Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event at UFC 218 as Jose Aldo tries to reclaim the featherweight title as he takes on champion Max Holloway in a rematch of their bout from UFC 212.
Jose Aldo (Record: 26-3, +265 Underdog, Power Ranking: A+)
The longtime featherweight champion, now challenger enters his UFC 218 fight looking to regain the championship he held for a collective five plus years. This bout is a rematch of their UFC 212 fight in which Aldo dropped by third round TKO to Holloway to lose his belt.
The Novo Uniao-trained fighter has been fighting professionally for nearly 15 years. Before taking up MMA he was an avid soccer player who had an eye on playing professionally. His soccer skill set plays a key part in his MMA ability. Aldo has some of the strongest legs in the sport and that gives him the ability to land debilitating kicks to his opponent’s lead leg slowing his opponent’s movement. Aldo’s output is not the highest in the division (3.32 significant strikes per minute), but he’s very effective at winning rounds and turning it on when he needs to. The other thing Aldo’s soccer background has been able to promote is his takedown defense. Aldo’s hip strength is incredible and he’s proven to be very difficult to takedown. Aldo has been taken to the mat just seven times in his combined 18 fights in the UFC and WEC. He has a 93% takedown rate and has never been taken down more than twice in a single bout in his time in those two promotions. While Aldo is a jiu jitsu black belt, he’s rarely on the mat in any of his bouts because of his tremendous takedown defense. Opponents are forced to fight him on the feet and Aldo has had a striking advantage in just about every fight he has been in. Aldo is a fast starter, but his kryptonite is his conditioning. He tends to slow down as fights progress. That was his down fall against Holloway as he simply couldn’t keep up with the pressure and output of his opponent. Furthermore, his chin has started to deteriorate with two knockout losses in his last three bouts.
Max Holloway (Record: 18-3, -325 Favorite, Power Ranking: A++)
The Hawaiian born fighter has been on a meteoric rise in the featherweight division. The newly crowned champion has won eleven consecutive fights in the UFC and has the third longest active winning streak in the promotion trailing just Georges St. Pierre and Demetrious Johnson. Holloway unified the featherweight championship when he dropped Aldo in the third round and forced the referee to stop the bout as he unleashed unanswered ground and pound.
The soon to be 26-year-old Holloway has been on a heck of a run beating two of the best fighters of the first half of this decade in Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis back to back. Holloway has quickly become one of the best fighters in the sport and it’s his approach that makes him a very difficult opponent to beat. Holloway is constantly pressuring opponents and fights at a tremendous pace. Holloway lands 5.79 significant strikes per minute which is one of the highest outputs in the division. Furthermore, he only absorbs 3.75 significant strikes per minute. What sets Holloway apart from other strikers is his combination work. Holloway throws a lot of unorthodox strikes, but follows them up with three, four, five, or even more combination punches. His output is tremendous and is very difficult for opponents to contend with. As Holloway has gotten more experienced, his takedown defense has improved dramatically. He hasn’t been taken down by an opponent since 2014 and has a takedown defense percentage of 83% overall. Holloway forces opponents to fight him on the feet. Holloway is hittable, but has shown to have a granite chin. He’s never been knocked out in a fight and quite honestly hasn’t even been close to being finished by an opponent with strikes. Holloway is a fighter that gets better as a fight continues. While he’s not slow out of the gate, he really excels in his ability to take fights over when his opponents begin to slow down. He’s one of the best mid round finishers in the sport which makes him capable of being a fighter that can have a long title reign.
In a rematch of their UFC 212 bout, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway square off for the featherweight championship. Both of these fighters tend to have the same game plan: keep the fight standing and beat their opponents in a striking exchange. Both fighters have had a lot of success doing this throughout their careers. Aldo is a more traditional striker with a heavy hands and kickboxing approach. He tends to like to fight on the counter and time his shots with power and accuracy. Holloway is much more unorthodox in his approach landing strikes at odd angles and coming at his opponents with maximum aggression. If Aldo is going to have success in this bout, he will need improve his conditioning significantly as Holloway will continue to press forward in this fight and he’ll force Aldo to be more active than he normally is in his bouts. Considering how long Aldo has been fighting in this sport, it’s hard to see him make such a change in his regiment to be able to employ a 25 volume heavy attack. I expect Holloway’s constant pressure will once again slow Aldo down giving Holloway the advantage after the opening round. Aldo will have some opportunities in the first round or even round and a half, but don’t expect Holloway to be phased. Holloway has already seen what Aldo can offer and it is not enough to stop the Hawaiian. Look for Holloway to once again shine and get another TKO victory over Aldo. Holloway (-140) is worth consideration. I’d also recommend looking at the Holloway points handicap once that line is released.