The Size Up: UFC 218 – Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo II

Main Event: Featherweight Title- Max Holloway (c) vs. José Aldo

Holloway Notable Fights: Anthony Pettis (W), Conor McGregor (L), Ricardo Lamas (W), Jose Aldo (W).

Aldo Notable Fights: Frankie Edgar (2W), Conor McGregor (L), Chad Mendes (2W), Max Holloway (L).

Holloway Stat: He has won his last 11 fights in a row.

Aldo Stat: Despite being a 2-time champion, this is his first title shot.

The Match Up

Initially, the headlining bout for UFC 218 was scheduled to be yet another title shot for Frankie Edgar against Max Holloway in his first title defence. Instead, with Edgar nursing an injury, former champion Jose Aldo steps in for an immediate rematch with the Hawaiian star.

With the division still finding its level after Conor McGregor was stripped of his title and succeeded by a couple of interim champions, this is somewhat of a step backwards toward the old guard rather than forward to the new breed; although the Edgar fight, despite being a fresh match-up, would arguably have been even worse after his two losses to Aldo.

With that said, this is still a fight between undoubtedly the two best men fighting at 145 lbs today and follows a really intriguing meeting of the pair earlier this year.

The Fight

To look ahead to this fight, it’s important to first look back at their first meeting. On that occasion, Holloway ended up winning via 3rd round TKO but that doesn’t really tell the whole story of the fight.

In the opening two rounds, Aldo had the better of it. The Brazilian was winning the jabbing battle, landing plenty of counters and not letting Holloway get his high-output game going. Holloway, though, was landing the more obviously hurtful shots throughout. And in the end that was what told as he dropped Aldo and brutally finished him after a prolonged period of ground and pound.

This time around, both men will want to do better.

Even though he won their first meeting, that goes for Holloway the most. You’d expect him to start faster this time around and not give Aldo the chance to establish his straight back and forward muay thai game. To do that he needs to come at Aldo with brave, varied, continuous attacks like he turned to in the last few minutes of the first fight. Switching stances is always a staple of Holloway’s game which he underutilised in their first fight and could be important this time around. If he can keep Aldo guessing – getting away from the end of his jab – and make this a more disjointed fight, he will be hugely favoured here.

Aldo, on the other hand, wants it more straightforward. First of all, he wants to use his jab again to keep Holloway outside of his space where it’s more about speed, selection and accuracy than force and output. If he does that, then half the job is done.

But against Max Holloway, as the first fight showed, half the job isn’t enough. This time around, Aldo will need to establish his jabbing range and hurt Holloway after that. And there’s a few ways he can do that.

Firstly, he can throw more combinations coming forward and countering like he did last time. Secondly, and most predictably, he can use the magnificent leg kicks he possesses which were basically non-existent last time. And finally, the takedown is always an option for Aldo who should have an advantage on the floor; although I’d say he’s pretty unlikely to use that option.

Overall, this could go a few ways.

Aldo could win the technical battle in the center of the cage and win large periods of the fight, Holloway could come out strong and dominate from the front foot or it could be a combination of the two.

In all three of those scenarios I still think Max Holloway is the more likely to win. And the reason for that is almost all down to an ability to move up through the gears and do that with the confidence of having the bigger punch and better chin.

For Aldo to win, as mentioned above, I really think he needs to hurt Max badly either throughout the fight or in one huge moment. This is MMA and that can definitely happen, but past is prologue here and that’s something he just hasn’t been doing too much recently.

I do think Aldo will win the opening portions of this fight but unless he ups the level of destruction he will get toppled himself. Once Holloway breaks down the jab and gets moving I think he’ll hurt Aldo and finish him once again.

Heavyweight – Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem

Ngannou Notable Fights: Andrei Arlovski (W), Curtis Blaydes (W), Anthony Hamilton (W)

Overeem Notable Fights: Junior Dos Santos (W), Brock Lesnar (W), Fabricio Werdum (2W, 1L)

Ngannou Stat: He has won every fight in the UFC inside the distance.

