MMA Review: #624: UFC 218: Holloway vs. Aldo II

-Despite the lack of what you’d call a ‘money fight’ (fucking YAWN) this looked like an absolutely tremendous card on paper, with a top-level title fight and all four of the other matches having the ability to affect the upper echelon of numerous divisions. Clearly one of the best cards of 2017 in fact. First UFC show in Detroit since 2010, too!

UFC 218: Holloway vs. Aldo II

Detroit, Michigan

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Joe Rogan.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

Big fight here although the Rose Namajunas upset over Joanna Jedrzejczyk made it a bit less important as if Joanna had retained, the winner of this one would probably have been next in line, but obviously they’ve both got losses to Rose. Not that Torres should’ve lost that fight really though, but I digress. I was taking Torres to win here as I just thought she was the slightly better fighter.

Round One begins and Waterson throws a glancing head kick right away as Torres pushes forward. Waterson actually looks like the bigger fighter which is surprising. She hits a takedown and then hops onto the back as Torres scrambles to her feet. Torres manages to shake off the hooks and manages to turn into her, and exits the clinch with a left. Nice right hand from Torres and she lands a quick combination to back Waterson up. Waterson fires back with a body kick and they continue to exchange at a pretty quick pace. Torres appears to have the quicker hands and lands the better shots although she’s cut under her right eye. Plum clinch from Torres and she lands some really good knees to the body, then a couple of hard hooks to the head for good measure. Torres looks really strong from the clinch. She continues to work Waterson over with knees and elbows from close range, but Waterson separates with a left. Torres bulls back into the clinch and continues to work from there, before Waterson breaks again. One minute to go and they exchange back into the clinch before Torres breaks with a left. Side kick glances for Waterson. Superkick (!) misses for her as Torres pushes forward. Round ends with a big combo from Torres. 10-9 Torres, pretty clear round.

Round Two and Torres stays out of range early on before tagging Waterson with a pair of rights. They exchange some knees from the clinch and then separate and Torres tags her with another right hand. Big knee answers back for Waterson but she appears to be outgunned in this one. She does get a sick head-and-arm throw as Torres steps in though, and manages to scramble into top position as Torres rolls. Full guard for Torres but Waterson works through into half-guard. Action slows down as Torres tries to lace up the left arm for a possible kimura, then gives up on it. Another attempt looks better, but Michelle still manages to block it. Torres manages to get to full guard from it though. Triangle attempt from Torres now but she can’t quite synch it up. This is a great crowd as there’s no boos whatsoever despite the action being quite slow. Torres switches off to an armbar, but Waterson avoids it and remains on top, dropping into side mount in the process. Round ends with Torres working to her feet and almost getting a takedown of her own. 10-9 Waterson as despite not doing much from the top, she had a lot of control.

Round Three and they exchange some early strikes with Waterson landing with a hard overhand right. They clinch up and Waterson looks for a takedown, but Torres blocks it and drivers her into the fence. They break off and Torres lands with an overhand right, and it looks like Waterson’s left eye is badly swollen up. Exchange continues and a right shovel hook from Torres stuns Waterson. Big combo follows it up and forces Waterson back into the fence. She circles out, but she’s coming off worst in these exchanges now. Two minutes to go and Torres lands with a solid body kick. Kick from Waterson is countered by a punch and she goes down, and Torres pushes forward and ends up on top in a scramble, taking the back. Both hooks in for Torres and she looks to flatten Michelle out, but Waterson stands in an attempt to shake her off. Torres instead manages to flatten her, and from there she begins to drop some really hard elbows to the side of the head. Waterson’s in trouble as she’s taking some serious punishment, but she does enough to survive without being stopped. Seconds to go and she manages to spin into top position, but she can’t do anything with it and Torres stands and ends the fight with a right hand. I’d call it 29-28 Torres.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Tecia Torres – not sure about that 30-27 call but the right girl definitely won. This was a pretty great showing from Torres actually – her striking looked sharper than I can ever remember seeing it and in all honesty, outside of Jedrzejczyk she might have the best record in the division with wins over Waterson, Angela Hill, Bec Rawlings, and pre-UFC, Felice Herrig, Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas herself. I say give her the winner of the inevitable Rose/Joanna rematch, although they could also end up matching her with Jessica Andrade I guess. Either way I want to see her in a title fight in 2018. Pretty great opener overall.

