UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega Prediction
By Alex Conway
UFC 231 fight week is upon us and with it the return of UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway who will defend his title against the top ranked challenger Brian Ortega in the main event in Toronto.
The fight is a long one in the making. Originally the two were scheduled to fight as the co-main event at UFC 226 in July but Holloway was pulled from the card due to concussion-like symptoms. While no one was ever able to properly explain what was going on with the champ, nonetheless Holloway is back and ready to go this weekend.
The fight itself is one of the most interesting stylistic match-up’s of the year. Holloway is on an 11-fight winning steak and coming off back-to-back knockouts of former long-time featherweight champion Jose Aldo while Ortega is undefeated and most recently became the first fighter to ever stop former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Ortega submission game is central element to his overall game. He catches people with triangle chokes and guillotines from a variety of unusual positions. His ability to threaten with standing guillotine’s was a large contributor to how he was able to put away Edgar in the clinch with strikes. He can set up his striking arsenal and force fighters to fight outside of themselves because they know there are certain positions they have to avoid at all costs or Ortega will snatch their neck and end the fight.
Holloway will present the toughest skillset Ortega has faced to date. He has excellent takedown defense and should be able to keep the fight standing since Ortega has not displayed great takedown offense during his time in the UFC. On the feet Ortega has gotten tuned up in fights with Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson and Holloway is more than capable of replicating those results with his striking game.
Holloway is also a thinking man’s fighter who is also ready to brawl at a moment’s notice. He can fight out of the orthodox and southpaw stances without much trouble and will present many different looks to Ortega in that way. Holloway can also straight up box or mix in kickboxing combinations. He will likely avoid throwing kicks against Ortega so that he doesn’t leave an easier avenue for Ortega to take the fight to the ground.
Ordinarily I would pick Holloway to win this fight without much hesitation. However, my biggest concern for the champion heading into this fight is what condition will he be in. He made a failed attempt to cut an absurd amount of weight for a last minute lightweight title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov in April before having his issues in July.
That’s two times in 2018 where Holloway was unable to get to the Octagon due to fight week issues with weight cutting and preparation. Nobody has given us a straight answer as to whether weight cutting played a role in his July pull-out, but it should be noted Holloway is a huge featherweight and cuts a large amount of weight for all of his contests, and has done so for many years.
Will Holloway be physically ready to go five rounds against Ortega? Is featherweight still his optimal division? Will he be able to take shots to the head after being pulled from a fight due to potential head injuries his last time out?
If the answer to all those questions is yes, then Holloway should win because of his ability to dictate the terms of the fight, his versatility on the feet and his experience in big fights. Neither fighter has gone past a third round and Ortega is notorious for finishing fights in the third, but Ortega hasn’t main evented a PPV card yet, much less been in a title fight.
I believe Holloway should be the pick here.