TORONTO — Max Holloway was yanked from his past two fights because of health concerns.
On Saturday, though, the only concerns were about Brian Ortega, who suffered a frightful beating at the hands of the increasingly dominant UFC featherweight champion. Holloway battered Ortega in their featherweight title fight at Scotiabank Arena with right hands throughout and the fight was stopped with Ortega’s left eye swollen shut and blood pouring down his face from his nose and mouth.
It was largely no contest, as Ortega never really got untracked and Holloway pummeled him mercilessly.
Holloway defeated Jose Aldo at UFC 218 a year ago, then was pulled out of fights in April and in July because of health issues.
He was the picture of health on Saturday, as he had his way with the previously unbeaten Ortega. Ortega was a sensation in running his record to 14-0, pulling out amazing come-from-behind submissions and scoring brutal knockouts.
But he was never in the fight from the opening moments as he ate hard, clean shots from the Hawaiian champion.
“Is there anybody left?!” Holloway shouted to the crowd as he left the cage.
Holloway had beaten Anthony Pettis and then had two wins over Aldo in his last three fights, meaning each of his last three wins was over a former UFC champion. Ortega wasn’t a champion, but seemed to be destined to become one as he ran up an impressive record with flair and panache.
Holloway, though, showed he is among the elite fighters in the game and probably the greatest featherweight in UFC history. He won for the 13th consecutive time Saturday against some of the best competition the UFC has to offer, and more often than not, has made it look easy.
Holloway still harbors ambitions of winning the lightweight championship, and there is little question that a bout with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would be one for the ages. But he also wants to continue his legacy at 145 pounds.
After busting up one of the best in the sport, he was full of himself when it ended.
“I told them in the corner that this was the round,” Holloway said of the fourth. “All respect to Ortega. He’s a great fighter and we will probably keep fighting each other until we’re both heavyweights.
“Toronto is the 10th Island but I’m ready for the UFC to take me home and let’s do one in Hawaii. Like I said leading up to the fight, whether it’s staying down here and defending, going up to 155 or even fighting my brother, ‘The Daddest Man on the Planet,’ Daniel Cormier, I’m here for all of it. Let’s go!”
Unlikely he’ll get a shot against Cormier, the light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, but he’s going to be a handful for anyone he faces, including Nurmagomedov.
That fight would make each a boatload of money, pitting an elite striker against a tremendous grappler.
At 145, the options aren’t as clear as Holloway has pretty much cleaned house, but he has positioned himself as a fighter not to be missed.
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