Lightweight Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

Despite being one of the weaker TUF coaching pairings, this one was one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year given the reputation for exciting fights from both men – Gaethje had already put on probably the best fight of the year with Michael Johnson – and going in both men were talking it up as being for the ‘Most Violent’ title. My pick was Gaethje as I felt like he had more left in the tank than Alvarez overall.

First round begins and the crowd are CRAZY into this one for good reason. Got to love how cool Gaethje is in the face of the violence that’s about to happen. Pair of leg kicks open the round for Gaethje as Alvarez looks to counter with punches. Big overhand right lands for Gaethje but Alvarez fires back with an uppercut and they trade off for a second. Combo from Alvarez is met by a nasty leg kick. Gaethje’s really going after the legs early on. Low kick is caught by Eddie and he shoves Gaethje away. Alvarez fires off with punches but Gaethje just keeps on pushing forward. Big leg kick hurts Eddie and he’s clearly limping, but he fires right back with a big combo. Gaethje obliges and these guys are trading big punches. Halfway through the round and they continue to trade off, with Gaethje damaging the leg with a big kick again. Another one is caught and Alvarez gets him down for a second, but Gaethje quickly pops back up. Beautiful body shots land for Eddie. Both men continue to trade blows, and it looks like Alvarez has Gaethje cut up. Big combination has Gaethje covering up but he seems okay and he fires right back with a big combo of his own. More combos land for Alvarez and he’s clearly winning the punching exchanges at least. More shots to the body force Gaethje to backpedal a bit. More punches land for Alvarez and he does a good job of dodging counters too, although he eats another leg kick. Round ends with a missed Harold Howard front flip kick (!) by Alvarez. 10-9 Alvarez in a close one as I felt his body work did more damage than Gaethje’s low kicks.

Second round and Eddie actually opens up with a chopping leg kick of his own. Gaethje lands one in response though and it buckles Alvarez’s leg a bit. Another one follows but Alvarez fires right back with a big combination. Gaethje just keeps on pressing the action though and he lands with a stiff jab a few times. Looks like he’s cut around the left eye though. Big right hand snaps Gaethje’s head back. Sweeping right hand from Gaethje catches Eddie though as they continue to fire punches with little slowdown. This is so awesome. They’re basically going shot-for-shot now. Knees land for both men too as both men look badly busted up. Gaethje looks more tired, but he’s still landing shots as is Alvarez. Two minutes to go and it looks like Alvarez is landing the better shots again, really using the body shots well. Big uppercuts to the body from Eddie have Gaethje in trouble and he looks like he’s rocked pretty badly. He fires right back though because he’s Justin fucking Gaethje! Couple of leg kicks from him have Eddie hurt again and he has to switch stances. One minute to go and nothing is slowing these guys down. Big uppercut sets up a flurry for Alvarez but Gaethje just swings right back. And HOLY SHIT Alvarez’s face is BADLY SWOLLEN, like a broken cheekbone or orbital bone or both. He tosses Gaethje to the ground and lands a huge knee on the buzzer and that’s the round. 10-9 Alvarez although it was very close. Phenomenal round, too.

Third round and the crowd are loving this fight and rightfully so. And right away Alvarez comes out firing combinations, but Gaethje swings back and it looks like Eddie’s got a huge lump of chewing tobacco in his mouth or something. Big leg kicks land for Gaethje and Alvarez buckles pretty badly. He might be in trouble. Gaethje keeps on swinging, and he shrugs off a possible takedown. Another leg kick forces Eddie to attempt to pull guard, but Gaethje’s having none of that and he forces him back up. Alvarez comes back with a big flurry, and separates a clinch with a knee. Head kick glances for Gaethje and he chops the leg with a low kick again. How Alvarez is standing is a mystery, but he’s still landing big shots too. Rear waistlock from Eddie and he drags Gaethje down, but Gaethje immediately reverses to his feet. Brutal leg kick lands for him but Alvarez keeps on coming forward. Huge uppercut lands for Gaethje. Alvarez almost goes down again off another leg kick. He lands a series of uppercuts though and now Gaethje looks rocked. Both guys look exhausted. They stumble in and out of the clinch and suddenly it looks like Gaethje can barely stand. Holy shit. Huge shots continue to land for both men and finally a NASTY KNEE from Alvarez drops Gaethje face-first, and Herb Dean has to call it there! WOW.

