"The Blessed Era" in the UFC is the real deal, and after UFC 218, featherweight champion Max Holloway is well on his to becoming an all-time great.
If there was any doubt surrounding the outcome of Holloway's (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) third-round TKO of Jose Aldo (26-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in June, the Hawaiian emphatically proved where he stands with a nearly identical performance in the main event of Saturday's epic fight card, which took place at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Holloway's added a remarkable 12th consecutive win to his stellar resume when he gave the former longtime champion a bloody beatdown, stopping the Brazilian again in the third stanza to prove he's not only the best at 145 pounds, but among the tops in a talent-loaded crop of UFC champions.
At just 25, Holloway has already achieved more than most will in a lifetime. He has 15 octagon victories to his credit and a plethora of Featherweight records, including most wins, stoppages, knockouts and more. What makes things even more intriguing, is Holloway refuses to rest on his laurels.
"The only thing that's going to stop me is medically, or I can't make the weight," Holloway told Rolling Stone post-fight. "I'm not going to force my body to do something it doesn't want to. I'll go up to 155 [eventually]. I want to go for four titles – 155, 170, 185. I might even be at heavyweight one day. You guys know our eating habits are bad in Hawaii. One day, I might make history."
In a crazy MMA landscape where champions are seeking super fights and expressing a desire to change weight classes, Holloway is keeping a classic mindset about his title reign. He wants to do things the right way, and in his mind that means achieving a whole lot more before surpassing Aldo, who went more than 10 years unbeaten, as the best to do it in his division.
"I've got to catch up," Holloway says. "Numbers don't lie. Women lie, men lie, but numbers don't lie. I’ve only got one defense. I've got a bunch of catching up to do. He's still the GOAT, I still respect him, but I'm coming for that record."
To get where he wants to be, Holloway says he must take on all comers. His 12-fight winning streak is already fifth longest in UFC history behind only Anderson Silva (16), Georges St-Pierre (13), Jon Jones (13) and Demetrious Johnson (13), who are arguably the four best to ever compete in MMA. His next challenger is likely to be former UFC Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar, and Holloway says he'll approach him the same way as every other opponent.
"These guys are cupcakes – I want the new flavor," Holloway says. "I want to know what the new flavor tastes like. I'll fight them all. They're going to all take Ls. By the time I'm done with this division, when you look at the top 15, everybody is going to have an L next to their name. Some guys two, and if you're lucky, you're going to have three.
"Right now, I think the world needs to know what a champion looks like and I'm trying to put my foot down and say, 'This is what a champion looks like.' I don't cry about anything. If you think you're the best, come fight 'Blessed.'"
Francis Ngannou Proves Legit With Sick KO
Prior to Holloway's scintillating defense, the UFC 218 co-headliner saw the emergence of the next Number One contender in the heavyweight division, and it happened with one of the most violent knockouts to ever occur inside the Octagon.
Six-foot-5, 260-pound behemoth Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) punched his ticket to a title shot vs. champ Stipe Miocic when he floored former title challenger Alistair Overeem (45-16 MMA, 8-5 UFC) with a picture-perfect one-punch knockout.
Ngannou promised he would put Overeem away prior to the event, and that's exactly when he connected with a massive uppercut less than two minutes into the opening round.
Although Ngannou made his MMA debut just over four years ago, his progression is happening at a startling rate. The Cameroonian athlete, who spent much of his life in France before recently moving to Las Vegas, has stopped all six opponents he's faced in the UFC and has quickly turned into one of the most fearsome punchers in the sport.
Miocic has proven himself as a champion, though, walking through his past four opponents with first-round knockouts. His inevitable clash with Ngannou, which is expected to take place early next year, is a battle of two seemingly unstoppable titans, but only one will emerge with the gold.
Ngannou is certain it's going to be him.
"The fight between me and Stipe will be the same as the other ones: Knockout" Ngannou says. "I have no other prediction other than knockout."
Everything Else That Delivered
In addition to the standout performances from Holloway and Ngannou atop the card, UFC 218 lived up to the hype in every other way imaginable. Nine of 13 fights ended inside the distance with a total of five fighters behind transported to hospital because of damage sustained in their respective contests.
Two of those hospitalized fighters came out of the anticipated Lightweight matchup between Eddie Alvarez (29-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) absolutely delivered. Both men said pre-fight the contest would determine the UFC's "Most Violent Man," and they stood toe-to-toe for nearly three full rounds while attempting to prove a definitive point.
Alvarez and Gaethje combined for 272 significant strikes landed in 14 minutes of action, but in the end it was a perfect knee from former UFC champ Alvarez that led to the end of Gaethje's 18-fight winning streak.
The fight between Alvarez and Gaethje forced the UFC to do something rather unique: For just the fourth time in company history, two "Fight of the Night" awards were dished out, with the other going to a preliminary-card Welterweight matchup between Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira, who arguably stole the show with a back-and-forth thriller.
Medeiros and Oliveira delivered a war of attrition and made history in the process. It was the first UFC fight ever in which both fighters suffered two knockdowns, but in the end Medeiros proved to be slightly more durable as he outlasted his opponent and scored the knockout in the third round.
Complete UFC 218 results included:
- Max Holloway def. Jose Aldo via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 4:51
- Francis Ngannou def. Alistair Overeem via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:42
- Henry Cejudo def. Sergio Pettis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Eddie Alvarez def. Justin Gaethje via knockout (knee, punches) – Round 3, 3:59
- Tecia Torres def. Michelle Waterson via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Paul Felder def. Charles Oliveira via knockout (strikes) – Round 2, 4:06
- Yancy Medeiros def. Alex Oliveira via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 2:02
- David Teymur def. Drakkar Klose via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Felice Herrig def. Cortney Casey via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Amanda Cooper def. Angela Magana via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:34
- Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Sabah Homasi via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:21
- Dominick Reyes def. Jeremy Kimball via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:39
- Justin Willis def. Allen Crowder via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:33