Max Holloway brought a sense of deja vu to UFC 218 on Saturday, putting on a repeat performance of his first fight against Jose Aldo.
Thanks to an injury suffered by Frankie Edgar in training, the main event of UFC 218 became a rematch. Jose Aldo, the twice-dethroned featherweight king, would get another shot at gold. To climb back atop the mountain, however, he had to best Max Holloway. Holloway had become the second man to take Aldo’s UFC featherweight championship at UFC 212 in April.
Heading into UFC 218, Holloway was riding an eleven fight win streak, and had not lost since a 2013 fight against Conor McGregor. Aldo, meanwhile, was getting back in the cage for the first time since Holloway had finished him at UFC 212.
At the start of their five-round featherweight title fight, Max Holloway worked the jab. Aldo backed out of harm’s way often in the early going. He seemed keen to conserve energy, perhaps a lesson from the pair’s first bout. Aldo would get a leg kick off; the absence of those kicks in their first meeting was a common criticism of the ex-champ. Holloway did an excellent job of slipping Aldo’s punches in round one, but after taunting the Brazilian towards the end of the round, he was caught with an uppercut.
Round two, Aldo was more offensively minded early. He looked to land the uppercut again, and went to the body. Holloway came over the top in answer. Aldo would begin chopping at the champion’s legs, at least one kick did enough damage to trip Holloway up. The kicks continued, and Holloway would need to check them, or move. In the striking exchanges, Holloway had a slight margin; towards the end of the second, he turned it up, and the damage was showing on the face of Aldo. A jump knee from Holloway missed to end the round.
Would Holloway’s legs hold up as the fight went on? They would. Holloway pressed forward in the third. Aldo would unleash another patented leg kick, but they weren’t enough. Max Holloway showed superior cardio, while Aldo was punching himself out with powerful shots. Max would launch a kick upstairs more than once. Jose Aldo would try to get his jab going, and both men were connecting. Holloway, however, was looking much fresher. Soon he was landing combos, then a standing elbow.
Aldo was being lit up. The brawl was well underway, and Aldo was bloodied. Crumbling under fire, Aldo shot for a desperation takedown, but wound up on his back. Holloway began raining punches as the Brazilian covered up. Aldo gave the thumb’s up to signal he was okay, but he wasn’t. After a few more unanswered strikes, it was clear Aldo had broken. The ref came in to wave it off, and still… Max Holloway retained his UFC featherweight championship!
Max Holloway def. Jose Aldo by TKO, Round 3, 4:51