That was an unbelievable fight. Perhaps not as good as Gaethje/Johnson but it was very close as both men went to WAR and despite Alvarez showing better punching defence, he still got his face seemingly cracked apart and nearly got taken out by Gaethje’s leg kicks. In the end though his toughness pulled him through as he finally landed that shot that Gaethje just couldn’t recover from. Dude always said he’d end up getting KO’d at some point due to his style and so his prediction came true here. This probably took YEARS off the careers of both men but shit was it awesome. High-end FOTYC for sure. I’ve got no idea where either man goes next but who cares? You’d watch them fight in a bar brawl basically because they’re both awesome.

Flyweight Fight: Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

The word going into this one was that the winner would likely be in line for a crack at Mighty Mouse, although with the current discussion around him against TJ Dillashaw in a superfight everything was up in the air as per usual. Pettis had been on a great run leading into this one – four wins in a row – but I felt like Cejudo would win as Pettis isn’t the best finisher and Cejudo to me is the second-best 125lber in the world right now.

Round One begins and Cejudo comes out in an almost Lyoto-esque wide stance, bouncing around on the outside. Low kick lands for Pettis but Cejudo stalks forward and tries to get inside. Quick combo from Pettis forces him back a little but Cejudo seems fine. Nice takedown from Cejudo and he lands on top in side mount. That looked criminally easy. Pettis gives his back, and Cejudo takes control and drops some knees to the body while controlling him. He slaps one hook in, but can’t get the other one in and Pettis ends up sitting on the mat to avoid having his back taken. Crowd aren’t into this one at all as they’re likely exhausted from the crazy Gaethje/Alvarez fight prior. Good job from Pettis to roll back into guard, and Cejudo tries to scramble into side mount but can’t quite manage it. He stands over Pettis and then drops some big punches, and the round ends with him firmly in control. 10-9 Cejudo, close to a 10-8 in fact but I don’t think he did quite enough damage.

Round Two and Cejudo presses forward as Pettis tries to fire off some jabs and punches. Body kick lands for Cejudo but Pettis comes back with a really good one of his own. Takedown attempt is defended by Pettis this time and they trade punches with both men landing. Flurry has Pettis backing up and he goes down, although it didn’t look like a knockdown to me. Cejudo drops down into the guard and I’d say the likelihood of Pettis getting up is minimal. Crowd begin to mildly boo as Cejudo works to pass the guard, and he almost does so, avoiding an armbar in the process. Cejudo manages to take the back in a scramble but doesn’t have the hooks in. Crowd are still mildly booing for this. Pettis works to his feet with Cejudo holding onto him, and they separate with seconds to go. Exchange follows but it’s Cejudo tagging Pettis with an uppercut. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Cejudo.

