The two young guns of the UFC featherweight division go head to head for all the marbles at 145lbs as champion Max Holloway puts his world title on the line against undefeated No.1 contender Brian Ortega.
On paper, it’s a matchup that can’t fail to deliver. Holloway is an all-action champion who loves pushing the pace and imposing his will on his opponents while Ortega is an ice-cool operator with world-class submission skills and recently-uncovered one-punch knockout power.
Holloway is in the form of his life heading into the contest. He’s riding a 12-fight unbeaten streak, with each of his last three fights producing third-round TKO finishes of former world champions.
Ortega, meanwhile, is still undefeated at 14-0 with one no contest, and has finished each of his last six opponents.
The matchup offers a fascinating clash. Holloway loves to push forward and land multiple strikes, but Ortega is the ultimate counter-attacker, using both his boxing and his slick submission skills.
Holloway has the cardio and the output level to either wear down Ortega or win on the cards, but Ortega has the ability to turn the fight on its head in the blink of an eye.
It’s as tough a fight to call as we’ve had in a UFC main event in many months. Holloway has been impossible to bet against in recent matches, but Ortega has something special about him. If pushed to pick a winner, the challenger’s ability to deliver a finish from both his strikes or his grappling gives him the slimmest of advantages on my fight card.
However it pans out, it should be an absolute cracker of a fight – and I suspect we’ll see these two facing off more than once in the years to come.
THE CO-MAIN EVENT
Just in case the phenomenal main event clash between Holloway and Ortega isn’t enough for you, the UFC have thrown a women’s flyweight title fight into the mix, as former bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko and former strawweight world champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk face off in a rematch years in the making.
The pair formerly faced off on three occasions in Muay Thai competition before their respective MMA careers, with Shevchenko winning each time. The two elite strikers made their separate ways into mixed martial arts, Shevchenko as a bantamweight and Jedrzejczyk as a strawweight, and both quickly rose to world-class level.
Shevchenko missed out on the bantamweight world title after a razor-thin split decision loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 215, but Jedrzejczyk was more successful. The Polish star captured the strawweight title and defended it on five consecutive occasions before twice losing out to Rose Namajunas in back-to-back contests.
Now Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk have moved into their more natural weight class and are set to meet for the vacant flyweight belt in Toronto.
Jedrzejczyk should have the edge in output, but Shevchenko’s ability to counter-strike is up there with the very best in the world.
Shevchenko is Paddy Power’s pre-fight favourite at 1/4, with Jedrzejczyk a 5/2 chance. It’s highly likely the bout will go all the way to the scorecards, but don’t rule out a submission from “Bullet,” perhaps after catching Joanna with a clean counter shot in the middle rounds.
ALSO ON THE MAIN CARD…
Irish favourite and fighting pride of Iceland Gunnar Nelson (4/6) makes his long-awaited return to action against dangerous Brazilian Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira (11/10), while Canadian striking sensation “Mean” Hakeem Dawodu (1/2) will look to claim another stoppage victory against the teak-tough Kyle Bochniak (6/4).