Max Holloway now has the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight throne all to himself.
Holloway dispatched the great Jose Aldo with third-round punches to unify the 145-pound championship in the UFC 212 headliner on Saturday at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Aldo (26-3) bowed out 4:13 into Round 3, as he lost for just the second time in 21 fights.
After a slow start, business picked up. Aldo surprised the Hawaiian with a blinding burst of punches in the first round, punctuating it with a well-timed knee. A more aggressive and focused Holloway emerged in the second, where the tide began to turn. The situation only deteriorated for Aldo from there. Holloway punched in two- and three-punch volleys in the third round, floored the Brazilian with a crisp one-two -- a straight right did the damage -- and went for the kill. He floated from full mount to the back, all while unleashing destructive ground-and-pound. Holloway took aim at a rear-naked choke at one point before setting up shop and letting go with unanswered punches on his turtled counterpart, forcing referee John McCarthy to intervene. Aldo protested but had little on which to base his case.
Holloway (18-3) finds himself on an 11-fight winning streak, having gone from prospect to contender to full-blown MMA superstar.
Related » UFC 212 Round-by-Round Scoring
Gadelha Choke Submits Kowalkiewicz
Three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Claudia Gadelha submitted Karolina Kowalkiewicz with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their women’s strawweight co-main event. Kowalkiewicz (10-2) tapped 3:03 into Round 1, as she was finished for the first time in 12 professional outings.
Gadelha (15-2) delivered a takedown midway through the first round, slid to the back and set her hooks when the Polish star tried to return to her feet. Kowalkiewicz fought to free herself but left her neck exposed in the process. In an instant, Gadelha had the choke in place.
Belfort Outpoints Marquardt, Nets Decision
Tristar Gym representative Vitor Belfort recorded his first win since November 2015, as he captured a unanimous decision over former Pancrase and Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt in a three-round feature at 185 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Belfort (26-13), who afterward shot down talk of a possible retirement.
The 38-year-old Marquardt (35-18-2) took a measured, tactical approach, and it nearly paid off. He executed a trip takedown in the first round and had his moments at various stages, cutting “The Phenom” near the left eye at one point. However, Belfort pinned him to the cage with a flurry of knees and punches in the second round and picked up the pace in the third, where he buzzed Marquardt’s tower with head kicks and right hands before sprawling out of a takedown.
Marquardt has lost eight times in his past 11 appearances.
Undefeated Costa Pounds Bamgbose
Champion Team prospect Paulo Henrique Costa disposed of onetime Ring of Combat titleholder Oluwale Bamgbose with second-round punches in their middleweight showcase. Bamgbose (6-3) succumbed to blows 66 seconds into Round 2, falling to 1-3 inside the Octagon.
Costa (10-0) had his counterpart reeling with a vicious volley of punches, kicks and knees to the body in the first round. Clearly compromised by the punishment he had absorbed, Bamgbose had little left to offer in the second. Costa tripped him to the mat on an errant kick, set up shop in open guard and cut loose with standing-to-ground punches until it was over.
The 26-year-old Costa has finished all 10 of his opponents.
Medeiros Strikes Down Silva
Yancy Medeiros put away former Jungle Fight champion Erick Silva with punches in the second round of their welterweight feature. Silva (19-8) bit the dust 2:01 into Round 2, as referee Eduardo Herdy rushed in to rescue him in a move sure to be debated.
A competitive first round gave way to the decisive second. There, Medeiros (14-4) lit into the Brazilian with an overhand right and then floored him with a clean left hook. He followed up with ground-and-pound, prompting Herdy to act despite the fact that Silva appeared to be lucid and defending himself.
The 32-year-old Silva has lost three of his past four bouts.