Round Three and Pettis fires off punches, but he keeps coming up short for the most part and Cejudo looks super comfortable in there. Decent counter right lands for Pettis and they exchange before Pettis shrugs off a possible takedown. Couple of low kicks land for Cejudo before he shoots on a single leg and just ragdolls Pettis to the ground. Dude’s wrestling is phenomenal, as you’d expect for an Olympic gold medallist. He lands in the full guard and again it’s a pretty slow pace as he struggles to pass Pettis’s guard. With half of the round remaining he gets into side mount, then grabs a front headlock as Pettis rolls. Pettis almost makes it to his feet, but gets forced back down by Cejudo and he’s back in guard. Cejudo is a phenomenal grappler. Pettis manages to make it up to his feet, but Cejudo hangs on him and hits a suplex, but he can’t get the hooks in and Pettis pops up and spins into the clinch. Crowd are now going crazy but Joe Rogan informs us it’s because there’s a brawl in the crowd. One minute to go and they separate, but Pettis can’t land any significant strikes and he fails on a takedown to end the fight. Got to be 30-27 for Cejudo really.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Henry Cejudo. Fight was fine from a technical standpoint but it felt like the crowd had been spoiled by the brilliance of Gaethje/Alvarez and just couldn’t get into it. Basically Cejudo just had a massive grappling advantage, Pettis couldn’t deal with it and we ended up with a one-sided whitewash albeit one that Cejudo never came close to finishing. Not much more to say really, good win for Cejudo though.

Heavyweight Fight: Francis Ngannou vs Alistair Overeem

This was a HUGE fight at Heavyweight, with Dana White promising the winner a title shot at Stipe Miocic. It was also a big step up for Ngannou, who had wiped the floor with all of his opponents to this point, but with his best win being Andrei Arlovski, it was clear that Overeem was his greatest ever test. Overeem for his part had beaten Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum to bounce back from his own loss to Miocic, but with his questionable chin he was coming in as an underdog against Ngannou. I was picking Overeem because I never pick against my favourite fighter, but this was clearly a difficult fight for him.

First round begins and Overeem comes rushing out with a left hook that doesn’t land. He follows with a clinch, and forces Ngannou back, but Ngannou quickly spins him around and forces him into the fence. Ngannou looks much bigger than the Reem which is terrifying in itself. They jockey for position before ref Dan Miragliotta splits them up, and Overeem comes in with a glancing left. They circle out and a big right misses for Overeem and Ngannou KILLS HIM STONE DEAD WITH A LEFT HOOK!~! Holy fucking shit.

Post-fight Overeem is down for AGES before he comes around, and the replay shows his head snap backwards like he was hit with an uppercut from Mortal Kombat. That was one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history, period. Talk all you want about Overeem’s weak chin but shit, that punch would’ve KO’d a rhino. Ngannou just has INSANE POWER and this was a star-making performance from him. I can’t believe they’re doing Miocic/Ngannou in January, too, but kudos to the UFC for striking while the iron’s hot. Can he beat Miocic? If he lands then Stipe is a dead man, but then Miocic has proven himself time after time so who knows. It’s a fight I can’t wait for, though. This was an insanely brutal knockout and it was upsetting to me to see Overeem destroyed like that, but it happens and Ngannou is fantastic, no denying that.

UFC World Featherweight Title: Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo

So yeah, after Holloway dethroned Aldo back in June, an instant rematch wasn’t planned, but when Frankie Edgar – who was booked to fight Holloway in Max’s first defense – broke his orbital bone in training, Aldo stepped in for a rare late-notice fight to try to reclaim his title. Despite Aldo actually starting the first fight pretty well I just felt like Holloway had surpassed him at this point and would repeat the result from UFC 212, cementing himself as the top 145lber in the game.

Round One gets underway and Aldo takes the centre of the cage as Holloway pumps his jab and circles around on the outside. Not much thrown by Aldo at all in the opening minute or so. He does catch Max with a flurry but it has no effect. Leg kick lands for Aldo. He comes up short on some more strikes and takes a couple more jabs, and now Holloway taunts him a bit before eating another leg kick. Big swings miss for Aldo. Holloway’s movement to avoid these big shots is tremendous. He taunts Aldo some more and then sticks him with a stiff jab. One minute to go and Holloway remains on the outside, dodging Aldo’s punches and landing longer strikes of his own. Aldo’s face is all red from eating the jabs. Seconds to go and Holloway taunts the challenger some more, but then eats a big uppercut right before the buzzer and actually applauds Aldo for it which is INSANE. 10-9 Holloway.

