UFC 218 on Saturday in Detroit will go down as one of the best Ultimate Fighting Championship events of 2017. Top to bottom, it was filled with back-and-forth wars, brutal knockouts and contenders for “Fight of the Year” and “Round of the Year.” UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway capped off all of it in the headliner, as he reaffirmed his dominance over the division and finished the great Jose Aldo for the second time in six months.
Putting Doubts to Rest
The UFC 218 main event had to be altered ahead of time when Holloway’s original opponent, Frankie Edgar, suffered a training injury and was forced to withdraw. In stepped Aldo, a man Holloway knew all too well. The change did not faze Holloway in the least, as it gave him the opportunity to show that his first victory over the Brazilian was no fluke and that he was indeed the best thing going at 145 pounds.
In the final two minutes of the third round, Holloway picked up the pace against his fading challenger. Once he smelled blood in the water, he never took his foot off the gas, ripping into Aldo with precise punches. Holloway seamlessly interchanged head and body strikes and eventually sent the flailing Nova Uniao star to the canvas, where he utilized some quick ground-and-pound to prompt the stoppage.
Afterward, Holloway told UFC commentator Joe Rogan the rematch went exactly how he envisioned, that he wanted to lure Aldo into deep water and drown him. He disagreed with the notion that he had surpassed Aldo as the greatest featherweight of all-time and then balanced his humility with bravado. When asked what was next for him, Holloway compared the contenders in the featherweight division to a “bunch of cupcakes. There’s a whole lot of different flavors, and I’m ready to eat them all.”
Francis Ngannou in the co-main event took on former Strikeforce and Dream champion Alistair Overeem in what served as a heavyweight title eliminator. In quick and devastating fashion, Ngannou answered all questions relating to his legitimacy, as he knocked the Dutchman cold with a crushing left uppercut and follow-up hammerfist. It marked his sixth finish in as many UFC appearances. When the dust settled, Ngannou set the record straight: He wants a shot at heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic as soon as possible. When asked about scheduling Miocic-Ngannou alongside Daniel Cormier-Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 in February, UFC President Dana White said, “I love the sound of that.”
Meanwhile, Henry Cejudo picked up his second straight victory with a unanimous decision over Sergio Pettis, a Roufusport standout who entered the cage on a four-fight winning streak and had designs on securing a title shot. An Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling in 2008, Cejudo stifled Pettis with those world-class skills. Pettis was given no room to operate across three rounds, as Cejudo continued to push toward a rematch with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
After surrendering the lightweight championship to Conor McGregor and fighting to a no-contest with Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez did not want to talk about the 155-pound crown ahead of his highly anticipated showdown with the undefeated Justin Gaethje. The only title Alvarez was interested in was the title of “most violent fighter in the lightweight division.” Alvarez-Gaethje was seen as a potential “Fight of the Year” as soon as it was made, and it lived up to the hype. They engaged in a back-and-forth slugfest, until Alvarez connected with a hellacious third-round knee strike that dropped the former World Series of Fighting champion face first on the canvas for the first loss of his career. Alvarez enjoyed success in the standup, ripping brutal body shots and quick straights to the head. Gaethje, meanwhile, utilized his vaunted leg kicks and had the Philadelphia native hobbled on more than one occasion.
American Top Team’s Tecia Torres separated herself further from an April 2016 loss to Rose Namajunas with a unanimous decision over Michelle Waterson. The once-beaten 28-year-old has won three fights in a row ... Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira competed in one of the two “Fight of the Year” contenders at Little Caesars Arena, a back-and-forth affair that resulted in a third-round technical knockout for Medeiros. The Hawaiian rebounded after being severely rocked early in the bout ... David Teymur took a unanimous decision from previously undefeated MMA Lab rep Drakkar Klose on the undercard. Referee Herb Dean warned Teymur for timidity at one point -- a warning that baffled most observers. Through three rounds, Teymur proved to be the superior striker and walked away with his fourth win in as many UFC appearances ... Felice Herrig extended her winning streak to four fights with a hard-fought split decision over Cortney Casey-Sanchez. The two strawweights exchanged middle fingers and expletives late in the fight, and the decision left Casey-Sanchez fuming. Afterward, Herrig indicated she held no animosity towards her opponent ... On the UFC Fight Pass prelims, light heavyweight prospect Dominick Reyes improved to 8-0, as he submitted Jeremy Kimball with a rear-naked choke ... American Kickboxing Academy export Justin Willis recorded his sixth win in a row, as he knocked out Allen Crowder in the first round of their heavyweight pairing.