Holloway, Ngannou, and Alvarez Take Center Stage at UFC 218
UFC 218 is officially in the history books, and fight fans were gifted with an early Christmas present in the form of three exhilarating bouts that delivered jaw-dropping highlights to open the month of December.
Fireworks were on display in Detroit, Michigan, as the legitimate top guys separated themselves from the middle-tier fighters to end their 2017 with a bang. That said, let’s break this event down as we bring you three talking points from UFC 218.
Hawaii’s got a new ‘Prodigy’
Max “Blessed” Holloway put on a clinic for almost 15 minutes as he picked apart José Aldo with sharp jabs for three rounds. Aldo’s bloodied and battered face sums up the story of the fight; Max was able to utilize his four-inch height advantage and the Brazilian didn’t have an answer.
Holloway is Hawaii’s new crowned jewel. And although not as explosive as fellow Hawaiian striker BJ Penn, Holloway proved that he can be as dominant if not more.
Let’s give credit to the former featherweight champion, though. He took the fight on a short notice against the man who already took him out the last time he set foot inside the Octagon. The 31-year-old replaced Frankie Edgar who had to pull out due to a fractured orbital.
Aldo fought smarter and more economic, utilizing his famous leg kicks as his main tool of attack. Conditioning is in Holloway’s favor, however, as the Hawaiian showed no signs of fatigue and dullness to his strikes.
The champion executed his plan to perfection. “My trainers said, ‘Let’s take him to deep water.’ We know he can’t swim there and we were gonna drown him,” Holloway revealed during the post-fight interview.
With the decisive victory over the former champ, Holloway may have overtaken Aldo as the best featherweight in UFC history – although he’s not willing to accept the honor just yet.
When Joe Rogan asked Holloway if he thinks he thinks he’s already the greatest featherweight, the 25-year-old replied with humility. “You gotta respect the man; the man got all the numbers,” Holloway stated. “I gotta catch up on the title defenses, then maybe we can think about it,” continued Holloway.
With confidence, the featherweight king sent out a message to his fellow 145-pounders. “I told you guys all these guys is (sic) cupcakes. I look forward to the new flavor, but any of them can get it – I like cupcakes – I wanna eat them all, baby!”
Francis Ngannou is a Superstar in the Making
Alistair Overeem versus Francis Ngannou tells the classic of the hungry young lion against the grizzled veteran. And like most young versus old stories in the past, the up-and-comer was too much for the vet.
Ngannou landed a perfect counter uppercut on the chin of Overeem in the very first round of the colossal collision. Then, it was lights out for the ‘Demolition Man’ after that, and it took several minutes before he gained his consciousness back.
Ngannou fought impressively, but it’s not very surprising since he’s been battling tougher fights outside the Octagon for years. Ngannou migrated from his home of Cameroon to the streets of Paris, France, where he strayed homeless for a while.
His survival plan is to look for boxing gyms and tell the trainers to house him because he will be the heavyweight champ one day. As ridiculous as it sounds for anyone to say that, Ngannou is well on his way to achieving his goal.
The next stop for the Cameroonian is an inevitable title shot against Stipe Miocic. One more win and he will be on top of the heavyweight mountain. With his recent KO victory over Overeem, Ngannou joins UFC greats Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, and Ronda Rousey, as the only cage fighters in Octagon history to start with six first round finishes.
During the post-fight interview, Ngannou sent out a message that’s as powerful as his punches. “I want to dedicate this victory for all of my [brothers] in Libya who are treated as slaves,” the heavyweight star’s closing remarks were, “I just want to say, f-ck slavery! F-ck racism!”
Once a Champion, Always a Champion
As advertised, the battle of the two The Ultimate Fighter coaches was violent, fast-paced, and nothing short of exhilarating.
Eddie Alvarez might have lost his UFC hardware when he fell to Irish sensation Conor McGregor, but the heart of a champion never left him. He was able to overcome previously undefeated Justin Gaethje, with a stoppage at 3:59 of the third round.
Alvarez’ recent triumph can only be described as a revival, as he was gradually slipping out of relevance before scoring this much-needed win. For the 29-year-old Gaethje, however, losing to the underdog is not the best for his rising career.
Gaethje fans should not worry too much, though. Given how young he is in his fighting career, he has a lot of time to figure things out, recover from the defeat, and climb the lightweight ranks once again.
But Saturday night belonged to the former lightweight champ, and with this impressive showing, Alvarez is once again in the conversation for a shot at the Irishman’s gold.
Rafael Bandayrel is a self-confessed nerd who happens to love MMA. Yes, nerds watch sports these days. What a time to be alive.
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