The Complete Guide to UFC 218: Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo 2
UFC 218 is a fight fan's fight card.
There's no dazzling name atop the marquee. There's no golden bath of Las Vegas light. It's all traded in for the gray chill of Detroit in December. Only one measly championship is up for grabs.
For those undeterred by such considerations, Saturday's card is a treasure trove of warrior poetry.
In the main event, the great Max Holloway puts up his featherweight title against Jose Aldo, who held the selfsame title in June all the way up until Holloway knocked him out. Just a bit of intrigue in this one, then.
The co-main event is downright terrifying. Alistair Overeem is the canniest striking technician on the heavyweight roster. Francis Ngannou might be the hardest hitter in the world. Someone's chewing canvas here, and whoever doesn't will likely wind up with a title shot on his hands.
And we haven't even mentioned Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje yet.
The list goes on. Get up to speed here with information and predictions for all 13 contests, from the Fight Pass prelims to the pay-per-view finale. This is your complete guide to UFC 218.
Fight Pass Prelims
Amanda Cooper (2-3) vs. Angela Magana (11-8)
Why is Magana on this card? She trolled her way through The Ultimate Fighter and lost both her UFC bouts, bringing her losing streak to four. (She hasn't competed in more than two years, either.)
In any case, her streak will hit five because she is not an effective fighter at this level. Cooper's no world-beater, but she has solid wrestling and standup.
Cooper, unanimous decision
Justin Willis (5-1) vs. Allen Crowder (9-2)
Two wrestle-boxers tangle to see whose wrestle-boxing reigns supreme.
You may (or may not) remember Willis as the beer-truck driver who decisioned James Mulheron back in July. His look makes him fun to root for, but underneath is a fairly serious athlete training at American Kickboxing Academy.
Crowder is a wrestler first, but despite his three knockouts as a pro, he does not appear to have formidable striking power. Crowder could wear Willis down, but let's hope this one doesn't go the distance.
Willis, TKO, Rd. 2
Jeremy Kimball (15-6) vs. Dominick Reyes (7-0)
This fight is set up on a tee for another Reyes highlight. Kimball is an undistinguished 1-1 as a UFC fighter, with one important distinguishing factor: He's either banging his way in or banging his way out.
That mindset is all Reyes needs to uncork another show-stopping knockout. Five of the 27-year-old's seven pro wins came by strikes, including his UFC debut—a 29-second dispatching of Joachim Christensen. There's no reason to expect a buck of that trend on Saturday.
Reyes, TKO, Rd. 1
Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-1) vs. Sabah Homasi (11-6)
The Fight Pass main event is similar to the one scheduled before it. Like Reyes, Alhassan is a knockout artist with another opportunity to make a strong impression.
It's not quite the squash match of Reyes-Kimball, but the dynamics are familiar. Alhassan is not nearly as technical as Reyes and is more of a slugger than anything else. Excitement is excitement, though, and the hittable Homasi will help deliver it for all the streamers out there.
Alhassan, KO, Rd. 2
Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Felice Herrig (13-6) vs. Cortney Casey (7-4)
Herrig has three straight wins thanks to her gritty approach, which blends boxing and wrestling.
Casey is on another level as far as her opposition goes. "Cast Iron" is bigger and a harder hitter, but so was Justine Kish, and Herrig won that one. Casey also may be more well-rounded than Herrig. But what Herrig does, she does well.
She'll outwork and outpace Casey for a workwomanlike decision.
Herrig, unanimous decision
David Teymur (6-1) vs. Drakkar Klose (8-0-1)
The 29-year-old Klose is an electric UFC newcomer, most recently upending Marc Diakiese in just his second fight in the UFC.
Teymur is right there with him; the 28-year-old bested Lando Vannata in March, also in his second UFC contest.
This is a sort of loser-leaves-town match with a prospect spin. The winner goes red hot while the loser trudges out into the Detroit cold.
Teymur was an international-level muay thai competitor before entering MMA, so we know what he's trying to do. The Swede is vicious but calculated, while the American Klose is more aggressive and multilayered.
Klose has a wrestling game that Teymur doesn't, but Teymur has 80 percent takedown defense per FightMetric, not to mention more experience.
Teymur, unanimous decision
Alex Oliveira (17-4-1) vs. Yancy Medeiros (14-4)
Medeiros is one of the more underrated knockout artists in the welterweight division. Oliveira feels about in line with Erick Silva, who the Hawaiian finished in June. Medeiros comes forward and tries to bang, but he can grapple a bit when the chance presents itself.
This will be a sort of shapeless, sloppy slugfest. Both men are tough, but Medeiros hits a little harder.
Medeiros, TKO, Rd. 2
Charles Oliveira (22-7) vs. Paul Felder (14-3)
The UFC's newest broadcasting star steps into the cage against a talented Brazilian in Oliveira.
