UFC 231 Live: Saturday’sUFC 231 pay-per-view in Toronto will feature a pair of title fights Stream that have been a long time coming. Featherweight champion Max Holloway will finally meet undefeated Brian Ortega in a championship bout that was supposed to take place this summer but was canceled over concerns around Holloway’s health.
And in the co-main, former bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko will face former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczykfor the vacant flyweight title — in one of the absolute best matchups in the history of women’s MMA.
Here is everything you need to know ahead of UFC 231 at Scotiabank Arena.
Max Holloway (19-3) vs. Brian Ortega (14-0), Featherweight Championship
Odds: Ortega -120; Holloway -110
In one of the video trailers the UFC released for this event, it’s suggested that Saturday will mark Holloway’s Blessed Era vs. the New Era, in Brian Ortega.
And if Holloway is being honest, he has a bit of a problem with that. Yes, he represents the Blessed Era. Always. But since when is he not the New Era, too?
“That whole thing is funny to me, because I’m still younger than him,” said Holloway, who turned 27 earlier this week. “We just turned the same age. People keep forgetting I’m the younger guy. Everybody is saying he’s the new breed — you all forgot I was 20 when I got into the UFC. I was a newborn baby.”
Of course, you can’t blame anyone for overlooking Holloway’s youth. His resume doesn’t read like your average 27-year-old.
Holloway owns the longest active win streak in the UFC, with 12 straight. He is coming off back-to-back knockouts against the great Jose Aldo in 2017, which felt like a passing of the torch in some ways. And unfortunately, he’s also endured a very long year, in which he was forced to pull out of two title fights due to health concerns.
Those concerns carried into this fight week — and you could see it in Holloway’s reaction to making championship weight on Friday. He put a finger to his mouth, in a ‘quiet’ gesture. After everything he’s been through this year, that moment had to have felt similar to victory.
For Holloway, this week is about reminding everyone what made him a top pound-for-pound talent, and the real version of this New Era. If he is, in fact, the same guy who finished off 2017 with a dominant title defense, it shouldn’t take him long to do that.
“I already have this belt. My next goal is pound-for-pound,” Holloway said. “I want to move up the rankings and be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. After this fight, we’ll work with the UFC to figure out what matchup they think will help me achieve that.”
Look, you don’t want to keep bringing up the intangibles with Holloway. We all want to move past them — but it’s hard not to in this particular fight.
Everything Holloway went through this year was real. He was pulled from a 155-pound title fight in New York in April due to a dangerous weight cut. And being forced to withdraw from UFC 226 in July with concussion-like symptoms was bizarre, concerning — and only five months ago.
Holloway has endured mental and physical stress. Is jumping back into a championship camp, making weight and fighting an undefeated opponent like Ortega a light task after all that? I can’t imagine it is.
But if he is firing on all cylinders, there’s a lot of reasons to like Holloway here. The champ’s offensive capabilities on the feet are world class. He uses his length beautifully, slightly stepping out of his opponents’ range, before putting them on the end of his jab. He’s unpredictable and accurate. He landed a spinning back kick to Aldo’s liver in a tight space of about 18 inches. He’s great at targeting the body and throwing in combinations.
It’s no secret that Ortega has snatched victory from defeat throughout his career. He is not known for dominating bell-to-bell. His style is more classical boxing, and he can be a little flat-footed. That seems to lend itself to powerful counter punches, but it also makes him less mobile and potentially susceptible to leg kicks.
Both are incredibly mentally strong, and have proven that multiple times. Ortega’s jiu-jitsu is always an X factor, but his career takedown percentage is well below average and Holloway’s ability to control range makes him difficult to drag down.
Ortega is an imperfect fighter — he’s lost more than his fair share of rounds inside the Octagon. But no one has ever been able to close the deal on him, and it’s reached a point where that can’t just be chalked up to luck.