With Win at UFC 218, Max Holloway Proves It's His Era in Featherweight Division

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterDecember 3, 2017

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway celebrates after defeating Jose Aldo of Brazil in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 218 event inside Little Caesars Arena on December 02, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

In terms of pure skill and technical wizardry, Friday night's fight between Nicco Montano and Roxanne Modafferi was possibly the worst title bout in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But at least the card itself improved on the previous weekend's atrocious Shanghai offering; that was an event so terrible it was nearly unanimously declared one of the worst, and most insufferable, in promotional history.

Thankfully, Saturday's UFC 218 in Detroit was the opposite.

On both counts.

And then some.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  (L-R) Francis Ngannou of Cameroon punches Alistair Overeem of The Netherlands in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 218 event inside Little Caesars Arena on December 02, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Mere hours after Yancy Medeiros defeated Alex Oliveira in one of the greatest fights we've ever seen, Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje topped it by upping the violence quota in a third-round TKO victory for Alvarez. Oh, and Francis Ngannou sent Alistair Overeem rocketing from this mortal coil with one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history.

And then Jose Aldo and Max Holloway capped off a scintillating evening of violence with a fight that was both predictable and the official changing of the featherweight guard.

Thanks to a third-round TKO, Holloway retained his 145-pound title in much the same way he wrested control from Aldo in the first place: by luring him into a sprinting, pace-laden brawl that the former pound-for-pound great could not maintain. It's not that Aldo is not a great fighter. The former champion might still be one of the best featherweights on the planet and capable of beating the best the division has to offer on any night.

It's just that Holloway is the future and the present.

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  (L-R) Max Holloway punches Jose Aldo of Brazil in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 218 event inside Little Caesars Arena on December 02, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa L
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Aldo couldn't keep up. His trademark leg kicks were there, wobbling Holloway upon landing. His staunch defense and his excellent head movement were there. But his gas tank wasn't. He faded quickly upon the beginning of the third round. Holloway, a man built for such moments, swarmed. One gets the feeling while watching Holloway do his brand of work that the Hawaiian doesn't start kicking things into a higher gear until the third round begins; Aldo had nothing left in his reserve tank. Holloway overwhelmed him.

UFC commentator Joe Rogan was quick in his attempt to anoint Holloway as the greatest featherweight in the history of the sport. Such a notion is absurd. Aldo reigned as the divisional champion for years across the changing landscapes of two separate mixed martial arts promotions.

Aldo won the WEC featherweight championship in 2009 and defended it even as it became the UFC featherweight championship. Aldo essentially ended the contending careers of multiple fighters, including Mike Brown and Urijah Faber. Counting both WEC and UFC, he defended that championship nine times.

7DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Max Holloway celebrates his victory over Jose Aldo of Brazil during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena on December 2, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

To his credit, Holloway instantly shut down Rogan's fawning by noting he has a long way to go before he can assume the mantle of the best ever.

"At the end of the day, it is what it is! All due respect to Aldo. He is a hell of a technician, but this is the blessed era," Holloway told Rogan after the fight. "This is something new. He kicks very hard, but I think we passed the test."

These are all true statements.

What is also true is this: Holloway has ended Aldo's time on top of the featherweight division, and a changing of the guard has indeed taken place.

Here is another true statement: It is hard to look at the featherweight landscape and imagine anyone with the style and vigor to put an end to Holloway's reign. Frankie Edgar was supposed to be in Detroit on Saturday, standing there where Aldo stood, but he was forced to pull out due to a facial injury. I can't say I'd have given the Jersey native a better chance than Aldo had. Ricardo Lamas? Cub Swanson? Brian Ortega? None of them would've given me much confidence in an upset.

"All of these guys are cupcakes, and I love cupcakes," Holloway said in the post-fight interview. "I look forward to the new flavor, but I'm going to eat them all."

Dessert references aside, Holloway's sublime, darting, dashing style makes it all the more sad that we'll never see the one fight that truly offers any kind of intrigue: a bout against former champion Conor McGregor. The Irishman already owns a win over Holloway, but it was so long ago and against such a different Holloway that we'd go into the fight labeling it a toss-up.

But McGregor will never return to featherweight, if he returns to the UFC at all. Which means Holloway will likely line up next against Edgar, and then perhaps Swanson (if he can come to terms on a new contract with the UFC).

And all of that means Holloway will likely keep that big gold belt sitting around his waist for a long time.