- Max Holloway returns to the octagon this Saturday (Dec. 8th) to defend his title at UFC 231.
- His challenger is Brian Ortega, the top-ranked featherweight contender.
- Can Holloway, who has battled health issues and depression during his lay-off, stage a successful comeback?
The long-awaited fight between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega is almost upon us. The two top featherweights will meet this Saturday (December 8th) at UFC 231 in Toronto.
Originally booked for UFC 226 back in July, Holloway was pulled from the card after he started showing “concussion-like symptoms.” Holloway has been plagued with health issues this year and this will be his first and only fight of 2018. Ortega will accept nothing less than a title shot and has been patiently waiting for Blessed’s return.
This is one of the most exciting match-ups available to the UFC. It’s a fascinating pairing of styles and a fight between two of the best featherweights the sport has ever seen. With so little separating the two fighters, this is an extremely difficult fight to pick. Here are some factors to consider.
Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega Odds
|Who will win the main event at UFC 231?||Odds at Bovada|
Fight Record and Recent History
Max Holloway (19-3) is currently riding a 12-fight win streak and holds two wins over Jose Aldo, who is widely considered to be the greatest featherweight ever. But 2018 has been a disastrous year for him. He started the year by pulling out of UFC 222 after sustaining a leg injury. Then he accepted a last-minute lightweight fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, but a horrifying weight-cut saw him pulled from the card. Most recently, he was pulled from UFC 226 after displaying concussion-like symptoms.
Brian Ortega (14-0, 1 NC) dispatched Frankie Edgar in the first round at UFC 222, handing the former lightweight champ his first ever knockout. The win made him the clear #1 contender for the featherweight title. Before that, he finished Cub Swanson with a stunning flying guillotine choke. He remains undefeated in his professional career.
Tale of the Tape
|19-3||PRO RECORD||14-0 (1 NC)|
|12||CURRENT WIN STREAK||14|
|5 ft 11 in||HEIGHT||5 ft 8 in|
|69 in||REACH||69 in|
|December 2, 2017||LAST FIGHT||March 3, 2018|
This isn’t a simple striker vs grappler scenario, but one fighter definitely prefers to fight on his feet and the other is more comfortable tangling on the ground. Holloway is one of the most complete strikers in MMA, and his tall frame and long range mean he can piece up his opponents at a distance. Ortega is one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the game and only needs a small opening to lock in a choke.
Holloway will want to use his movement during this fight, utilizing his range to keep Ortega at a distance. If he’s able to do that, he’ll land freely on his opponent while neutralizing the threat of a submission. Ortega is no striking novice, as he proved in his most recent fight against Edgar, but Holloway is definitely the more advanced striker.
Ortega is primarily a submission artist and his fights usually follow a similar pattern. The undefeated prospect oftentimes starts slow which allows his opponents to find some early success, but after a round or two he comes alive and stops the show. None of his UFC fights have reached decision, and four of his seven wins came by way of submission (though one was later ruled a No Contest).
Submissions, Striking, and Takedown Stats
Here’s the most interesting stat in this match-up: Holloway boasts a stunning 83% takedown defense rate while Ortega only holds a 14% takedown accuracy rate. There are few fighters better at stuffing a takedown in the UFC than Holloway, and while Ortega is clinical once he pulls his opponents to the mat, it often takes him multiple attempts to seal the takedown.
Ortega’s game plan may be to take Holloway down and lock in his trademark triangle choke, but the numbers suggest he’ll struggle to have his way. He only averages 0.22 takedowns per 15 minutes, and that’s mostly been against opponents of a lower caliber.
When it comes to striking, the stats clearly favor the champ. Holloway lands an average of 6.20 strikes per minute to Ortega’s 3.65. He possesses a striking accuracy rate of 43%, which is superior to Ortega’s 32%. And his 65% striking defense rate outweighs Ortega’s 56%.
Illness and Inactivity
The big unknown in this fight is the state of Holloway’s health. He pulled out of the Khabib fight under mysterious circumstances and very little has been revealed since. He displayed “concussion-like” symptoms leading up to the fight and was slurring his words during interviews, which could be a sign of serious permanent damage.
The 27-year-old has fought at featherweight for most of his career, and getting his 5”11’ frame down to 145 lbs may finally be too much for him. He struggled to make 155 lbs to fight Khabib (albeit on very short notice), which may be a sign that his body can no longer sustain the grueling cut required to remain at featherweight.
For me, this is the deciding factor. The Holloway that beat Aldo twice deserves to open as the clear favorite against Ortega. But after a year-long layoff and a slew of health issues, we can’t be sure of the champ’s condition.
Pick: Brian Ortega (+100)
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