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UFC 218: Featherweight Championship Rematch, More Fan Favorites

Saturday’s fight card in Detroit is loaded with crucial fights, intriguing storylines, high stakes

UFC 212: Aldo v Holloway

Max Holloway (right) kicks Jose Aldo of Brazil in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 212 event at Jeunesse Arena on June 3, 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

UFC 218 doesn’t carry an eye-popping name like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey or Jon Jones. However, if you like quality fights with intriguing storylines and high stakes, Saturday’s lineup is worth your time (and money).

Maybe it’s for the UFC Featherweight championship rematch between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo in the main event. Or perhaps the Heavyweight title eliminator between Alistair Overeem and rising star Francis Ngannou in the co-headliner. If neither of those do the trick, “The Ultimate Fighter 26” coaches Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje are set to clash, as are top Strawweight contenders Michelle Waterson and Tecia Torres.

Whatever desires come with being a fight fan, UFC 218, which takes place at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and airs on pay-per-view (10 p.m. ET), caters to all. The card truly has a little bit of something for everyone.

The Title Rematch
Originally scheduled to put his 145-pound title on the line against Frankie Edgar, champ Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) now rematches injury replacement Jose Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC 218.

Although Holloway already beat Aldo by third-round TKO at UFC 212 in June to claim the gold, the dynamic of an immediate rematch also brings a lot of new questions and narratives.

Aldo, who many still consider the greatest Featherweight of all time, has never lost a rematch. He’s also has never gone into a UFC title fight as the challenger, despite participating in eight of them. He claims to be injury-free ahead of the second fight, and, if his full arsenal of weapons is available, is a real threat to take back the title.

Dethroning Holloway will be a no easy task, though. The Hawaiian already carries the confidence of having beaten Aldo once, which was part of his incredible 11-fight UFC winning streak. Holloway’s evolved into one of the world’s finest fighters since an August 2011 loss to McGregor, and at just 25, Holloway isn’t even at his prime. Beating Aldo for a second time in six months would only add to his growing legend, or what he calls, “The Blessed Era.”

“At the end of the day this is a legacy fight,” Holloway tells Rolling Stone. “This is huge for legacy. Jose back-to-back. Nobody ever beat him twice. Being the greatest featherweight champion is a long journey. This is a step.”

The Heavyweight Eliminator
The Octagon walls might need some reinforcement when more than 500 pounds of Heavyweight power enters the cage for Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) vs. Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), which will likely determine the next challenger to current divisional kingpin Stipe Miocic.

It’s a clash of two compelling tales. Overeem is a more than 20-year veteran of the sport who has accomplished it all outside of winning a UFC championship. He was on the cusp of knocking out Miocic at UFC 203 in September 2016, and since he’s been determined to get a rematch. He’s won two-straight since that fight, and pushing his streak to three could get him a second opportunity.

Standing in his way, however, is one of the sport’s most fearsome participants. Ngannou has only been training MMA for just over four years, but already he’s turned into a highlight machine who has stopped all five opponents he’s faced in the UFC thus far. UFC President Dana White has named the frighteningly powerful, yet soft-spoken, fighter as someone with star potential. A win against Overeem could be the turning point for “The Predator.”

The UFC’s Most Violent Man
From the moment the matchup between former UFC and Bellator Lightweight champ Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and former WSOF champ Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) was announced over the summer, the MMA world has been giddy anticipation to see the two square off.

There may not be an official title on the line for the fight, but Alvarez has said he views the contest as one that will determine the UFC’s “Most Violent Man.” If that doesn’t generate goosebumps – nothing will.

Gaethje’s career to this point could be summarized as one giant slugfest. He goes into every fight hungry for a crazy brawl, and has the ability to lure opponents into his type of fight. The more action, the more Gaethje thrives. He’s won all 18 of his professional fights so far, including 15 knockouts. Gaethje thrilled outside the UFC for years, and he picked up where he left off in his promotional debut in July when he won a “Fight of the Year” candidate against Michael Johnson.

There’s potential for that debut fight to be one-upped, though, because Alvarez he’ll be a willing dance partner to Gaethje’s style, then beat him there. To casual fans, Alvarez might merely be known as the fighter who was crushed by McGregor to lose the 155-pound belt at UFC 205 in November 2016. However, he’s far more than that.

Over the course of a long and storied career, Alvarez has put on slugfests that have held up to the test of time. He’s faced many of the best fighters in the world and more often than not has come out on the winning end. Gaethje will give him every chance to win, but whether Alvarez can survive the pressure and find his opening, remains to be seen.

“On Saturday I’ll be finally crowned the UFC’s Most Violent Man,” Alvarez says. “That’s the only title I care about right now. There’s an interim title, there’s a real title. Nobody’s really doing anything with either one of them, so I’m going to make up a third title. That’s the Most Violent Man. That’s the only one that’s going to matter in the lightweight division.”

The Leftovers
Although the three fights mentioned are grabbing the majority of the attention going into UFC 218, the main card has two other intriguing and highly important fights.

Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling Henry Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) meets Sergio Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) in a Flyweight fight almost one year in the making. Both men are streaking contenders in the division, and the winner would be in stellar position to challenge current 125-pound champ and pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson, who has been unstoppable during his current run of 11 consecutive title defenses.

And opening the main card is a Women’s Strawweight affair between Waterson (14-5 MMA, 2-1 UFC) and Torres (9-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who have both only lost in the UFC to current 115-pound titleholder Rose Namajunas. “The Karate Hottie” and “The Tiny Tornado” both come from striking backgrounds and fight out of arguably the two best gyms in the world. Both fighters want a rematch with champ Namajunas, but only one can earn victory and move closer to that goal.

Mike Bohn is Rolling Stone’s combat sports reporter. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

It is what it is. #UFC218 fight week underway in chilly Detroit @blessedmma ❄️

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