Max Holloway may have just put the stamp on his place in history as the greatest featherweight champion to ever step inside the Octagon.
Following a tumultuous year filled with weight cutting mishaps and medical mysteries, Holloway returned with a vengeance on Saturday night to demolish previously undefeated contender Brian Ortega to retain his title in the UFC 231 main event.
Holloway looked better than ever with a diverse striking attack that absolutely battered Ortega over four rounds and left the top ranked featherweight contender a bloody mess. The damage done was so bad that the doctor ultimately decided to stop the contest with Holloway once again retaining his championship.
As the fight got started, Holloway answered all of his critics with a dazzling showcase right out of the gates as he was fast on his feet and quick to the punch with a blistering series of combinations.
Immediately, Holloway was on the attack with deadly accuracy as he was snapping Ortega’s head back like a Pez dispenser with each punch that landed. Despite eating so many shots, Ortega’s chin kept him in the fight and he kept returning fire before landing a takedown late in the opening round but he just couldn’t keep the champion grounded.
What year layoff?
— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Holloway continued the onslaught through each passing minute with a barrage of strikes and Ortega just wasn’t able to answer back.
By the time the third round started it appeared that Holloway was in complete control but Ortega managed to storm back ever so briefly with a long right hand that clipped the champion and forced him to take notice.
Ortega, who has a long list of third round finishes, started to surge but Holloway was smart with his defense and never allowed the challenger to get any real momentum going even when he managed to land a few shots.
To answer back, Holloway pointed to the canvas at the start of the fourth round and said ‘I’m ending it now’ and then proceeded to follow through with five minutes of absolute domination.
— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Holloway was fast and accurate with his combinations but he wasn’t just landing on Ortega this time around. He was going for the kill.
With each shot that landed, Ortega’s right eye started to swell and close even more and his face was just covered in blood thanks to the constant barrage of punches he was eating all fight long. Perhaps the most miraculous part of the performance was that Ortega just refused to go down despite being mashed with a ridiculous volume of power punches over four rounds.
When the horn sounded, Ortega went back to his corner and Holloway looked like he was ready to go for four more rounds. The doctors took a close look at Ortega, especially his eye that was almost completely shut after the fourth round ended and they made the call to stop the contest before things got any worse.
The official call was a TKO in the fourth round by doctor’s stoppage.
“I told them in the corner that this was the round,” Holloway said following the win. “All respect to Ortega, he’s a great fighter and we will probably keep fighting each other until we’re both heavyweights. Toronto is the 10th Island but I’m ready for the UFC to take me home and let’s do one in Hawaii.”
Because Holloway was pulled from a short notice fight at lightweight earlier this year, many wondered if his days cutting down to 145 pounds were already numbered. Add to that, Holloway endured ‘concussion like symptoms’ prior to his previously scheduled fight against Ortega back in July that once again left everybody wondering if perhaps that was tied to his weight cuts to get down to featherweight.
Holloway left no doubts with his performance on Saturday night that he is the best featherweight on the planet, although it sounds like he’s open to whatever opportunities the UFC throws at him next.
“Like I said leading up to the fight, whether it’s staying down here and defending, going up to 155 or even fighting my brother, ‘The Daddest Man on the Planet,’ Daniel Cormier, I’m here for all of it. Let’s go!” Holloway said.
Afterwards, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan called Holloway the greatest featherweight of all time and it’s getting tougher and tougher to argue with that opinion.
Holloway has now won 13 fights in a row including two title defenses with a pair of TKO wins over Jose Aldo and now this latest victory over an undefeated contender in Ortega. Now the question remains if Holloway will stick around from challenges from fighters like Frankie Edgar or if his future lies in potential champion versus champion fights like the one he nearly had earlier this year against Khabib Nurmagomedov.