As a fighter, Felder is known for spamming the spinning strikes. He wants to put on a show and makes no apologies for that. Felder's repertoire is a crowd-pleasing arsenal built on tae kwon do—unusual for a fighter at this level of MMA.
His nine pro knockout wins tell you all you need to know about how well it works for him. (Training at Jackson-Wink MMA Academy doesn't hurt much, either.)
Oliveira, on paper, may want to get this to the ground. He has better wrestling and grappling than Felder and may be in better physical shape for a grind given that Felder took this on a month's notice after Al Iaquinta fell injured.
The inconsistent Oliveira can't be considered a strong favorite over anyone, really. He has a penchant for the kind of aggression that bleeds into recklessness. He'll stand with Felder for a while but will get a takedown after eating an unpleasant backfist or two, then he'll right the ship and finish the job.
Oliveira, submission, Rd. 2
Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson
Tecia Torres (9-1) vs. Michelle Waterson (14-5)
Two charismatic strawweights fight for the right to remain prominent on the crowded UFC strawweight landscape.
There's a little more urgency for Waterson, whose UFC record stands at 2-1. She's well-rounded, but her base is karate and muay thai in open space. Her kicks are especially dangerous. It's a fun style to watch, but don't mistake her for a hothouse flower.
Waterson can get inside and throw knees and elbows from the clinch and score throws or trips to boot. The 31-year-old's submission game is dangerous. Scrambling and gambling are the watchwords, and while that carries its own hazards—see her June chokeout loss to now-champion Rose Namajunas—it works more often than not, to the tune of 10 submission victories.
Torres knows not what you mean by "ground fighting." She has one approach and one speed: aggressive standup fighting, quickly delivered.
The Tiny Tornado—she's 5'1" compared with Waterson's 5'3" or Namajunas' 5'5"—sweeps in below an opponent's eyeline and punishes them with thudding crosses and uppercuts. She's not a natural finisher but can still damage and overwhelm with volume.
Torres is capable on the ground but has a hard time getting takedowns on bigger opponents and takes more of an opportunistic posture in this regard (see her recent chokeout of Juliana Lima, her only submission win as a pro).
Torres -230, Waterson +190
It's true that Waterson just lost to Namajunas, while Torres has split two contests with the champ. But the Namajunas Torres defeated back in 2013 was green like a fresh-picked river reed. I wouldn't put too much stock in that.
Torres can get in on Waterson and blow up Waterson's preferred range, but Waterson can just as easily dictate range back to Torres. It's a battle of wills, and it should go to the larger, more experienced competitor. Sound the upset alarms.
Waterson, unanimous decision
Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje
Eddie Alvarez (28-5) vs. Justin Gaethje (18-0)
Giddy. I'm giddy. Can you believe this fight is actually happening? We are one uneventful weight cut away from two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC doing battle after months of buildup on cable television.
I am being told I need to provide more analysis. Very well. Gaethje puts the MMA world on notice every time he competes. He has honed the take-two-to-give-one brawl down to a science perhaps not witnessed since Pride-era Wanderlei Silva. It's violent, but there's method in the madness.
If the audible pound of his punches isn't to your liking, try his debilitating leg kicks on for size. Every chin cracks some day; that day hasn't arrived yet for Gaethje. He expertly stalks opponents back against the cage and victimizes them. His college wrestling background is a tool, but he mainly uses it defensively.
Alvarez is a boxer with quick feet. He likes to trade, too, but he's looking for angles and lateral movement more than Gaethje. Alvarez has deceptive wrestling skills, but it will probably only serve to neutralize those of Gaethje.
The 33-year-old can—at least theoretically—weather exchanges with Gaethje, even if not forever. He'll need to stay on his bike, squirt out the sides when Gaethje tries to cut him off and outscore the 29-year-old over time, all while keeping brawls to an absolute minimum.
Gaethje -175, Alvarez +155
You can see why this will be so great between the two The Ultimate Fighter coaches. It's a bull-matador matchup, if the bull was also fleet of foot and the matador also tough as nails.
Gaethje has yet to lose and is now beating increasingly better competition. He'll take away Alvarez's movement with leg kicks and finish Alvarez for the biggest win of his career. We have a new contender in the UFC lightweight division.
Gaethje, TKO, Rd. 2
Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
Henry Cejudo (11-2) vs. Sergio Pettis (16-2)
These two were initially slated to tangle at UFC 211 in the spring. Cejudo pulled out with an injury, and UFC brass postponed it to Saturday.
The Cejudo hype train slowed a bit after the Olympic gold medalist dropped his second straight last December in a close and foul-marred affair with Joseph Benavidez.
After pulverizing Wilson Reis in September, people seemed to remember that Benavidez is pretty good—as is the other man to beat Cejudo, a person named Demetrious Johnson.
Cejudo's wrestling is clearly world class, even if the rest of his game only evolves in fits and starts. He has underrated power in his fists and now fires kicks as a complement. He sometimes appears to get caught thinking in there, but if that's something he still does, he does it while throwing blows.
