UFC 231: Holloway vs. Ortega Preview

UFC 231: Holloway vs. Ortega Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 231 card, set to take place in Toronto.

Updated: Dec. 7, 2018 • 10:35 AM ET

Max Holloway is looking to continue his featherweight title reign.

The UFC featherweight title will be on the line this Saturday in Toronto, as champion Max Holloway will defend his belt against No. 1 contender Brian Ortega. The co-main event will also be for a title, as Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jędrzejczyk will battle for the vacant women’s flyweight title.

Holloway and Ortega were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 226 in July, but Holloway was pulled from the fight just days before the event due to concussion like symptoms, which became alarmingly visible to the public during an interview on UFC Tonight. Holloway recently confirmed to ESPN that his symptoms are now being independently investigated. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old will try to successfully defend his title for the second time after winning the belt at UFC 212 in June 2017.

Holloway’s last fight was a brilliant title defense against former champion Jose Aldo, winning by third-round TKO. It was his second straight victory against arguably the greatest featherweight of all time, solidifying Holloway’s position as the best featherweight in the world. Holloway has won 12 fights in a row and defeated some of the best fighters in the featherweight division. He made his UFC debut at just 21 years old in 2012, but it feels like he has fought in the promotion longer than that.

Aside Aldo, the Hawaiian has defeated Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis, amongst others; and his last loss came by unanimous decision to Conor McGregor in 2013. Holloway (19-3 overall, 15-3 in UFC, 11 finishes) has the most active wins in the featherweight division with 15 and is tied for the most KO/TKO wins in featherweight UFC history with eight.

Holloway is confident about Saturday’s outcome.

“He’s a dangerous man, but everybody keeps talking about Brian and this and that,” Holloway said at the UFC 231 press conference this week. “Everything the guy did, I did better. He’s on what, a six-fight win streak? I got 12. He beat a champion? I beat two — and I beat one of them twice. So at the end of the day, the ‘Blessed’ express is going around in a circle. We’re lapping you, bro. And I’m younger than you, so congratulations.”

Ortega is coming off a shockingly dominant win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 in March, becoming the first fighter to finish Edgar with a first-round knockout. He’s riding a six-fight winning streak and has patiently waited for a fight with Holloway.

The 27-year-old also has victories over Swanson, Renato Moicano, Clay Guida and Diego Brandao and has displayed all the abilities of a No. 1 contender, including black belt jiu-jitsu, a strong will, the ability to come back in a fight and dominant power. Ortega (14-0, 1 NC, 11 finishes) will represent a new challenge for Holloway with his grappling and submission abilities, which is a place Holloway has not been challenged recently.

Ortega has embraced the challenge of fighting Holloway for the title.

“He ain’t going nowhere, and neither am I,” Ortega said. “And there’s no more room at the top. No matter what happens, I don’t see him spiraling down, and neither do I see myself. Whatever happens, fall down, get back up, and challenge each other again. So, this is the beginning.”

 

Co-main event

In the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko will fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant women’s flyweight title.

Shevchenko is coming off a successful flyweight debut against Priscila Cachoeira in February, winning by second-round submission. The fight was a great rebound after losing a close decision to Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title at UFC 215 in September 2017. Shevchenko is 4-2 in the UFC with both losses coming to Nunes by decision.

The Kyrgyzstan fighter has key victories over Sarah Kaufman, Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. To compliment her 15-3 MMA record, she also has a 56-2 kickboxing record, defeating Jedrzejczyk three times, and a 2-0 professional boxing record. Shevchenko is a highly decorated kickboxing champion, having won numerous medals across her career, and has integrated that style into her MMA fights. She has also shown improved grappling and submission skills, posing a tremendous threat to anyone in the flyweight division.

Jedrzejczyk (15-2 overall, 9-2 in UFC) is a former strawweight champion and will make her debut at flyweight on Saturday. She held the strawweight belt for two-plus years and had five successful title defenses. She most recently defeated Tecia Torres by unanimous decision in July, rebounding well from two straight losses to Rose Namajunas.

The Polish fighter has victories over Torres, Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Claudia Gadelha (twice), Valerie Letourneau, Jessica Penne and Carla Esparza. To match her success in MMA, she also has a 27-3 kickboxing record and a 37-3 amateur Muay Thai record. A win on Saturday would make her the UFC’s first female to hold a title in two weight classes.

 

The rest of the main card

Light heavyweight bout - No. 7 Jimi Manuwa vs. No. 15 Thiago Santos

Welterweight bout - No. 13 Alex Oliveira vs. No. 14 Gunnar Nelson

Featherweight bout - Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak

 

FS1 Prelims

Women’s strawweight bout - No. 3 Claudia Gadelha vs. No. 11 Nina Ansaroff

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 3 Katlyn Chookagian vs. No. 9 Jessica Eye

Middleweight bout - No. 14 Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders

Lightweight bout - Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns

 

UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Light heavyweight bout - Devin Clark vs. Aleksandar Rakic

Bantamweight bout - Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez

Welterweight bout - Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima

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