UFC 218: Holloway vs. Aldo took place on Saturday, Dec. 2. Sporting News’ E. Spencer Kyte breaks down some of the best moments and storylines from the event.
1. And Still
The sequel was as good as the original and the outcome was the same as Max Holloway retained his featherweight title with a third-round stoppage win over Jose Aldo to close things out at UFC 218.
Just as he did in their first encounter this summer, Holloway patiently put in work, picking at Aldo from range in the first before starting to up the pace as each minute ticked off the clock. Once it hit the third, Holloway dragged Aldo into a slugfest and when it finished, Aldo was gassed and “Blessed” began to really open up.
He isn’t going anywhere. #UFC218 pic.twitter.com/jlNI8lMpLr
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2017
Pinpoint shots crashed home, slowly turning Aldo’s face a deeper shade of purple one shot at a time and once it hit the canvas, the champion emptied the gas tank and put away the Brazilian legend for a second time.
MORE: Must-see photos from UFC 218
The victory extends Holloway’s winning streak to 12 and cements his standing atop the featherweight division and there is no reason to think he’s going to relinquish that position any time soon. He turns 26 on Monday and is as talented on the feet as anyone in the sport.
Welcome to The Blessed Era.
2. Leader of the New School
Holloway’s performance on Saturday should also solidify his position at the vanguard of the new wave of young talent making waves inside the Octagon.
For whatever reason, the push hasn’t really been there for “Blessed” to this point — he’s been a headlining several times and earned major opportunities, but there has never been a moment where Holloway felt like someone the UFC was fully invested in the way they have been with the likes of Paige VanZant, Cody Garbrandt and Cody McGregor. That should change now, and if it doesn’t, the UFC will be making a mistake.
Holloway ticks all the boxes. He’s electric in the cage and an entertaining personality. He’s battle-tested and proven twice over that he’s the top featherweight in the sport today. He’s won a dozen fights in a row — something only four other men have been able to do in UFC history — and he’s still getting better.
He was the star of the show Saturday night in Detroit and should probably take home Fighter of the Year honors for his consecutive drubbings of Aldo.
It’s time to give Holloway his due and promote him like the superstar he has proven himself to be over the last three years.
3. Francis Ngannou, Title Challenger
Just over 90 seconds into the co-main event of UFC 218, Francis Ngannou sent Alistair Overeem to the land of eternal slumber with one of the gnarliest heavyweight knockouts you’re ever going to see.
Here’s that murderous uppercut by #Ngannou in full. Overeem was out cold for a full minute after this. Scary. #UFC218 pic.twitter.com/3stU7UzKb1
— Amaan Ahmed (@MrAhmedSays) December 3, 2017
Stationed in the center of the cage, both men starting swinging hammers and after slipping Overeem’s offering, Ngannou uncorked a left hand that found a home and snapped the Dutch veteran’s head back in violent fashion. Overeem was out on impact, doing the Nestle plunge to the canvas, with Ngannou following him down to land a single, massive coffin nail.
This was the kind of blistering performance you knew was possible from Ngannou, but seeing it fully validates the hype that has surrounded the streaking, hulking specimen. He’s now earned six straight victories in the UFC, all by stoppage, and 10 consecutive victories overall.
Next up, the 31-year-old Cameroonian who now calls Las Vegas home will share the cage with Stipe Miocic in a colossal clash for the heavyweight title that is the early leader for most anticipated fight of 2018.
Ngannou is the real deal and a force to be reckoned with and he just might be destined to become the UFC heavyweight champion.
4. Cejudo grinds out Pettis
Henry Cejudo relied on his world-class wrestling and ground control to halt Sergio Pettis’ four-fight winning streak in what may have been a flyweight title eliminator.
In all three rounds, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist needed just a single takedown to put the fight on the floor where he was able to grind out time and ride through to advantageous positions, nullifying Pettis’ offense en route to a sweep of the scorecards and a second consecutive victory. It was a smart, safe, technically sound performance for the No.2-ranked Cejudo, who continues to show that he’s a cut above all but a couple members of the flyweight ranks.
It was a good win, but was it good enough to earn the 30-year-old a second crack at champion Demetrious Johnson? With bantamweight kingpin T.J. Dillashaw chasing a date with “Mighty Mouse,” Cejduo might have needed a more memorable, more emphatic performance in order to get a chance to avenge his earlier loss to the first and only flyweight champion in UFC history.
5. Alvarez hands Gaethje first loss in epic clash
With the right side of his mouth severely swollen and standing on a ravaged lead leg, Eddie Alvarez planted a clean knee on Justin Gaethje’s jaw that instantly knocked the former World Series of Fighting champion from the ranks of the unbeaten, bringing their highly anticipated clash to a sudden, violent halt.
From the minute this fight was announced, everyone expected a Fight of the Year contender – a violent symphony between two savages – and that is exactly what they delivered. No quarter was asked and none was given as the top-ranked lightweights never got too far out of striking range and never stopped hitting each other with heavy, punishing shots. Even though Alvarez seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges and held a lead on the cards, Gaethje was right there with him and seemed to be coming on early in the third, attacking Alvarez’ lead leg. But a tie up in the center of the cage proved to be the final exchange, as the former champion put knee to chin for a walkoff win.
They promised us a war.
They gave us a war. #UFC218 pic.twitter.com/8XspT3v9tG
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2017
Heading into the bout, Alvarez said this fight was to determine “the most violent man in the UFC” and after this performance, that’s another title “The Underground King” can add to his resume.
6. Torres topples Waterson, moves to 10-1 overall
Tecia Torres picked up the biggest win of her career to kick off Saturday’s pay-per-view, sweeping the scorecards against Michelle Waterson to register her third straight victory and move to 10-1 overall.
