After having trouble, and eventually failing to make 155lbs on short notice this past April, and then showing some serious concussion symptoms that forced him to pull out of his championship defense versus Brian Ortega just a few months later, UFC Featherweight King Max Holloway’s status seemed to be unknown coming into UFC 231. Questions arose about the Champ that even got the attention of oddsmakers, and had enough weight for them to make the man undefeated for five years an underdog against a man who’s never challenged for a championship before.
“Can he make weight?” “Is it even safe for him to be fighting if he does?” “Will he be a shell of the athlete we last saw him as?” “Will his chin be virtually nonexistent now?” “Should he have just retired?”
Tonight, Max Holloway shut down each and every question and doubter on planet earth when he put on one of the greatest striking clinics in the history of the UFC, comparable to the likes of the one TJ Dillashaw put on Renan Barao, and the one Conor McGregor put on Eddie Alvarez.
In the first, it was clear immediately that Holloway would be able to land with ease so long as Ortega couldn’t adjust to his distance control, and he did, for that entire round. He pretty much teed off. In the second, we saw more of the same, but with a few Brian Oretga bombs mixed in, who started really showing off his chin here. The third was the most exciting and competitive of the fight (not a shocker for anyone who’s watched T-City fight), because there were a few moments were Holloway got a little too confident in his defense and got clipped HARD. Ortega also snatched Holloway’s back for like a half a second which is of course a terrifying place for the Champ to be against the black-belt. Still though, Holloway looked spectacular in that round, and handily won it. Ortega just seemed to have gained some confidence with his ability to weather the storm that is Max Holloway and walk through some of his shots, so he got creative and saw some brief successes. But finally, in the fourth round, which opened with Max Holloway turning to Joe Rogan and telling him this would be it, the Champ showed why he’s the Champ, and “played target practice” with Ortega’s skull.
For twenty straight minutes, Holloway just beat the ever living shit out of Brian Ortega’s face – so much so that a doctor stopped the fight before the fifth and final round because Ortega’s face was puddy – but he never dropped the challenger. Not once. Which means…Brian Ortega probably has the best chin in all of MMA right now. I mean, I have no fucking idea how he stood there for four straight rounds, traded, and occasionally even landed on Max Holloway. The young Ortega and his team should be damn proud of his performance tonight. Major heart shown and major respect gained, all across the sport.
Holloway is just too damn good, and was at his absolute best tonight. We truly witnessed the prime of one of the best ever. It’s like he fought in The Matrix against Ortega. There were certain moments of the fight where Max would land a heavy 1-2, and slip like 96 of Brian’s punches in response, and then land another flurry, and he’d point his finger at Ortega each time as if to say, “I told you, you didn’t want this smoke. I told you. And now I’m making you pay for it.”
Just an absolutely phenomenal fucking performance, and a phenomenal fight. Congratulations to Max, and to Valentina Shevchenko (who won the UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship in UFC 231’s co-main event) on their victories.