Toronto will welcome the UFC, as the organization goes north for UFC 231 headlined by two intriguing title bouts and plenty of Canadian fighters to get the local crowd going.
Featherweight champion Max Holloway will fight for the first time in 2018 when he takes on challenger Brian Ortega. The line for the bout between the champion and his undefeated opponent continues to be close as fight time approaches.
The second title bout will take shape when former women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and former women's bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko meet in the Octagon. Shevchenko comes in as the heavy favorite, but Jedrzejczyk has the skill set to make it interesting.
Canadians Hakeem Dawodu, Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Elias Theodorou all come into the evening as favorites to give the card a strong Canadian presence.
Here's a look at the complete card and a look at some predictions for the main event.
All odds via OddsShark.
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- 145 lbs: UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway (-105, bet $105 to win $100) vs. Brian Ortega (-125, bet $125 to win $100)
- 125 lbs: Valentina Shevchenko (-350) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (+265) for vacant flyweight title
- 170 lbs: Gunnar Nelson (-150) vs. Alex Oliveira (+120)
- 145 lbs: Kyle Bochniak (+140) vs. Hakeem Dawodu (-170)
- 205 lbs: Jimi Manuwa (+160) vs. Thiago Santos (-200)
Fox Sports 1 Prelims (8 p.m. ET)
- 115 lbs: Nina Ansaroff (+265) vs. Claudia Gadelha (-350)
- 155 lbs: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (-120) vs. Gilbert Burns (+110)
- 115 lbs: Katlyn Chookagian (-210) vs. Jessica Eye (+170)
- 185 lbs: Eryk Anders (-110) vs. Elias Theodorou (-120)
Fight Pass Prelims (6 p.m. ET)
- 135 lbs: Brad Katona (-190) vs. Matthew Lopez (+155)
- 170 lbs: Chad Laprise (-400) vs. Dhiego Lima (+300)
- 205 lbs: Devin Clark (+425) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (-650)
- 155 lbs: Diego Ferreira (-360) vs. Kyle Nelson (+270)
The Case for Holloway
The case for Holloway has to begin with the fact that he's proved—when healthy—he's the top featherweight in the world. He hasn't lost in five years, and the last time he did it was to Conor McGregor, who has since left the division.
Holloway's impressive striking and unique style have fooled the best in the division, allowing him to finish the likes of Jose Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis and Cub Swanson.
That experience is a big reason those siding with Holloway are doing so.
"Holloway is just better and far more dangerous than all the other people Ortega has beaten," writes Anton Tabuena of Bloody Elbow in picking Blessed by TKO. "This is obviously still MMA and Ortega has shown that he has decent power, but he definitely won't pick apart someone as technically proficient as Holloway. I think this will look a lot like Ortega's past bouts, but he'll take a far worse beating and won't be able to secure that miracle comeback."
The early going will be key for the Hawaiian. He is generally good at setting the pace early, and Ortega is a notoriously slow starter. A big first round could be key in regaining his confidence after all of his health issues.
A confident Holloway from a good start could be an unstoppable force. Even for Ortega.
The Case for Ortega
There's a lot going for Ortega in this spot.
He has momentum with six straight finishes to his name. He's getting the champion off a long layoff, and he's getting him when his health is still a big question.
Holloway was able to make the weight for the fight, but at what cost? This cut hasn't been kind to him in the past, and it's hard to tell what effects—if any—we'll see in the cage.
But Ortega's skill is legitimate, and Holloway's margin for error might not be able to account for any cracks in his ability to take punishment.
"All things likely aren't equal, however; not after the kind of difficult year both physically and mentally that Holloway has had," Brian Campbell of CBSSports.com writes. "From twice being forced to pull out of fights to a severe battle with depression and a medical diagnosis that was inconclusive at best, it's hard to imagine Holloway will be 100 percent on Saturday. If he's not, Ortega is just too dangerous as a finisher and on too red-hot of a roll to slow down."
Ortega is especially good when it comes to submissions. Seven of his 14 career wins have come by way of submission, and that's where he could catch a tired or cracked Holloway.
It's hard to pick against a champion as well-versed as Holloway. After a dominant run in a division, it never seems like it's going to end.
Yet, we know that in MMA, kingdoms fall. Fast and hard.
Ortega is the kind of opponent who would challenge Holloway no matter what state he's in. His striking isn't elite, but it's good enough to hang with anyone, and his ground game is spectacular.
Can Holloway's chin be trusted? It's a question that can't truly be answered until we see him take a big shot.
That's something that Ortega can do, and with his ability to come on strong after a slow start, it could be the difference. T-City should be able to do damage after weathering the first round and finish the champion off with a submission.
Prediction: Ortega via third-round submission