Combinations and conditioning proved to be the difference in this one as Torres kept a torrid pace in the first and third to thoroughly outwork the Jackson-Wink staple. Even in the second, where Waterson secured an early takedown and maintained top control, Torres was the more active of the two, attacking submissions and shifting her hips from the bottom. Standing, it was clear that Torres was the faster, more precise of the two and when she saw that Waterson was starting to flag, she pressed forward, took her down and nearly earned the finish while raining down blows from back mount.
Tornado 🌪 Wins 👊🏽 Thank you to everyone for the support: my team, the fans, my family, and friends. 🖤 @ufc pic.twitter.com/sfcyGONIYM
— Tecia Torres (@TeciaTorres) December 3, 2017
Despite entering this contest on a two-fight winning streak and owning a victory over the current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, the former American Top Team representative has flown under the radar in the division over the last couple years, but that shouldn’t be the case any longer. With three straight wins and a 10-1 mark overall, the top 5 talent should find herself paired off with top contender in the opening quarter of 2018.
7. Felder roars back to earn a finish
Early in the first round, Paul Felder was forced to play defense in order to fend off the choke attempts of submission ace Charles Oliveira. With each movement, Oliveira readjusted, looking to secure the finish, but Felder stayed calm, kept fighting the hands and found a way back to his feet. Over the final two minutes, “The Irish Dragon” started laying the groundwork for own offensive assault, finding enough success with his ground-and-pound to capture the momentum heading into the second round despite losing the first on the cards.
In the second, Felder happily continued to play with fire, enaging with Oliveira on the canvas, but doing a much better job of controlling the former featherweight’s movements. Pressed along the cage, Felder continued to pick his spots with big power shots, slowly chipping away at the Brazilian. After one thunderous elbow crashed home, Oliveira meekly tapped on Felder’s shoulder, looking for a stoppage, but when the referee didn’t see the tap and step in, Felder unleashed three more hellacious blows that brought the fight to a close.
With the victory, Felder runs his winning streak to three and moves to 5-1 over his last six fights. Two years after getting hustled up the ladder a little too quickly and being knocked down a few rungs, the 33-year-old Philadelphia native has clearly found his footing and making another climb up the lightweight rankings.
8. Medeiros, Oliveira deliver instant classic
Unsung welterweights Yancy Medeiros and Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira teamed up to turn in a violence masterpiece in the middle of the fight card on Saturday night.
Right out of the chute, Medeiros dropped Oliveira with a shot that exploded the Brazilian’s nose, but just when it seemed like a quick finish was coming, “Cowboy” went on the offensive and put Medeiros on shaky legs, setting the stage for a wild back-and-forth that is sure to garner Fight of the Year consideration. The second round was the same as the first as the duo traded heavy shots and moments where they appeared to be in control, but whenever one started to pull away, the other roared back, much to the delight of everyone in attendance and those losing their minds at home and on social media.
These guys don’t know what ‘quit’ means. #UFC218 pic.twitter.com/luLrcvzUQ6
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2017
After more of the same to start the third, Oliveira back away following yet another exchange between the two. Retreating to the fence, he looked hurt and Medeiros took full advantage of the opening, closing the distance and unloading a flurry of strikes that forced Oliveira to cover up and eventually crumple to the floor. A couple more thudding lefts followed and the referee stepped in, bringing an end to one of the most entertaining fights of 2017.
9. Four Straight for Felice Herrig
Without much fanfare, Felice Herrig has put together a pretty nice 2017 campaign and put herself back in the mix in the strawweight division. Saturday night, the TUF 20 alum collected her fourth straight victory and third win of the year, edging out Cortney Casey in a back-and-forth fight that kicked off the televised prelims.
Over the course of 15 minutes, neither woman was able to take lasting control of the action. Instead, they spent the majority of the fight in the center of the Octagon, trading punches and trying to land that one big shot that gave them an chance to open up. It didn’t come and in the end, two of the three judges felt Herrig did a little bit more, handing the “Lil Bulldog” the split decision win.
Saving NO energy tonight. #UFC218 pic.twitter.com/lbcKNzNpbp
— UFC (@ufc) December 3, 2017
While this wasn’t the most impressive performance of her career, it continues a nice run for Herrig, who took over a year off following her April 2015 loss to Paige VanZant and has returned to put up four straight quality victories. This year alone, the 33-year-old Team Curran member has handed Alexa Grasso her first loss and dominated Justine Kish and now she’s added a victory over another Top 15 talent. It’s a very strong run for a veteran talent who has found a way to have the best run of prolonged run of success after taking time to re-assess and return fresh.
10. Upstarts Shine on Fight Pass
Two relative newcomers in a pair of divisions that are always in dire need of new blood got a boost early Saturday night as heavyweight Justin Willis and light heavyweight Dominick Reyes collected impressive first-round stoppage wins.
Willis, a former collegiate football player with surprising athleticism for a man his size, pushed his record to 6-1 with a thunderous knockout win over Allen Crowder in the opener. After earning a victory in a lethargic battle with James Mulheron in his debut, “Big Pretty” stepped things up in his sophomore appearance, puttimg away Crowder in two and a half minutes. Still relatively young for the heavyweight ranks at 31, the American Kickboxing Academy product trains with world class talent who all sing his praises, so don’t be surprised if he gets a little push and a bigger opportunity next time out.
A knockout that went viral earned Reyes the call to the Octagon in the summer and he responded by stopping Joachim Christensen in just 29 seconds. While his follow-up performance took three minutes longer, the 27-year-old Reyes was still able to get Jeremy Kimball out of there before the first round ended. Now 8-0 with seven first-round finishes, “The Devastator” is definitely someone to watch in the shallow 205-pound ranks.