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UFC 218: Breaking Down the Main Event Between Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway

UFC 218 features a rematch between reigning Featherweight champion Max Holloway and the former 2-time titleholder Jose Aldo Jr. as the main event of the card.

The fight was supposed to be Holloway defending his title for the first time against Frankie Edgar after an emphatic 3rd Round finish of the champion Aldo to win the title. However, fate intervened to offer Aldo a chance for redemption after Edgar pulled out of the fight due to injury.

Aldo vs. Holloway 2 is bound to be a show stealer

Holloway made his UFC debut at age 20 against Dustin Poirier on short notice and has since then faced only the best featherweights in the UFC in his amazing run to the title. His only losses in the UFC are to Dustin Poirier, Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor who were the top contenders in the division. The McGregor fight was his last loss and he has since achieved an unprecedented 11 fight win streak in a stacked featherweight division.

Breaking down Holloway’s game:

Max Holloway specializes in overwhelming his opponents with continuous strikes and constant activity to tire them out and finish them in the later rounds of the fight.

The McGregor fight showed his tremendous heart and chin despite being technically outclassed. He is ranked #6 in the list of fighters who have landed the most significant strikes in the UFC with 1163 strikes to his credit.

The Hawaiian native also uses body punches and kicks judiciously to tire his opponents and set up head strikes with the strikes to the body. His finish of Anthony Pettis at UFC 206 to win the Interim Featherweight title came in large part due to his body kick which paralyzed Pettis leading to the finish.

Max Holloway’s breakout performance was his finish of perennial contender Cub Swanson. It was this fight in which he combined his stance switching, footwork and body striking to absolutely dominate Cub Swanson. The 3rd round ended with a nasty guillotine choke from the mount by Max Holloway which forced Cub to tap.

 Following that fight, wins over Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas (which included the infamous last 10 seconds stand and bang) earned him his interim title shot over Pettis which ended in a Technical Knockout (TKO) and soon after at UFC 212, he finished Aldo by strikes making him the UFC Featherweight Champion.

Breaking down Jose Aldo’s game:

Jose Aldo is widely regarded as the greatest featherweight of all time and with good reason. Jose Aldo dominated the WEC (before its merger with UFC) and UFC featherweight division with an iron fist for 6 years before being dethroned by Conor McGregor at UFC 194. The Brazilian has faced a murderous row of fighters in his career and defeated every single one of them until the brash Irishman knocked him out in the 1st round at UFC 194. After his loss, he managed to win the Interim championship by displaying a masterful performance against Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 and was later awarded the Featherweight Championship when UFC decided to strip Conor of his belt.

Aldo is one of the most vicious strikers the UFC has ever seen. He primarily focuses on countering his opponent’s attack with his dangerous kicks, knees and sharp boxing combinations. His takedown defence is the stuff of legends and he has been a world champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Brown belt level defeating the famed competitor Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles.

Aldo typically does not struggle with grappling based fighters due to his exceptional takedown defence. His fights with Frankie Edgar, Urijah Faber, Manvel Gamburyan, Ricardo Lamas and even Chad Mendes in the first fight where Chad applied a wrestling-based strategy, have seen him dominate grapplers effortlessly.

The fights in which we have seen Aldo face adversity have been against strikers and pressure based fighters who make Aldo work at a harder pace than he is accustomed to. Aldo has a tendency to fade in the later round, which could be seen in his fights against Mark Hominick, Frankie Edgar (first fight), Chad Mendes (second fight) and Max Holloway. Aldo has an underrated wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game which we don’t usually see in his fights due to his preference to keep the fight standing using his Muay Thai.

 In the fight against Mark Hominick, Aldo used his wrestling in the later rounds to secure the fight and also had to grapple in his fight against ‘The Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung after Aldo broke his foot in the first round.

The match-up

In their last fight at UFC 212, Holloway pressured Aldo from the opening bell forcing Aldo to counter Holloway. Aldo managed to stun Holloway in the first and the second round, winning both rounds on all the judges’ scorecards. It was clear that Aldo was fading by the end of the second round even though Aldo connected on Holloway. In the third round, Aldo had visibly slowed and Holloway hit him with his trademark 1-2 combination twice to knock him down and finish him by ground and pound.

Aldo apart from slowing down due to his cardio issues, could not get his trademark leg kicks going due to Max countering them by managing the distance efficiently. Max did not let Aldo rest even after Aldo connected with a hard uppercut and a knee which resulted in Aldo gassing out in the third round.

Whenever there is a rematch between two fighters, the onus is always on the loser to improve upon the previous fight. Many fans would like to see Aldo use his leg kicks more efficiently and use his underrated grappling to stifle the attack and the continuous pressure of Max Holloway.

This would not be easy against Holloway, who has a takedown defense rate of 83% and a nasty guillotine choke with which he has submitted Andre Fili and Cub Swanson. Aldo also has to manage his stamina in this fight for all 5 rounds and not let Holloway get into in his rhythm, which happened in the first fight. As for Holloway, there would not be much to change in the rematch as his game plan worked very well in the first fight. He focused on applying pressure on Aldo from the very first round and not let him dictate the pace of the fight.

One factor to be considered is that there were rumours of Aldo having a leg injury being the reason for him not throwing the leg kicks and Max should expect the second fight to go differently in that aspect. The cardio of Aldo would be a major factor due to this being a short notice fight and Max can take advantage of that with his brutal body shots which would zap the cardio and energy of Aldo.

Whichever way the fight goes, it is sure to be a treat for the more technical fight fans as well as the fans of pure violence. Holloway vs. Aldo promises to be a war of technical striking, game plan and attrition which makes it a must-watch fight on the card.

You can watch the UFC 218 main card featuring Holloway vs Aldo can be viewed at 8.30 am, Sunday 3rd December, Live and Exclusive on SONY ESPN SD & SONY ESPN HD

The breakdown was made by Amateur Indian MMA fighter Balakrishna Patange who fights out of Zen Fitness Studio in Mumbai. He is a freestyle combat athlete with medals in multiple disciplines of MMA, Jiujitsu, and Kickboxing.  He is a 2 time National Amateur MMA Champion with an amateur record of 5-0 and a BJJ blue belt under Paulo ‘Bananada’ Silva. Currently pursuing a sports management degree, Balakrishna is a combat sports enthusiast interested in the more technical aspects of the brutal art.

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