The meeting of Max Holloway and Brian Ortega is one of the most anticipated featherweight match ups in recent memory. And with good cause.
Both fighters are at the apex of their careers. Defending champion Holloway is 12-0 since his defeat to Conor McGregor in August 2013. Since then the Hawaii native has torn through the division and managed to win and defend the belt.
His opponent, Ortega, is still undefeated after 15 fights, one no contest owing to a doping offence in his first UFC fight the only blemish.
Brian Ortega’s UFC record is littered with post-fight awards. From his six outings in the marquee octagon he has collected three fight of the night bonuses, and two performance of the night windfalls.
The 27 year old is yet to be taken the distance, and has finished his opponent quicker than the previous in nearly every fight. That dynamic reached it’s peak last time out against former Lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. With just 16 seconds left in the first round Edgar succumbed to a barrage of strikes.
Prior to that fight Ortega dispatched of Cub Swanson in the second round, and collected the remainder of his six UFC finishes in the third round. If the ceiling for this fighter is much higher then the rest of the division is in trouble.
As we’ve seen time and again, fighters with impressive records rise to impressive heights, however there will be an equally or more impressive fighter standing opposite at some point on the way up.
Wins over Edgar, Swanson, Diego Brandao and Clay Guida are good. The manner in which Ortega has beaten them is better. The relative decline of the aforementioned fighters is a health warning.
Max Holloway is in a very different place to anyone Ortega has faced yet.
Holloway’s Health Warning
Holloway has had a remarkable career in the UFC. After collecting three losses in his first six bouts, he’s gone on to become the owner of the second longest winning streak (12 wins – Jon Jones has 13) in the organisation.
He has been the stand out featherweight fighter since Conor McGregor departed for pastures new in the lightweight and criminal divisions.
Aside from the largess of his winning streak, Holloway’s got numbers to make the mouth water.
He lands on average, 6.2 significant strikes per round, substantially more than the 3.65 landed by Ortega. He boasts a strike accuracy of 43 per cent, compared with his opponent’s 32 per cent. While Holloway brings in an 80 per cent takedown accuracy rating complimented by an excellent success rate of 83 per cent in takedown defence. Ortega’s relative numbers are dwarfed at 14 per cent for TD accuracy and 58 per cent for TD defence.
Reading the numbers would lead you to back the defending champion every day of the week. But then there’s the health warning for Holloway.
The Hawaiian has been absent from the octagon for over a year for a number of reasons. First, there was a leg injury that trashed a title defence against Edgar. Then an unexpected opporunity to fight for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title fell through due to Holloway having problems with the weight cut. And finally, and far more worringly, a first pass at Holloway v Ortega failed in July as Holloway had to pull out due to ‘concussion-like symptoms’.
There’s no word on what exactly caused the symptoms, and the more negatively disposed will be watching the build up with healthy level of skepticism.
Will Toronto become the 10th Island or T-City? 🇨🇦
— UFC (@ufc) December 7, 2018
One of the hardest fights of the year to call.
While Ortega can and will threaten Holloway’s standing up, and should have an edge if the fight goes to the ground, his ability to control this fight has to be doubted.
If Holloway is in the fullest of health then expect him to get the job done.
Holloway to win
Have your say
Who's the featherwieght champ after UFC 231
- Brian Ortega (67%, 2 Votes)
- Max Holloway (33%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 3