The UFC’s male featherweight division is anything but boring. And this past Saturday night at UFC 222 threw another wrench into an already chaotic situation at the top of the division.
The No. 1 contender at 145 pounds, Frankie Edgar, was supposed to fight Waianae’s own Max Holloway in Holloway’s second career title defense. But as we all know, that fight didn’t happen since Holloway hurt his ankle. Being the fighter Edgar is, he remained on the card and accepted a bout with the dangerous, young Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Brian Ortega.
But Ortega, who has finished every opponent he has faced inside of the Octagon in his young UFC career, didn’t go to the ground against Edgar like many thought he would. Instead, he stood toe-to-toe with the former lightweight champion and became the first man to finish Edgar in his career.
Edgar missed out on his title shot because of his pride, and now Ortega is the next man up for Holloway.
The Ortega vs. Holloway matchup was confirmed today by Ortega, but was all-but confirmed immediately after Saturday’s performance by UFC president Dana White.
“I just saw [Holloway], he came on The Ultimate Fighter as one of the coaches,” White said during the post-fight press conference. “He looks good, he’s walking good and, I don’t know, we gotta see what his doctor said and when he’s cleared, we’ll make that fight immediately.”
Ortega vs. Holloway is as interesting as it is dangerous for both fighters. Both featherweights have shown the ability to finish their opponents either on the ground or on the feet, and both fighters have submission victories over a very capable grappler in Cub Swanson.
But even though Holloway’s calling card is striking, he might have some difficulty against an ever-evolving opponent like Ortega, as highlighted by White.
“The guy is so incredible and well-rounded,” White said of Ortega. “You’d think when he goes in and fights Frankie Edgar you’d bet anything he’s going to sub him if he’s going to win. And then he goes and knocks him out in the first round. This kid is super talented, has incredible personality.”
Holloway has all but signed the bout agreement with some statements he’s made on Twitter, amid a fun back-and-forth with lightweight champion and former featherweight champion, Conor McGregor.
Now, the only question left is when the fight will be made.
Instead of looking for a possible main event title fight against Ortega in Hawaii, Holloway seems happy enough to jump on the PPV train at UFC 226, which features the heavyweight superfight between light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier vs. heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Ortega and Holloway are both the future at 145 pounds, for as long as Holloway chooses to remain in the division before moving up to 155. But the future is now for the UFC at featherweight, and Holloway’s reign as champion, the “Blessed Era” as he calls it, will be challenged by yet another promising contender.
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