Pettis is a meat-and-potatoes kind of fighter, a blue-collar foil to older brother Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. Cejudo seems to enjoy guaging his standup evolution against his opponent—given that it's basically impossible to take him down or otherwise do anything to him on the ground, he has that luxury—but he may not want to do too much of that against Pettis.
Pettis works from long range, mainly with punch combinations. The jab is a weapon. A striking match between these two could be entertaining and might swing momentum to Pettis.
Cejudo -265, Pettis +225
It's strange that so many high-level wrestlers show such a patent unwillingness to wrestle. Cejudo fits that mold, but he's also not stupid. Pettis will make the kitchen a little hot, and when that happens, Cejudo will fall back to his specialty.
It may not get the crowd roaring, but it will move him that much further down the road.
Cejudo, unanimous decision
Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou (10-1) vs. Alistair Overeem (43-15)
What you want to do here is, you want to batten down the hatches. With apologies to John Lineker, there are no more dangerous MMA strikers on planet Earth than these two men—although their respective strategies are markedly different and in both cases not what they may initially seem.
Ngannou is approaching Beatles status in MMA circles. If he beats Overeem, he'll be all the way there. The Cameroonian-Frenchman is a massive slab of violence. When he punches something, it stays punched. Of his five UFC contests, four ended in knockout, with the other being a nauseating power kimura on poor Anthony Hamilton.
But it's more than just his vaunted power. Ngannou has blinding hand speed for a man his size and a head for fighting. He moves well and makes good decisions in the heat of the moment, always trusting his physical gifts but never relying on them.
Overeem has become more conservative in his old age, preferring to let the other man call the tune while he lays back and awaits his moment.
A few years ago, when he had lost three of four, people wondered whether The Reem was washed up. Now, at age 37, he's won six of seven, including two straight and four by knockout. He's doing that with his familiar combination of power and precision—his 61 percent striking accuracy is miles ahead of Ngannou's 47 percent, per FightMetric.
Ngannou -260, Overeem +220
It's tempting to pull the lever for the wily veteran in Overeem. He has a deeper bag of tricks and a mountain of combat experience. Ngannou's current run, though, is hard to deny. As impressive as he's been, Overeem's best days may nevertheless be behind him. Ngannou's still lie ahead.
Ngannou, TKO, Rd. 2
Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo
Featherweight (for the UFC featherweight championship)
Max Holloway (18-3) vs. Jose Aldo (26-3)
You can't base every MMA opinion on what already happened. But since Holloway-Aldo 1 happened six months ago, one might argue it's still a tad relevant.
In Aldo's native Brazil, Holloway started slow but finished strong, taking the fight to the champion and picking Aldo apart with kickboxing. The thorough and visually emphatic nature of the beating led matchmakers toward Frankie Edgar as Holloway's first challenger. But Edgar got hurt, so here we are.
Will it go the way of the first? There's a case to be made. Holloway's stock in trade will always be that aggressive muay thai. He throws in bunches, lashing wild combinations together in real time that confound opponents and delight the home viewer. The new champ never seems to get tired, either. If Holloway, standing poised behind the curtain, learned he needed to go 10 rounds instead of five, you get the feeling his guts would stay static.
Holloway is not a perfect fighter. He's far scarier on the feet than on the ground, but it takes some pretty good wrestling to get him there. He has a rock-solid career takedown defense rate of 83 percent, according to FightMetric.
The last person to land one on him was Clay Collard, back in 2014. That was the same year Aldo scored his own last takedown. As great as his grappling is, it's unlikely Aldo will push things groundward and keep them there.
Is Aldo a sitting duck on the feet? Don't be silly. The questions around his chin are there, and understandably so, but his elite defense mitigates that danger. He's one of those thinking-computer types, a slow starter who gradually takes in the data he needs to dismantle your strategy.
Although the power in his hands and feet (don't forget about his leg kicks) is real, as is his creativity, it's the fine-grain aspects of the game—precision, footwork, angles, head movement—that really make Aldo great.
His output is quite low, with only 3.32 strikes landed per minute compared with Holloway's 5.79, per FightMetric, but he makes those shots count even as the other man grows frustrated with his own inabillity to do same.
Holloway -310, Aldo +255
That's a pretty stark betting line, and one that begs for an Aldo flier. Let's go ahead and take it. Aldo gets all the praise for his smarts, but Holloway showed plenty of his own in their first match.
Holloway will want another finish. Aldo will do everything he can to prevent that, and that's a lot of things. If Aldo loses this, he tumbles precipitously down the rankings, and he knows that.
Losses to Conor McGregor and then Holloway took some shine off his reputation as greatest featherweight of all time, but he hasn't lost the crown entirely just yet. He'll be harder than ever to hit, land enough heavy shots of his own—including those signature leg kicks—again disprove criticism of his gas tank, regain his title and set up an electric rubber match.
Aldo, unanimous decision