Making the first defence of his featherweight crown at UFC 218 in Detroit on Saturday night, Max Holloway bloodied and once again bludgeoned Jose Aldo to a third round defeat to extend his unbeaten run to a dozen straight and put himself right into the argument about who is the greatest 145-pounder in UFC history.
Holloway reddened Aldo’s face with a persistent nuisance of a jab in the opening round – showboating frequently as he did so – but Aldo landed a couple of good leg kicks and the heavier leather overall. The Brazilian, however, already seemed to be loading up too readily on his counters, as if he was trying to take Holloway’s head off with every shot. While many of those strikes were falling just short, Aldo did connect with a jolting, beautifully-timed uppercut at the death. The shot drew a reaction from Holloway, but not the kind that Aldo might have hoped for. There was no wobble in the legs, or buckling of the knees. Instead, Holloway merely stood back and applauded the punch.
At the end of the stanza, Holloway could be heard telling the UFC commentary team of Joe Rogan and Jon Anik, “The man’s tired.”
In the second, Aldo once again had success when he threw the leg kick, but despite pre-fight talk that suggested this would be his primary weapon, the former champion chopped at Holloway’s legs infrequently. Aldo also landed a couple of good left hooks to Holloway’s body.
But the reigning champ remained unperturbed.
After showing patience, unfathomable poise, calmness and efficiency of movement in the early going, Holloway ramped up the pace late in the round, firing a varied barrage of strikes, as the explosive Aldo began to show signs that his tank was depleting. The fusillade ended with a jumping knee that just missed.
In the third, Holloway pushed Aldo back into the fence with popping shots as Rogan correctly pointed out that the muscular Brazilian had fought like a sprinter and the long, lean Hawaiian an endurance athlete. Aldo’s mouth by this point was wide open, as he tried to suck in as much oxygen as possible. Holloway began to tag his man more frequently and Aldo, perhaps sensing that he needed to end things suddenly, began to commit to exchanges. The former champion landed some good shots too, but they just bounced off the disdainful chin of Holloway.
Desperately hurt and under suffocating pressure, a bloodied Aldo sought sanctuary on the canvas in the final minute of the round, but all he found was further suffering. In a scene very similar to that which concluded their first fight in June, Holloway brutalized Aldo from the top, as the great ‘Scarface’ tried to move and gesture to the referee that he was okay. He was not. Aldo did manage to create some space and kick Holloway away at one point, but he was subsequently hit with a monstrous right hand that was dropped from the heavens. Several more bombs followed and eventually Herb Dean stepped in to end the slaughter at 4:51 of the third round.
"Look what he just did to the consensus greatest featherweight of all-time…" ?
— #UFC218 (@btsportufc) December 3, 2017
It was another tremendous performance from Max Holloway, who has improved with every fight since his decision defeat to Conor McGregor in Boston all the way back in August of 2013. Rogan and Anik were quick to laud him as the greatest 145-pounder ever, but that might yet be a little hasty. During his post-fight interview, the man himself stated that he still has some catching up to do in terms of title defences if he is to usurp Aldo at the top of that list.
Still just 25, however, Holloway has time on his side.
For the 31-year-old Aldo, who was originally scheduled to face Ricardo Lamas on the 16th but stepped in on short notice to replace the injured Frankie Edgar against Holloway, this was a third defeat in four fights and, due to the distressing way that this particular show closed, many will be wondering if it’s time for the legend to call it a day.