UFC 231

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.”

Fight Breakdown

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.

Lomachenko vs Pedraza

Lomachenko vs Pedraza Live: For the second straight year, pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko of Ukraine will get the benefit of what should be a large platform in front of a huge audience when he returns to the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York to defend his title. Here goes everything you need to know stream the fight online.

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), who forced Guillermo Rigondeaux to quit last December in their 130-pound title bout, will defend his WBA lightweight title this time around in a unification against WBO champion Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs). The placement and timing of the broadcast is significant (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) because it immediately follows the Heisman Trophy ceremony, giving promoter Top Rank another opportunity to showcase Lomachenko’s wizardry to the masses.

The 30-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist is expected to face a decent challenge against Pedraza, a native of Puerto Rico and former 130-pound titleholder who moved up to outpoint Rey Beltran in August. You wouldn’t necessarily know that, however, looking at the betting odds where Lomachenko stands as an overwhelmingly massive favorite.

Still, Lomachenko enters fresh off of shoulder surgery in his first fight since claiming his lightweight belt in a spectacular May knockout of Jorge Linares when Lomachenko, in his first fight headlining the big arena at MSG, was forced to get up off the canvas to win.

One thing that fight seemed to do for Lomachenko is let him realize that his ceiling in weight after claiming three titles in as many weight classes through just 12 pro fights might be where he stands now at 135 pounds.

“It was the first time I was knocked down as a pro,” Lomachenko said. “After the knockdown, I came back and finished the fight. It was a tough fight, but I showed the heart of a champion.

“I believe I’ll stay at 135 and focus on 135 because when I fought against Linares, I felt like he was bigger than me. In my weight class and closer to my weight class, we don’t have a big superstar. Yes, we have big names at 147, but I can’t move up to 147 now because it’s too much [weight], I think.”

Lomachenko shot down any further talk that he was still interested in a catchweight bout of some sort against secondary welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao, who returns Jan. 19 on PPV against Adrien Broner.

“I’m not disrespecting Pacquiao, but I don’t want to make my name bigger because I beat an old legend,” Lomachenko said. “I have my own road. There are a lot of good fighters to fight who are comparable to me. He’s old. I think his career is done. I don’t want to become a legend in boxing because of him.”

Lomachenko’s ideal opponent at lightweight continues to be Mikey Garcia, who recently gave up his lightweight title in order to secure a challenge two divisions north against IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. to headline a March 16 pay-per-view card. Yet Pedraza still brings danger as a crafty counter puncher who goes by the nickname “Sniper.”

“His style is not very interesting and not comfortable for all boxers because he’s always on defense and waiting for a mistake,” Lomachenkon said. “If you’ve seen my fights, it will be similar to the [Miguel] Marriaga fight. They have the same style.”

Marriaga was dropped twice by Lomachenko in 2017 before his corner ended the fight after seven rounds in a one-sided affair. Pedraza’s lone loss also came by knockout in 2017 against current junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis.

Still, Pedraza believes he will be able to show Lomachenko something different.

“Technically speaking, he has never faced a fighter like me,” Pedraza said. “I had a great training camp for this fight. Lomachenko is a great fighter, a complete fighter, and I know that I will have to be at my best. I am prepared to put on a good fight.”

Prediction

Pedraza is a very good fighter but the fact that Linares showed that you can be a great fighter and still get stopped by Lomachenko despite knocking him down doesn’t bode well for his chances. Not only will Pedraza need to be sharp in his counter shots early to dissuade Lomachenko from showing his full arsenal, at some point he will have to seriously hurt him in order to win.

Successfully doing so is easier said than done, of course, because of Lomachenko’s brilliant footwork and the awkward angles with which he throws punches from. Unless Pedraza rolls the dice by trying to rough Lomachenko up in hopes of luring him into a brawl, this could be a long night.

Holloway vs Ortega

Holloway vs Ortega Live Stream: Max Holloway’s bout with Brian Ortega atUFC 231 isn’t a typical title fight – it’s the best showdown mixed martial artscan provide right now. UFC 231 sees the world’s top mixed martial artspromotion head back to Toronto for the first time in two years with a familiarface at the top of the card. The UFC’s last trip to the city was the UFC 206event during which Max Holloway first became a UFC champion. On Saturday,Holloway returns to the scene to defend his gold.

