UFC 218 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Aldo vs. Holloway 2 Fight Card
For MMA fans Saturday night, it was hard to know where to look.
UFC 218 lacked mainstream name recognition but still came packed with firepower. Two of the best featherweights in history collided for the second time this year when champion Max Holloway defended his belt against Jose Aldo, who held the belt himself until Holloway knocked him out in June.
If you're the best striker in the UFC heavyweight division, you're pretty much the scariest striker alive. When power-hitter Francis Ngannou and kickboxing technician Alistair Overeem tangled in the evening's co-main event, that title—and most likely a shot at the championship—was on the line.
A couple fights down the pay-per-view card was Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje. Opposing coaches on the recently completed 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter, these are two skilled and violent competitors with pain on their minds. Former UFC lightweight champ Alvarez has been among the sport's elite for years. If Gaethje could beat him, he would cement himself as a bona fide star. Regardless of the outcome, there was virtually zero chance the fight would not be wildly entertaining.
So what happened? Did the card meet expectations? Could it exceed them? As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 218 in Detroit.
Winner: Max Holloway
Someone has given Max Holloway all the cheat codes to Jose Aldo. Judging by the way he owns that great ex-champ, that appears to be what has happened. It was another third-round knockout of Aldo for the champ.
As it did during their first engagement, the action began relatively slowly, with glancing blows and Holloway's taunts for more action being the prominent memories. Aldo probably won the round on most observers' scorecards, thanks in part to a heavy uppercut at the end.
The second saw them open up a bit, with Holloway relying on the jab and Aldo going to his familiar weapon—the leg kick—to inflict damage. The champ began to string together combinations at the end, which likely evened the score.
Also like the first time, the third round Saturday saw the tide begin to turn. Aldo began to slow as Holloway picked it up. Holloway mercilessly peppered Aldo with the jab and then went to the body. Aldo began to bleed from below his eye and was no longer able to return fire on the champ and consistently connect.
Holloway began to hammer Aldo with combinations. As Aldo sagged toward the floor, he went for a last-second takedown. Holloway stood over him and pounded away. Finally, referee Herb Dean (and more on him later) decided to stop the contest.
"At the end of the day, it is what it is," Holloway told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight, referencing the catchphrase that has been a target for humor from MMA fans and pundits. "Let's take him to deep water. Let's drown him. ... All these guys are cupcakes. I look forward to the new flavor. Anyone can get it. I like cupcakes, and I'm gonna eat 'em all, baby."
Frankie Edgar, who was originally supposed to face Holloway in this contest but fell injured, would seem a natural fit as the next challenger. There are plenty of featherweights out there. No matter what's next, it seems that with back-to-back defeats of Aldo, that particular combination is off the table.
It would also make Holloway MMA's featherweight GOAT. He's still young, but with two straight defeats of the former GOAT and a 12-fight win streak featuring victories over the likes of Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas, he has cemented his claim.
Winner: Francis Ngannou
Almost before Alistair Overeem hit the ground, Francis Ngannou was a star.
The Cameroonian-Frenchman, whose harrowing life journey led him to Las Vegas and MMA success, scored a career-defining win with his brutal left-shovel-hook knockout of the Overeem in the co-main event.
He only needed 102 seconds to do it. It earned him a shot at UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Overeem, a monster in the clinch, couldn't get it going against a bigger, stronger man in Ngannou. They traded blows, and then the game ended with a boom. A big boom. You don't often see heads and bodies fly back that way from a single punch. Overeem was stiff and flat as he lay on the canvas, with his consciousness somewhere in the fifth row.
Ngannou, 31, is 11-1 as a pro, including 6-0 in the UFC. He's more than just size and power. He's skills and intelligence. He's a soft-spoken person who seems to naturally connect with those around him. Could the UFC have found its newest star?
This was quite a card for those who like the "F" word in Ultimate Fighting Championship. A case can be made that Eddie Alvarez versus Justin Gaethje was the most emphatic example.
The former UFC lightweight champion delivered Gaethje his first professional defeat, but only after wading through a serious gauntlet of violence. Gaethje attacked early and often with thudding leg kicks, which eventually hobbled Alvarez. Punches from Gaethje also swelled Alvarez's jaw area to the point the former champion had difficulty speaking clearly during his post-fight interview.
Luckily for him, though, Alvarez gave as good as he got—and then some. Alvarez was the quicker fighter, punishing Gaethje's body and firing damaging uppercuts that bloodied his opponent.
It was lather, rinse, repeat for both men for most of the fight. Gaethje's toughness meant he always seemed to have a chance, even though he wasn't the faster man Saturday and couldn't get into a phone booth with Alvarez.
As Alvarez began to look shaky on his leg, he landed a knee to Gaethje's head that sent The Highlight down. Alvarez raised his hands before the action could end, but it was waved off a few seconds later. It was a signature win for Alvarez, who is still trying to shake off last year's epic defeat to Conor McGregor.
At 29, Gaethje is no longer a young prospect. But he's still new to the UFC and has plenty of time to evolve, even if Alvarez made clear just how far his rock-em-sock-em approach can (and cannot) take you at this level.
