If there ever was a doubt, there isn’t any longer, as Max Holloway put on an epic performance, dismantling Jose Aldo at UFC 218 on Saturday night in Detroit.
Aldo got a short-notice call, having been preparing for a fight with Ricardo Lamas, when Frankie Edgar had to drop out of his challenge of Holloway, the UFC featherweight champion, due to an orbital fracture suffered in sparring.
It was a welcome call, as Aldo wanted nothing more than to take back the championship that he once ruled over with an iron fist… but it wasn’t to be. Holloway is just too good.
The fight started slowly with Holloway pumping his jab, and Aldo showing little response for the first minute. Holloway danced around, pumping the jab, but Aldo held his ground, slow to engage.
It appeared that Aldo was waiting for an opening to counter, but Holloway wasn’t giving him much of one. The champion continuously moved, circled away, and darted in and out with his jab, picking away at Aldo, who started launching bombs that rarely found a target.
Aldo has always had a difficult time making the 145-pound limit at featherweight. He had to make two attempts on the scale for this fight with Holloway. Perhaps the weight cut is becoming more than he can suitably recover from as he ages, as he appeared worn out after the first round.
Holloway noticed and kept the pace high in round two.
Aldo finally started to land leg kicks, which used to be one of his greatest strengths, but Holloway seemed to feel little effect from them. He continued to be a ball of motion, dancing away from Aldo and then darting in and popping his jab in the former champions’ face, snapping his head back with greater ferocity as the fight wore on.
As the second round played on, Holloway started mixing in more and more shots to the body, which only served to accelerate the depletion of Aldo’s gas tank.
Aldo was still firing, he wasn’t completely out of the fight yet, but he just couldn’t match Holloway’s pace.
That, admittedly, was Holloway’s plan from the beginning.
“My trainer said take him into deep water, we know he can’t swim there, and that’s what I did,” Holloway said after the fight.
As they entered the third round, the same round that Holloway finished the fight in their first match-up, the champion once again pressed harder on the gas pedal. Only now, instead of popping him with the jab and darting away, Holloway remained longer in the trenches.
He popped the jab and then went to the body. Then it was a jumping knee to the head. Holloway’s arsenal of strikes was impressive.
As he continued to change the shape of his attack, Aldo had no answer. He tried, but he couldn’t match Holloway’s varied attacks. The Hawaiian unleashed a combo that included a right hand that staggered Aldo into the fence. That was the beginning of the end.
Realizing his prey was wounded, Holloway kept pressing, unloading with punches to the body and head, and then a knee to the face. Everything Holloway had in his quiver, he unleashed.
Aldo attempted to shoot a takedown out of desperation, but Holloway forced him to his back, and quickly moved to side control, Aldo face down. The champ unloaded with brutal punches. Aldo turned again, but Holloway kept launching bombs until the referee stepped in to stop the fight in the waning seconds of the round.
“At the end of the day, it is what it is. All due respect, Aldo is a hell of a champion, but I told you all, this is the Blessed era,” Holloway said after the fight, although he wasn’t willing to lay claim to the title of greatest featherweight of all time yet, still giving credit to Aldo.
“I got a lot of catching up to do. The man’s got a lot of numbers.”
Holloway isn’t shying away from what it will take to match those numbers, though. After all, he is now on a 12-fight winning streak, the longest in UFC featherweight history. So the numbers are beginning to mount in his favor.
What’s next, Holloway doesn’t know, but he’s ready for anyone the UFC throws his way.
“I told you guys, all these guys are cupcakes. I look forward to the new flavor. I’ll eat ‘em all.”