Overeem Stat: 50 of his career fights have finished inside the distance.

The Match-up

I really can’t wait for this one. Francis Ngannou is one of the most exciting, majestic athletes in MMA today but this is the first real big test against someone just as big and just as strong. In fact, Overeem also has a big advantage in terms of experience and technical acumen and is about as solid a test as possible for the best new heavyweight contender in years.

The Fight

As he has been doing for the last couple of years, expect Overeem to come out here looking to jab, protect his chin and counter. Ngannou will want to break through that with a jab of his own and huge combinations of uppercuts and hooks which aren’t easy to defend.

It makes for extreme pain whichever way you look at it.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised with an Overeem win here but I think his chin might stop him from getting through 15 minutes with the predator. All it takes is one shot from Big Francy and I think that’s all it will take in the end.

 

Main event – Flyweight – Sergio Pettis vs. Henry Cejudo

Pettis Notable Fights: John Moraga (W), Alex Caceres (L), Brandon Moreno (W)

Cejudo Notable Fights: Jussier Formiga (W), Wilson Reis (W), Demetrious Johnson (L).

Pettis Stat: All 7 of his UFC wins have been via decision.

Cejudo Stat: His last fight saw him get his first UFC finish.

The Match-up

With Demetrious Johnson reigning over the flyweight division like a centenarian monarch, Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis meet here to decide who is next to face the only ever flyweight champion (unless TJ Dillashaw gets there first.)

The Fight

Again, this fight is absolutely of the highest quality in the sport today. Cejudo is an Olympic wrestling gold medalist who has become a really well rounded MMA fighter while Pettis is a lifelong student of the game who was dragged up through the ranks of the sport to become a fantastic, strike-first fighter. In some ways, this is a bit like the main event. I think Pettis is a slicker, technical practitioner but I think Cejudo is a more varied and powerful fighter. Like the main event, I think the latter wins out in this one too.

Main Event – Lightweight – Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje

Alvarez Notable Fights: Conor McGregor (L), Michael Chandler (1W, 1L) Anthony Pettis (W).

Gaethje Notable Fights: Luis Palomino (2W), Nick Newell (W), Michael Johnson (W).

Alvarez Stat: 26 of his fights have finished in a stoppage.

Gaethje Stat: He is unbeaten in 18 fights with 15 wins inside the distance.

The Match-up

In a night of brilliant fights (on paper anyway) this is the best. Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje are two of the most exciting, balls-out maniacs we’ve ever seen lace up a pair of gloves and pitting them against each other should lead to absolute bedlam.

The Fight

I must note here that Alvarez can sometimes decide to wrestle his way through fights but against a talent wrestler like Gaethje, I think that’ll be tough here. So, we should have a war. In his next few fights, Justin Gaethje will catch a shot and get finished – he’s just too open not to – but I’m not sure it’ll be here. Eddie can hit hard and get a finish but he has also taken a lot of damage recently. If this turns into a war, and I think everyone really hopes it does, I think you can’t bet against the god of MMA war that is Justin Gaethje.

Additional Picks
Women’s Strawweight – Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson: Torres
Lightweight – Charles Oliveira vs. Paul Felder: Felder
Welterweight – Alex Oliveira vs. Yancy Medeiros: Oliveira
Lightweight – David Teymur vs. Drakkar Klose: Teymur
Women’s Strawweight – Felice Herrig vs. Cortney Casey: Herrig
Welterweight – Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi: Alhassan
Light Heavyweight – Jeremy Kimball vs. Dominick Reyes: Reyes
Heavyweight – Justin Willis vs. Allen Crowder: Willis
Women’s Strawweight – Amanda Cooper vs. Angela Magaña: Cooper
Bet Of The Week

Torres, Ngannou, Gaethje and Herrig to win at 9/2.

Start Times

Early Prelims – 11.15pm on Fight Pass

Prelims -1am on BT Sport 2 and Fight Pass

Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2

Artwork by John Sheehan

Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more.

Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma