Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight elites Max Holloway and Brian Ortega will collide this Saturday (Dec. 8, 2018) at UFC 231 inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Oh man, this is such a great fight, so let’s everyone cross their fingers that nothing terrible happens between now and showtime. Holloway is undefeated since 2013. To be more accurate, the Hawaiian has barely struggled since that time, winning 12 straight bouts, a majority of them finishes. Against the best in the world, Holloway has appeared a tier above and largely unfazed by their attempts to halt his rise. Ortega, meanwhile, is one of the most dynamic young fighters in the world, but his climb to the strap has been different. “T-City” routinely loses rounds and is forced to rally late in the fight, but his ridiculous penchant for sudden finishes more than makes up for his early struggles.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 218, UFC 212), Anthony Pettis (UFC 206), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 199), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 15), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 194)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway is a man who overwhelms opponents with stellar kickboxing technique and a nonstop pace. Holloway is great from both stances, strikes from range well, can fight moving backward, and just generally never allows his opponent to find their own rhythm.
Part of what makes this fight so interesting is that the two men involved are rather similar. It’s true that Holloway does not possess Ortega’s deadly jiu-jitsu — who else does? — but the 27 year old athletes otherwise share strategies. Both are some of the division’s biggest fighters, and they both use constant offense to break down opponents en route to the finish.
As such, my strategy for both men may be more similar than expected.
In Holloway’s case, I’d really love to see him commit to breaking down Ortega’s legs. Body shots are great too, but Ortega strikes like a boxer, and the best way to bother a boxer is the kick the hell out of his legs. In the past, Ortega has ignored low kicks and still managed to overwhelm foes, but Holloway can match his size better than most. The Hawaiian’s low kicks should do damage, and he’ll have 25 minutes to enjoy the effects.
Record: 14-0 (1)
Key Wins: Frankie Edgar (UFC 222), Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 123), Renato Moicano (UFC 214), Clay Guida (UFC 199), Thiago Tavares (UFC Fight Night 68)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Ortega is perhaps the sport’s sharpest opportunist. A powerful boxer with some of the nastiest jiu-jitsu around, Ortega’s entire style revolves around forcing his opponent to make a mistake and ruthlessly capitalizing. “T-City” has finished all six of his UFC victories.
While Holloway’s advice was to target the legs, Ortega should be punching to the body from the beginning. This is a pair of tough bastards who have never been knocked out: they should both be trying to break the other down rather than head hunt.
Ortega is not all that great at traditional takedowns, not great enough to double leg Holloway at any rate. However, this is where Ortega’s opportunism comes into play. He doesn’t have to score a takedown if he catches Holloway’s neck as he ducks out from the clinch or jumps on Holloway following a slip. Similarly, trying to catch a kick and throwing Holloway to his back could be a path to victory for the Californian athlete.
Two of the best Featherweights ever are going to throw down in an incredible title fight before they move to 155 pounds in the next couple years.
Holloway is an incredible champion. Frankly, I think he already has an argument as the most technically sound fighter on the roster. This will technically be just his second title defense, but Holloway has already cleared out a large portion of the division’s old guard. From here on out, it’s largely Holloway’s own generation of fighters — of which Ortega appears the most dangerous — and future prospects for the Hawaiian to contend with if he can remain healthy.
Turning Ortega away is a clear signal that the “Blessed Era” is here to stay, whether at 145- or 155-pounds.
Alternatively, Ortega seems to rise to the challenge each and every time. His last two opponents were the toughest of his career by far, and he finished them quicker than all the others. If he continues this trend and stops Holloway in the first half of the fight, it really says incredible things both about Ortega’s current skill set and his future potential.
For either man, there’s definite potential for a rematch in the near future after just one or two wins. In addition, both have spoken about moving to Lightweight, another option for these young greats.
At UFC 231, Max Holloway and Brian Ortega will compete for the Featherweight crown. Which man will leave with the strap?
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 231 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.