UFC 231 is now available on Amazon Prime.
Max Holloway put the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title on the line against Brian Ortega in the UFC 231 main event on Saturday in Toronto. In a four-round master class, Holloway used a combination of superior striking, pace and pressure to systematically break down Ortega and force a doctor stoppage between the fourth and fifth rounds. Ortega displayed tremendous heart and resolve throughout the fight -- he effectively weathered Holloway’s storm for a time -- but after he sustained serious damage to his left eye in the fourth round, the cageside physician deemed the challenger unfit to continue.
The headliner was contested primarily on the feet, with Holloway playing the lead and keeping directly in Ortega’s hip pocket while firing early and often with straight punches to the body and head. Ortega tried several times to drag the fight to the mat, and while he succeeded on few attempts, Holloway refused to be grounded for long. He popped up each time before the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt had a chance to mount any sort of credible offense.
As the fourth round began, Holloway looked over at the UFC broadcast team -- Joe Rogan, Paul Felder and Jon Anik -- and declared it would be the frame in which he stopped the fight. Holloway’s foreshadowing played out in his favor, as he went out, ramped up his pace and pressure even further and put a beating on Ortega, resulting in the challenger’s left eye swelling shut from an accumulation of strikes. At the end of Round 4, the doctor advised that the bout be stopped.
Afterward, Holloway was animated in victory, called for “10th Island” chants and posed an interesting question to Rogan: “Who’s next?”
Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were already well-acquainted ahead of their showdown for the vacant women’s flyweight championship in the co-headliner. Shevchenko had beaten Jedrzejczyk three times in muay Thai competition and aimed to maintain her dominance in their head-to-head series, this time with UFC gold on the line. “Bullet” succeeded in doing so, as she took him a unanimous decision and captured the flyweight crown.
Shevchenko was successful throughout the fight and proved particularly effective operating off of the counter. She looked to capitalize on Jedrzejczyk’s volume and land heavy punches and kicks from inside, letting “Joanna Champion” come toward her for the majority of the contest. Shevchenko set out to grapple early and often, as she planted Jedrzejczyk on the mat and worked from side control -- a position from which she could land hard elbows and try to wear down the Pole. Jedrzejczyk enjoyed her only true success in the fifth round, where she managed to string together combinations and land at a consistent rate. However, it was a case of too little too late, as the former strawweight champion dropped a unanimous decision: 49-46, 49-46 and 49-46.
Bathed in Blood
Gunnar Nelson stepped into the Octagon for the first time since July 2017 and took on Alex Oliveira in a welterweight showcase that turned into one of the goriest bloodbaths in recent memory. Oliveira took top position in the first round after surprising the Icelandic grappler with reversal and piled up points with heavy ground-and-pound. However, Nelson seized control in the middle stanza. After climbing to mount, he fired a pair of elbows into Oliveira’s forehead and opened a deep wound that sprayed the Octagon with blood, to audible gasps from the crowd. Nelson moved in for the rear-naked choke and forced the stoppage. It was his seventh submission win in the UFC.
Meanwhile, Hakeem Dawodu stepped in front of his fellow Canadians and put a second straight win in the books. He was slotted opposite Kyle Bochniak, who found himself on the rebound after falling short in his bid to upset Zabit Magomedsharipov in April. Dawodu’s clean striking skills were the story, as he outlanded and outmaneuvered the CES MMA veteran for the better part of three rounds. “Mean Hakeem” peppered Bochniak with hard low kicks and body punches, then doubled over the Gloucester, Massachusetts, native with a pair of front kicks to the body. The split decision victory brought Dawodu to 2-1 in the UFC.
Finally, Thiago Santos and Jimi Manuwa kicked off the pay-per-view portion of UFC 231 in a light heavyweight feature between two heavy-handed veterans. It did not take long for their encounter to heat up, as Santos caught Manuwa with a powerful right hand in the first 10 seconds of the fight. They traded punches for a majority of the first round and momentum swung from side to side, with each man getting visibly rocked by the other. The action peaked in the second, where Santos blasted Manuwa with a right hook, followed it with a left and sent the out-cold Englishman crashing to the canvas. Santos has won back-to-back fights since moving to 205 pounds.
Nina Ansaroff defeated Claudia Gadelha by unanimous decision for the most significant victory of her career on the undercard. Ansaroff utilized excellent striking and distance control to outpoint the Brazilian throughout the second and third round. Gadelha was at her best in Round 1, where she managed to land an early takedown and control the American Top Team export. However, the tide turned once Ansaroff found her stride on the feet … Gilbert Burns took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier in a preliminary lightweight clash. Burns dropped Aubin-Mercier with punches in the first round and staggered him again in the second. The Hard Knocks 365 representative also exploited his grappling advantages when the action spilled onto the mat, as he threatened Aubin-Mercier with submissions at various points … Jessica Eye extended her winning streak to three fights with a split decision over Katlyn Chookagian. Pressure and pace carried Eye to victory, as she stalked Chookagian around the Octagon for three rounds, bullied her against the fence and remained aggressive throughout their 15-minute encounter. She then used the platform to call for a shot at the women’s flyweight title … Elias Theodorou eked out a split decision over Eryk Anders in a middleweight battle where both men enjoyed considerable success. Anders wobbled Theodorou with an overhand left in the second round but could not bring the fight to a close. Theodoru mixed up his strikes well by transitioning from high to low, kept Anders guessing throughout and never provided the former University of Alabama linebacker a stationary target. Theodorou has now won three straight fights.
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