That night at Scotiabank Arena (at the time known as Air Canada Centre) the Hawaiian broke Anthony Pettis en route to a third-round TKO victory and interim title. Six months later he unified the 145-pound belts by stopping former champ Jose Aldo with a third-round TKO at UFC 212 then did it again at UFC 218 in his first title defence—same opponent, same round, same method of victory.

In his second defence he faces unbeaten Brian Ortega, a fighter with Gracie family ties and perhaps the most dangerous submission game the UFC’s featherweight division has ever seen.

It’s the most intriguing featherweight contest since Conor McGregor met Jose Aldo in their MMA landscape-altering matchup back at UFC 194 three years ago. The winner of UFC 231’s main event will be the undisputed best featherweight in MMA like McGregor was then and, since both have expressed a desire to eventually move up to the lightweight division just like Ireland’s favourite pugilist, they could also become the sport’s next two-weight star.

Holloway will knock you out, but he won’t do it with one clean shot. Instead, he learns your rhythm, your timing, your tells, then starts picking you apart and eventually overwhelms you with volume. His distance management is among the best in the sport and he possesses strong counterstriking techniques that pair nicely with his affinity for pushing the pace. It’s a tough style for any opponent to thwart.

As Dan Hardy pointed out in his Inside the Octagon preview of UFC 231, in his past three fights Holloway has gotten both progressively busier and more accurate in each round until he gets the finish. Holloway’s 1,213 significant strikes landed are the most in UFC featherweight history and his 5.67 landed strikes per minute is fifth-best in UFC history regardless of weight class.

If the fight goes into the championship rounds, the pace Holloway sets will test Ortega’s gas tank but the heavy-volume style itself is something Ortega has faced and overcome before.

Ortega has been outstruck in nearly all of his UFC bouts yet he has never tasted defeat. Both Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson are high-pace, punch-heavy fighters and the most similar comparisons to Holloway among Ortega’s previous opponents. Both were ahead on the scorecards in their fights with Ortega before each was caught in a guillotine choke.

With Ortega, it only takes a split-second lapse in judgement or one technical slip-up and the next thing you know you’re tapping or napping. No submission is too difficult to pull off for Ortega, but the Californian favours chokes of all varieties. His nickname “T-City” stands for triangle city with the triangle choke being his specialty.

What makes Ortega a potentially great fighter, though, is that in addition to his grappling acumen he has fight-changing power that Holloway doesn’t.

In his most recent appearance he became the first and only fighter to earn a stoppage win over Frankie Edgar when he landed an uppercut that literally lifted the future Hall of Famer’s body off the canvas and sent his consciousness into the ether.

Joanna vs Shevchenko

Joanna vs Shevchenko Live: As featherweight champion Max Holloway and challenger Brian Ortega make their walks to the cage before the UFC 231 main event stream, those in attendance at a sold-out Scotiabank Arena will still be digesting what should turn out to be a thrilling co-main event between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

More than six years ago at UFC 152, in the same venue as Saturday’s pay-per-view card in Toronto, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Joseph Benevidez competed for the inaugural UFC flyweight title in a bout that essentially introduced mainstream MMA fans to the 125-pound weight class. Johnson emerged victorious after a five-round split decision and used it to springboard his career, eventually becoming an all-time pound-for-pound great thanks to his UFC record 11 consecutive title defences. Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk now have a similar opportunity as the UFC reintroduces the women’s flyweight title.

Jedrzejczyk had already built a solid legacy as a strawweight great but following two consecutive losses to current champ Rose Namajunas — the only two defeats of her MMA career — she needed to hit the reset button. She bounced back with an impressive unanimous decision win over Tecia Torres in July but the weight cut down to 115 pounds had started taking its toll on the Polish star.

So when the opportunity was presented to Jedrzejczyk to become a champion again, while not having to significantly decrease her caloric intake and deplete her body, she leaped at it.

She can make history by becoming the first two-weight women’s champ in UFC history. To do that she must get by Shevchenko, something she failed to do on three separate occasions in the past.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at the UFC 231 co-main event.

Jedrzejczyk took women’s MMA by storm when she debuted in the UFC in 2014, overwhelming her foes with a blitzkrieg of fists, shins, elbows, knees, footwork, sprawls and a Chuck-Liddell-in-his-prime killer instinct.

Despite all her accomplishments, she’s a sizeable underdog against Shevchenko.

