After a year out, and some concerning health issues, Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway returned to action in the main event of UFC 231 — in one of his newest homes away from home; Toronto, Ontario, Canada. There he blasted through a game Brian Ortega, forcing a merciful doctor’s stoppage between the fourth and fifth rounds.
Holloway looked great throughout much of the fight. Sometimes he swaggered and showboated other times he bit down on his mouth piece and looked for the kill. In either mode he landed punches in bunches, which hurt, wobbled, bloodied, and eventually finished Brian Ortega.
It’s not like Ortega didn’t have his moments, though. He caught Holloway with some hard shots to the head at the end of round two. And in the third, with Holloway acting extremely confident, Ortega landed a combo that forced the champion to get serious. The third round was extremely lively, with Ortega stunning Holloway. But every time it looked like Ortega hurt his opponent, the Hawaiian responded violently, hurting Ortega far worse.
Ortega couldn’t maintain an even back and forth with Holloway, and he faded in the fourth. By the end of that round Ortega’s face was a bloody mess and his left eye had swollen completely shut. The ringside physician couldn’t let it continue. The fight was waved off sending the UFC featherweight belt back home to Hawaii.
What was the high point of the fight?
The entire fourth round was a high point. Holloway pointed to the canvas as he came out, signalling this was the round he would end the fight. And he was almost right. In the fourth he was aggressive from the get-go. And even though Ortega had heart, and landed a few nice shots, Holloway completely overwhelmed him.
The beginning of the end was when a combo from Holloway sent Ortega reeling back towards the fence. Ortega threw a hard punch to pause the onslaught momentarily, but T-City was badly hurt. Ortega slowed and was unable to avoid taking more damage. His busted nose from an early round was pouring blood and the left side of his face began to swell. Ortega tried a desperation takedown, but got nowhere near completing it. After they separated, Holloway poured it on, sitting Ortega down with a right hand. The champion then easily avoided a leg-lock attempt from a drained Ortega before letting the challenger back up. Holloway then teed off until the round ended; leveling enough punishment on Ortega that the doctor had no choice, but to stop the fight.
Where do these two go from here?
“Is there anyone else?” yelled Holloway to the extremely friendly crowd in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. That’s good question. Featherweight has a number of interesting prospects and ‘on-the-cusp’ guys, but no clear cut number one contender. Renato Moicano was on standby for the fight, but the idea of him fighting Holloway next feels less likely than a super-fight pitting Blessed against a top gun from the lightweight division.
Maybe the fight we were once promised between he and Khabib Nurmagomedov will come to fruition in 2019.
As for Ortega, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the formerly undefeated fighter take a long stint on the sidelines to heal. When he returns, expect to see him continuing on against the division’s elite class.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it now! Holloway put on one of the best performances of his career in an entertaining fight versus a tough and dangerous opponent. It’s a bout that, one day, will be cited in a resume that is compared against all other featherweights to determine who was best of all time.