Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was originally scheduled to headline UFC 222 on Saturday against champion Max Holloway but an injury formed Holloway off the fight card. Unbeaten up and comer Brian Ortega stepped in as Holloway’s replacement and made the most of the opportunity against the veteran.
With a title shot for the winner, Edgar and Ortega entered the octagon with a lot on the line. It was Ortega’s highest profile fight and a chance at another title fight for Edgar. Edgar pressured Ortega at the sound of the opening bell. His right hand was landing. He was mixing in leg kicks and landing shots to the body of Ortega.
The taller Ortega worked to establish his jab and utilize his reach advantage while Edgar moved in and out of the pocket with head movement and footwork. As Edgar closed the distance late in the opening round, Ortega landed an elbow that hurt “The Answer.” Edgar covered up and clinched. Ortega delivered punches as Edgar tried to survive. “T-City” stepped back to measure his distance and unloaded an uppercut that snapped Edgar’s head back and sent him crashing to the canvas. Ortega pounced and delivered two hammer fists before the referee stepped in to stop the action.
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“It felt great. This is something that I’ve always envisioned. I’ve always seen it. In my dreams and everything, even in my fears. I fear myself getting knocked out, but that fear kind of makes me kind of deadly in here,” said Ortega after the biggest win of his career. “I’m making history. I’m just humble, and to be able to share the octagon with him is an honor. Frankie’s a legend.”
It was an elbow that was the beginning of the end for Edgar. It’s a technique Ortega regularly practices.
“I knew that he was going to be in my face and pressuring me and because I have these daddy-long legs and arms I have to use my elbows because I can’t extend my arms out,” he said about the finish. “Once I saw him weeble wobble, I was like, is this fake or is it real? I kept pursuing it and I go, okay, he’s really rocked; I’m going to try to finish him.”
With the win, Ortega earned a title shot against Holloway and extended his unbeaten streak. He became the first fighter to ever finish Edgar in Edgar’s 13-year fighting career.