Round Two and Aldo is badly cut under his right eye already. Holloway again comes out popping the jab, but Aldo hits him with a hard leg kick. Good right hand from Holloway set up by the jab. He again leans just out of the way of a big combo from the Brazilian too. Combination lands for Aldo culminating in a left to the body, but he eats a right hook on the counter from the Hawaiian. Few more punches from Holloway back the challenger up. Right hand into a chopping leg kick land for Aldo but Holloway circles out and gets back to the jab. Another leg kick lands for Aldo. Brief clinch from Aldo sees him almost trip Max down, but he pops up. More long punches from the outside connect for Holloway before he eats another leg kick. Another one is almost caught by Holloway, who quickly ramps up the pace with a pair of combos and then clinches. Spinning back kick on the exit lands for Holloway and he follows with a clean combination. Aldo looks a bit static suddenly. Flying knee hits the Brazilians chest, but a knee lands cleanly for Holloway to end the round. 10-9 Holloway but it was quite a close round really.

Round Three and Holloway comes out quickly, pushing Aldo back with his long punches and going to the body now too. Switch knee lands for Aldo but Holloway remains unfazed. Leg kick has the same effect for the Brazilian. Good left hand connects for Holloway. Clinch from Aldo and then he breaks with a hard elbow to the temple. He’s looking a bit tired, though, taking some deep breaths. Holloway taunts him again and then opens up with some big punches, and Aldo fires back but Holloway just eats up the shots and keeps on landing punches of his own. Holloway has a fucking RIDICULOUS chin. He continues to back Aldo up with his strikes and he looks like he’s got him hurt with body shots now. Aldo fires back with huge punches of his own, but Holloway just wades RIGHT THROUGH and continues to hammer him with big shots. Aldo’s in trouble here. He tries to clinch but Holloway shrugs him off and continues to land. Massive punches have Aldo almost out on his feet, and even though he’s landing back he can’t seem to hurt Max at all. Aldo’s face is a BLOODY MESS now and Holloway just won’t let up. Aldo begins to cover up on the feet and Herb Dean could probably stop this, but he lets it go and when Aldo shoots, he winds up on his back. Holloway slides into almost the full mount and continues to hammer him, and this has to be it. Aldo gives his back and eats more punches, then ends up on his back and this is a CRIMINAL ref job. Herb finally stops it with ten seconds left in the round, but really it was about a minute too late.

Another masterful performance from Max Holloway, then – he’s just got possibly the best awareness of distance in the UFC right now, and that allowed him to stay just out of range of Aldo’s early big shots, and once Aldo became tired then Max just closed in and DESTROYED him. I’m not too sure about how he was wading in and taking punches to land his own in the third, but then it could’ve been that he felt Aldo had no pop left at that point and his chin could take the shots. Maybe not the wisest idea for a long career but I don’t think it’ll catch up with him for a while yet. As for Aldo I think he could probably beat a lot of the other145lbers on the roster, but he’s never going to sniff the title again while Holloway’s holding it.

Next up should be Frankie Edgar and I just don’t think he can do anything to Max – he’s at the tail end of his career realistically and feels a bit antiquated at this point even if he’s still good enough to beat the shit out of prospects like Yair Rodriguez. It’s Holloway vs. Brian Ortega I really want to see but that’s another story! I just hope Holloway catches on as a star with the fans now – he’s got everything you could want – an exciting fighting style, tons of charisma, he’s young and he has a nation (ish, in Hawaii) behind him. If the UFC do a big show in Hawaii I think that’d help. This was a brilliant main event at any rate.

-Show ends with a bunch of replays of Ngannou’s knockout of Overeem, and then a highlight reel and we’re done.

Final Thoughts….

After a shitty beginning to 2017 the UFC is actually on a run right now with their PPVs, as this was the third great one in a row and it wasn’t far behind 217 as the year’s best, actually. Outside of Cejudo/Pettis which was a little dull, everything was fantastic, from another great performance from Holloway in the main, to Ngannou’s sick knockout and Alvarez/Gaethje living up to all the hype. Skip over the Cejudo fight if you wish but overall this was a must-see show. Thumbs way up.

Best Fight: Alvarez vs. Gaethje
Worst Fight: Cejudo vs. Pettis

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: