Max Holloway Reigns With Win Over Brian Ortega, Gunning for Pound-for-Pound Best Next
Max Holloway had a lot of questions surrounding him leading to UFC 231 on Saturday night.
The reigning featherweight champion answered all of them with a stunning fourth round TKO to finish previously undefeated Brian Ortega in the main event to retain his title in front of packed ScotiaBank Arena in Toronto.
Everything in 2018 leading up to this fight had gone against Holloway, which is why there were so many doubting that he could return to the same form that saw him decimate former champion Jose Aldo twice last year.
Holloway was forced out of a previously scheduled title defense in March due to an injury. He then accepted a short notice fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in April but was pulled from the card over concerns about his ability to make the weight cut down to 155 pounds.
Then in July, Holloway was once again yanked from a fight against Ortega, this time for exhibiting ‘concussion like symptoms’. Weeks of testing followed and Holloway never found an answer for what exactly went wrong with him and it led to a lot of assumptions that perhaps he was no longer suited to compete at 145 pounds.
Well Holloway fired back with his actions inside the cage by dominating Ortega for the better part of four rounds before earning the TKO victory.
Right away as the fight started, Holloway established his striking attack with a series of combinations that had Ortega backing up and looking for room to breathe.
Holloway was relentless with his offensive flurries, constantly peppering Ortega with three and four shots at a time and then taunting the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to come at him.
Throughout the first two rounds, Holloway was lightning quick on his feet and showed no fear of reprisal from Ortega, who just couldn’t find an answer to the champion’s rapid fire punches and constant aggressive.
What year layoff?
— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Perhaps Ortega’s best attribute in those first 10 minutes was his incredible chin that took a lot of punishment but he still managed to stick around into the third round. That’s when Ortega started to turn the tide ever so slightly with his own striking attack that had Holloway on his back foot for the first time all fight long.
Ortega has a long list of third round finishes on his resume so it appeared perhaps he was pulling another rabbit out of his hat with the best five minutes he had against the champion.
Unfortunately for Ortega it was short lived success as Holloway regrouped and came out guns blazing in the fourth round looking for the finish. In fact, Holloway pointed at UFC color commentator Joe Rogan before the round started and told him he was going to end it right then and there.
— UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Holloway poured on the punishment throughout the fourth round, battering Ortega with stiff combinations that were just snapping his head back in violent succession. Time and again, Holloway was getting the better of Ortega in the exchanges but to his credit the top ranked contender just refused to go down.
Still when the round ended, Ortega went back to his corner busted up with a right eye that had nearly zero vision thanks to the mount of punishment he absorbed from Holloway’s punches all night long. That was enough for the doctors to call a stop to the contest as Holloway was declared the winner by fourth round TKO.
Afterwards, Holloway celebrated his latest win — his 13th in a row overall — and immediately turned his attention towards loftier goals like becoming the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
“I told them in the corner that this was the round. All respect to Ortega, he’s a great fighter and we will probably keep fighting each other until we’re both heavyweights,” Holloway said about the win. “Toronto is the 10th Island but I’m ready for the UFC to take me home and let’s do one in Hawaii.
“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’s performance obviously put to rest any doubts about his health after a tumultuous 2018 and now the only question that remains is what comes next?
Holloway could stick around featherweight for challenges like Frankie Edgar or Renato Moicano or he might entertain the idea of moving to lightweight where he could potentially get that fight with Nurmagomedov or even avenge the last loss of his career against Conor McGregor.