Even though she has tasted defeat in her past, Shevchenko’s persona is similar in many respects to that of stoic lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. They both hail from Russia — Shevchenko from Kyrgystan, Nurmagomedov Dagestan — but have each accrued a strong North American following. They can give you a smirk and say something amusing in their distinct broken English accents. They can also flash you a steely gaze that says, ‘You are nothing more than meat and bone to me,’ a look their previous opponents are familiar with.

Anything can happen in MMA and fighters often cloak their strategy heading into a bout. However, it seems a safe bet that the bulk of this fight will take place on the feet.

You won’t hear many fans call Shevchenko a boring fighter, but she is often tentative early in fights and rarely takes unnecessary risks. She’s an effective counterstriker and has shown a willingness to wait until her opponent presents an opening. One of her most impressive victories to date is her five-round unanimous decision win over former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm, an elite counterstriker in her own right.

Shevchenko was more patient, more accurate and there was more sting on her shots that night against Holm and it’s a scenario that could play out similarly on Saturday. Jedrzejczyk tends to be aggressive and move forward, which could play to Shevchenko’s favour.

Her patience cost her a couple rounds in her two bouts with bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the second of which was a controversial split decision with the title on the line, but we didn’t see the slightest hint of timidity from Shevchenko in her most recent tilt when she painted the canvas crimson with Priscila Cachoeira’s blood and exploited a significant advantage on the ground.

Jedrzejczyk showed in her knockout loss to Namajunas that she is susceptible to lead left hooks. She’ll have to be aware of lead rights this time with Shevchenko being a traditional southpaw whose arsenal is equipped with a mean lead hook and check hook. Jedrzejczyk has an affinity for throwing front kicks up the middle and she should employ that strategy Saturday. Right down the pipe is where Shevchenko can be vulnerable, as is frequently the case when two opposite-stance fighters throw down.

Jedrzejczyk moves well on her feet and should have a speed advantage, which will aid in her attempt to avoid the power shots of Shevchenko. She may also carry a bit more power into the cage with her this time.

Jedrzejczyk’s work rate is roughly twice that of Shevchenko on the feet. The former strawweight lands 6.44 strikes per minute compared to the former bantamweight’s 3.31 strikes landed per minute.

In the grappling department, Shevchenko has a clear edge despite Jedrzejczyk being fully capable on the ground. Shevchenko boasts decent takedowns and trips from various headlock positions, but only look for her to go in that direction if she’s losing the standup exchanges. Shevchenko has submitted two of her past three opponents so Jedrzejczyk must be wary.

Cardio won’t be an issue for either woman. Neither will a lack of confidence.

Shevchenko, on the other hand, thinks their history will play a role in this fight. She’s also hoping to beat the best possible version of Jedrzejczyk.

MLS Cup final 2018

MLS Cup final Live: MLS Cup 2018 is just a day away, On Saturday, Atlanta United hosts the Portland Timbers in the big final at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s the Eastern and Western Conference champs in a winner-take-all battle in front of another packed house.  Here’s how you can watch the match and what to know,and click here for your guide to MLS Cup 2018:

MLS Cup: Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers

Date: Saturday, Dec. 8

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta

TV channel: FOX and UniMas

Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free) 

Odds: Atlanta -225 / Portland +650 / Draw +335

Storylines

Atlanta: It’s the final ride in Atlanta for coach Tata Martino. He’s leaving the club after the final, with all signs pointing toward him taking the Mexico national team job, so he wants to go out with a bang. He said in his Thursday press conference that the team is healthy, except for Sal Zizzo who is still out with his knee injury from August. Michael Parkhurst was limited in practice earlier in the week but said on Thursday he feels good and is expected to play.

Portland: The Timbers are focused and ready to go. Star midfielder Diego Valeri said on Thursday that the prior experience of winning the title in 2015 on the road in Columbus only helps them prepare more. This time, it’s going to be in front of a much bigger crowd and a better team, and they expect Atlanta to come out quickly and try to score early. The Timbers don’t have any key injuries ahead of this one and are expected to be at full strength.

Atlanta vs. Portland prediction

Atlanta has lost just twice at home all year. And though the Timbers have been road warriors during the entire playoffs, doing it here won’t come easy. Atlanta’s talented attack, led by league MVP Josef Martinez, win the 2018 MLS Cup and send Tata Martino out on a high.