his name became an acquainted one with fans. However, where he truly introduced himself to the world was through his successive victories over Jose Aldo.
Recognised by many as the greatest UFC champion of all time, Aldo entered UFC 212 with his sights firmly locked on rebuilding his career with the title unification bout. It was just his second fight after being embarrassed by Connor Mcgregor a year and a half earlier. Despite this, Holloway prevailed and despite a close opening couple of rounds, the Hawaiian’s striking ability was just too powerful for Aldo to manage. History would also repeat itself in their rematch just six months later, with Holloway’s resilience and quick hands putting the Brazilian on the floor in round three yet again.
Aldo has lost just four fights in his fourteen years as a fighter and the history books will always remember Holloway in being the man who handed the great champion two of them. Can he make it thirteen in a row against Ortega at UFC 231 though?
Ortega Loves An 0
Heading into a championship bout, it isn’t usual to see the odds be so close between the existing champion and the challenger. But, when the contender is undefeated in eight years, there is just cause for there to be so.
Boasting an undefeated record of 14-0, Ortega is one of few fighters in the sport to not taste defeat. In fact, he is only the seventh UFC professional to have a record of fourteen or more wins, with no losses to his name. Being a Black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the American is recognised for his versatility of fighting as despite specialising in grappling, his KO victories over Clay Guida and Frankie Edgar highlights just how many tricks the 27-year-old holds up his sleeve.
Ortega’s victory against Edgar is arguably the highlight of his career so far and it was certainly a win that had fans blowing air heavily out of their cheeks. In the final seconds of the first round, the American unleashed a monstrous upper-hook onto the chin of the experienced fighter, sending him out cold before his back had even hit the floor of the Octagon. Put the victory into this perspective – Edgar had been involved in 28 bouts prior to the fight and had never been finished before.
The undefeated fighter may not possess the same height advantage against Holloway, but his unorthodox style will pose threats to the champion.
Not Just A Belt On The Line
The stakes could not be higher at UFC 231. There is a UFC Featherweight Championship on the line but more importantly, reputations to uphold.
On the topic of the challenger, Ortega will be desperate to keep that ‘0 losses’ firmly on his record. Not many fighters in the history of the sport can brag in having a similar record to the American and he will be hoping to leave Canada with the Championship and his undefeated reputation intact.
For Holloway, this fight is all about cementing his name as a true UFC champion, to which he wants to become ‘one of the greatest ever’. After dispatching the greatest Featherweight of all time not just once, but twice, the reigning champion will be eager to add another successful title defence onto his own record.
The sport itself has certainly grown in popularity over the last five years and yet, it still feels as though unless an occasion is hyped up through childish antics or trash talking, each event does not receive the true recognition that it deserves. Two of the sport’s greatest fighters are heading into a championship bout this Saturday, but how much of the mainstream media know this? The build-up has been few and far between and coverage has been limited. As ever though, those with detailed knowledge in the sport recognise this event’s importance and it is still expected to be a hit (in one way or another).
It feels foolish to predict a winner in this fight, as it really could go either way.
Both fighters offer skillsets that pose different threats to one another and I would be surprised to see this go the distance. Holloway and Ortega are renowned for their explosive style of fighting and given their lively personalities, expect the duo to produce fireworks on the night.
Ortega is a tough man to bet against, but I’m personally backing Holloway to defend his belt for a second successive time. The champion will need to keep his distance and try to prevent the takedown, a technique that Ortega will look to optimise. If Holloway can keep the fight on his feet, his striking power and technique will be too much for the contender to deal with. It certainly is a tough one to call and it could all come down to the champion’s health, which has been a cause of speculation this year.
Official prediction: Max Holloway – Round 3 – TKO
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.