Both men fought a terrific fight, and it was just one entrant on a card that seemed kissed by the malevolent gods of combat. Nine of the evening's 13 fights ended in stoppages, with eight being knockouts. Several of them were quite dramatic, even when grading on the knockout scale. Quite a night if you like the fights.
Winner: Yancy Medeiros
Don't look now, but Yancy Medeiros is a convincing 3-0 since moving up to welterweight. Three fights, three stoppages. And none more convincing than the one he scored in a back-and-forth, come-from-behind donnybrook with Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira.
It was a burned offering to the gods of combat sports. Within minutes, each man had dropped the other to the floor with punches. There was no defense of any kind in sight beyond the strength of each man's chin, which was enough—for a while. They went back and forth with punches, kicks and knees and it was quickly apparent that vieweres were in for a war.
Oliveira seized control of the fight despite a broken nose that was gushing blood. Neither man backed off or appeared to seriously slow as Cowboy racked up volume. The fight looked as if it could have been stopped once or twice, with Medeiros essentially out on his feet, only for the lights to blink back on and the fight continued. That's what kind of contest this was.
The end began at the close of the second round, when Medeiros—who is Hawaiian, by the way, like a certain Mr. Holloway—reversed a trip takedown, wound up in mount and rained vicious elbows on Oliveira's skull.
In the third, against the fence, Oliveira abruptly covered up as if he had suffered some kind of sudden injury. He fell to the mat under Medeiros' attack, and the fight was soon over.
On a card on which three pay-per-view fights were center stage, cable viewers got their metaphorical money's worth as well. This was one of the best fights of the year, and it served as a harbinger of everything to come.
Loser: Referee Herb Dean
Herb Dean has a reputation as one of the best referees in MMA. Should fans reassess that reputation?
If anyone should feel so inclined, UFC 218 may be a strong line item in their case.
In the early prelims, Dean stepped in to wave off a fight in favor of welterweight Abdul Razak Alhassan when it appeared Sabah Homasi was still vigorously defending himself. A punch from Alhassan appeared to drop Homasi, but Homasi quickly (if awkwardly) began to work for Alhassan's legs. But to the surprise of everyone, including Alhassan, Dean called for the TKO.
"I am obviously happy to win, but how the fight ended is disappointing," Alhassan said in a post-fight statement. "I understand why the referee stopped the fight, though, since he was watching from behind. From that angle, it looked like he was injured from my punch, and the referee must look out for our safety. However, if I lost a fight in that manner, I know how I would feel, so I feel for Homasi."
How about a rematch for what was, to that point, an entertaining scrap?
As an encore, later on the undercard, lightweight Drakkar Klose began spreading his arms and otherwise expressing frustration for what he viewed to be insufficient output from his opponent, noted counterstriker David Teymur. The gamesmanship worked, at least on Dean, who called time to warn Teymur for inactivity, even as Teymur was actively circling and throwing strikes, as opposed to ducking engagement or being reluctant to fight.
No one should be calling for a retirement or anything like that, and even if they were, there isn't much anyone can do about referee assignments unless you sit on an athletic commission. Dean has earned his reputation as a great referee. But he didn't have a good night Saturday, and it wasn't the first time lately, either.
Winner: The Light Heavyweight Division
After years as a marquee weight class, the light heavyweight division fell on hard times.
The Jon Jones melodrama doesn't help, but the problems transcend one man. Champion Daniel Cormier is great, but he's 38 and not the world's most exciting competitor. Standouts like Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua are aging out faster than new talent can replace them. The gates to the official UFC rankings are manned by sentries like Jared Cannonier and Gadzhimurad Antigulov.
Fresh air is more than welcome in a crypt. Volkan Oezdemir is a recent addition who breathed some life into 205. Saturday, Dominick Reyes might have joined him. The well-rounded Californian outclassed an aggressive but overmatched Jeremy Kimball on the Fight Pass portion of the prelims, earning a takedown, softening Kimball with ground strikes and then swooping an arm under for a rear-naked choke.
The 27-year-old Reyes moved to 8-0 as a pro, including 2-0 in the UFC. Seven of his eight wins have come by stoppage—five by knockout and two by submission—and none of those stoppages have left the first round. Someone put this kid on TV.
UFC 218 Full Card Results
Max Holloway def. Jose Aldo by TKO, 4:51, Rd. 3 (for UFC Featherweight Championship).
Francis Ngannou def. Alistair Overeem by KO, 1:42, Rd. 1.
Henry Cejudo def. Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision.
Eddie Alvarez def. Justin Gaethje by TKO, 3:59, Rd. 3.
Tecia Torres def. Michelle Waterson by unanimous decision.
Paul Felder def. Charles Oliveira by TKO, 4:06, Rd. 2.
Yancy Medeiros def. Alex Oliveira by TKO, 2:02, Rd. 3.
David Teymur def. Drakkar Klose by unanimous decision.
Felice Herrig def. Cortney Casey by split decision.
Amanda Cooper def. Angela Magana by TKO, 4:34, Rd. 2.
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Sabah Homasi by TKO (referee stoppage), 4:21, Rd. 1.
Dominick Reyes def. Jeremy Kimball by submission (rear-naked choke), 3:39, Rd. 1.
Justin Willis def. Allen Crowder by KO, 2:33, Rd. 1.