Matches to Make After UFC 231

By Brian Knapp Dec 9, 2018

Brian Ortega did everything in his power to loosen Max Holloway’s grip on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight throne. He was unsuccessful.

Holloway retained his undisputed 145-pound title in resounding fashion, as he forced a doctor stoppage after the fourth round of their UFC 231 headliner on Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The cageside physician took one look at Ortega’s grotesquely swollen left eye and declared him unfit to continue. No one in their right mind could have argued with his decision.

Ortega put up considerable resistance and obliged the Hawaiian with a war of attrition, only to be met with four-, five- and six-punch combinations. Holloway struck with surgical precision. The FightMetric figures were mind-blowing: The champion connected with 166 of the 304 total strikes and 156 of the 294 significant strikes he attempted. Ortega was credited with two takedowns but could do nothing of note with either of them.

In the aftermath of UFC 231 “Holloway vs. Ortega,” here are six matches that ought to be made:

Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski-Chad Mendes winner: It has become clear that Holloway has no equal in the featherweight division, the 27-year-old Hawaiian having exposed the massive gulf that exists between the great and the very good. The Gracie Technics superstar finds himself on a run of 13 consecutive victories, the vast majority of them unfolding in virtuoso performances. An eye-popping 1,939 days have now passed since Holloway’s decision loss to Conor McGregor, and there appears to be no end to his reign in sight. If only the “Notorious” one would consider a return to 145 pounds. Volkanovski and Mendes will collide at UFC 232 on Dec. 29.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Nicco Montano: What was long viewed as an inevitability became a reality in the co-main event, as Shevcenko laid claim to a five-round unanimous decision over Joanna Jedrzejczyk and captured the vacant UFC women’s flyweight championship. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 49-46 for “Bullet,” who was a step ahead of Jedrzejczyk in all phases. Shevchenko showed a little bit of everything against the onetime strawweight titleholder, from executing high-impact takedowns to doubling up on front kicks to the face. Montano has not fought since she took a five-round decision from Roxanne Modafferi and captured the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight championship at “The Ultimate Fighter 26” Finale a little more than a year ago. She was later stripped of the title following a failed weight cut prior to UFC 228 and a scheduled showdown with Shevchenko.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Michel Prazeres: Nelson returned to the win column for the first time in nearly two years, as he submitted Alex Oliveira with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featured welterweight clash. Oliveira suffered a horrific laceration to his forehead -- blood cascaded out of the wound, drawing gasps from the audience -- due to a penetrating elbow strike and then found himself hopelessly entangled in the choke. “Cowboy” bowed out 4:17 into Round 2. Prazeres, 37, has rattled off eight straight wins since a February 2015 decision loss to Kevin Lee. He made Bartosz Fabinski his latest victim at UFC Fight Night 140, where he submitted “The Butcher” with a guillotine choke in just 62 seconds.

Hakeem Dawodu vs. Shane Burgos: The promising Dawodu won for the second time in as many outings, as he was awarded a split decision over Kyle Bochniak in a three-round featherweight feature. Judges Eric Colon and Jason Rodgers struck 30-27 scorecards for the Canadian, while Benoit Roussel posted a dumbfounding 29-28 score in Bochniak’s favor. Dawodu spent the majority of the fight chipping away at the CES MMA veteran with jab-cross combinations, leg kicks and front kicks to the body, one of which drew a noticeable grimace from his counterpart in the waning seconds. Team Tiger Schulmann’s Burgos last competed at UFC 230 on Nov. 3, when he submitted Kurt Holobaugh with a first-round armbar. The 27-year-old has compiled a 4-1 record since joining the UFC roster two years ago.

Thiago Santos vs. Dominick Reyes: Santos was the last man standing after a wild firefight with Jimi Manuwa, as he disposed of the Englishman in the second round of their light heavyweight showcase. Manuwa met his end 41 seconds into Round 2, courtesy of a powerful left hook from the Brazilian. Santos rattled his counterpart on multiple occasions during an action-packed first round, only to be shaken himself. The crowd roared its approval, as both men threw caution to the wind and seemed to put maximum effort behind every punch, kick and knee strike. Ultimately, it was Manuwa who blinked. Santos now owns a 2-0 record at 205 pounds. Reyes, 28, improved to 10-0 with a three-round unanimous decision over divisional mainstay Ovince St. Preux at UFC 229 in October.

Gilbert Burns vs. James Vick-Paul Felder winner: Burns put together one of his more complete performances to date, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier on the undercard. All three cageside judges sided with the Hard Knocks 365 export: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Burns floored the Tristar Gym rep with a left hook in the first round and nearly finished him with a barrage of hammerfists. He then controlled the remainder of the match with effective counterpunching, well-timed takedowns, positional control and submission attempts, winning for the third time in four outings. Vick and Felder will square off at UFC 233 on Jan. 26.


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