Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight champions Jose Aldo and Max Holloway will clash TONIGHT (June 3, 2017) at UFC 212 inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After claiming the Featherweight throne and defending it for years, Aldo slipped up for the first time and was knocked out shortly by Conor McGregor. Undeterred, Aldo returned about six months later to dominate Frankie Edgar and return to his place atop the division. In the last few years, the focus at 145 pounds has been dominated by McGregor and Aldo. While the masses focused on that potential pairing, Holloway was winning fights — to be specific, 10 of them — and earned an interim title in the process.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Chad Mendes (UFC 179, UFC 142), Frankie Edgar (UFC 200, UFC 156), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 169)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC 194)
Keys to Victory: Aldo is one of the best in the world for a reason. He’s a tremendous striker who does real damage, nearly impossible to take down, and has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to fall back on if necessary.
In a bout like this between such high-level strikers, it will be a game of constant adjustments. It’s not as simple as most fights, where the fighter who plays to his strengths and sticks to the script will come out on top more often than not.
Both men can box, kick, lead and counter just fine.
With that in mind, specific techniques should be the real focus. For Aldo, it’s about time for him to really return to the low kick, which has been fairly absent from his game in recent fights. Against a fighter moving his feet constantly and switching around like Holloway, it would be wise for him to start chopping down his base early.
However, as mentioned, Holloway is a great striker himself. To land these low kicks, Aldo has to set them up well, either by getting his foe moving backward or catching his foe between stances. One specific setup I’d like to see Aldo use is to jab and bait Holloway in, then kick low from his back foot.
Key Wins: Anthony Pettis (UFC 206), Ricardo Lamas (UFC 199), Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 15), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 194)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway was a pretty talented young fighter when he was abruptly brought into UFC after just a handful of fights, but he’s grown into a world-class athlete since then. On his feet, Holloway is a dynamic and varied kickboxer, moving smoothly between stances and punishing his opponent along the way.
In Holloway’s case, his movement will definitely be a major key to victory, but it would be interesting to see him stick with Southpaw for extended periods of time. Aldo doesn’t have quite as much experience opposite Southpaw fighters, and Holloway showed in his last fight a great ability to shut down the lead hand while landing his own powerful left kicks and crosses.
It’s also harder to land clean low kicks opposite a foe in the opposite stance.
Aside from some extra time as a Southpaw, Holloway would be wise to commit to body work early. Between Holloway’s body shots and Aldo’s low kicks, this may begin as a technical battle and end as a war of attrition, so whichever man prepares for the late round earliest will be at an advantage.
Bottom Line: This is one of the best match ups in years between a pair of great, technical fighters who could legitimately go either way. It’s not a money fight nor a rematch … just a legitimately great fight.
For Aldo, he already has the legacy of one of the best to ever do it, but derailing a 10-fight win streak and stopping Holloway’s rise will only add to that. Meanwhile, a loss would be interesting. The likelihood for an immediate rematch is slim, but it would free Aldo to head to 155 pounds and pursue his rematch with McGregor.
Holloway is on one of the best win streaks in any division. If he can add capitalize here and defeat Aldo to become the true champion, the win should elevate him to one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in the world. It also sets him up for a battle with Frankie Edgar, another chance to prove himself as one of the best to ever do it.
A loss will hurt, but Holloway is only 25 years old and already has defeated most of the division’s Top 10. There’s still a great chance that he’ll capture the official title at some point in his career.
TONIGHT at UFC 212, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway will attempt to unify the straps. Which man will leave the cage carrying gold?