UFC 231 arrives in Toronto this weekend
Max Holloway (left) and Brian Ortega are seen in this combination image. (AP/Jose Juarez/Jeff Chiu)
Murtz Jaffer, CTV News
Published Saturday, December 8, 2018 12:52PM EST
After a two-year absence, the 6ix is ready for its sixth UFC pay-per-view.
The penultimate Ultimate Fighting Championship of 2018 takes place at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday night.
While UFC 231 doesn’t feature mainstream names such as Conor McGregor or the highly anticipated return of heavyweight Brock Lesnar to the Octagon, the intriguing lineup is still one that mainstream fans of the sport have been counting down to.
The main event features Max Holloway and Brian Ortega in a match that promises to be a technical showcase between two of the UFC’s best. Both fighters have the ability to end the fight with a single punch while just as easily being able to force the other into tapping out with a quick submission. The featherweights were originally slated to meet in July at UFC 226 but an untimely injury resulted in Holloway being forced to pull out.
FEATHERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
MAX HOLLOWAY (19 Wins – 3 Losses) VS. BRIAN ORTEGA (14 Wins – 0 Losses, 1 No Contest)
Current featherweight champion Max Holloway attempts to keep his impressive active win streak alive tonight. The Hawaiian fighter, currently ranked as the #5 best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, has successfully bested his last 12 opponents in a row. With such an impressive resume, it would be easy to assume that tonight’s bout will be another easy walk-in-the-park title defense given his recent dominance but there are several factors at play that must be considered.
While Holloway’s nickname is ‘Blessed,’ this year has been anything but for the champion. Various ailments have forced the quick-footed pugilist to back out of three straight fights this year. Tonight’s match against Brian Ortega was originally booked for July but didn’t happen after Holloway abruptly bailed due to medical concerns. At the time, Holloway’s team released a statement citing that the fighter was suffering from “concussion symptoms,” but there still hasn’t been a definitive answer as to what caused it.
For his part, Ortega presents a particularly enticing challenge. To start, he is undefeated. No one that has stepped across from him in the Octagon so far has had their hand raised at the end of the match. While Ortega hasn’t been on the receiving end of many headlines after mediocre wins and performances against Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson and Renato Moicano, it is his pace that usually wins him his matches. The American fighter has an innate ability to outwit his opponents and ultimately outlast them. Ortega wins always seem like surprises when they happen but are usually the result of spectacular preparation and strategy upon review. He is a methodical fighter, but one who has had a few months to study Holloway. For a student of the sport, Saturday might be ready for him to ace his biggest test.
FLYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO (15 Wins – 3 Losses) VS. JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK (15 Wins – 2 Losses)
The vacant flyweight title also will be decided tonight and the match between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk will be a rebirth for the division.
The women are two of the best female fighters in the UFC and it is expected that this match will turn both into household names (especially in the post Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate era). The pair’s rivalry dates back more than twelve years with Shevchencko winning their 2006, 2007 and 2008 muai thai kickboxing contests and Jedrzejczyk trying to even the score, one fight at a time.
What will this fight come down to?
Jedrzejczyk prefers longer combinations and usually runs the risk of her opponent being able to catch her. Shevchenko’s quick feet and powerful kicks are dangerous, but in close fights judges always seem to prefer the fighter who is controlling and pushing the action forward instead of the athlete who is attempting to counter it. That is unless the counterattack results in a knockout that takes the decision out of their hands.
JIMI MANUWA (17 Wins – 4 Losses) VS. THIAGO SANTOS (19 Wins – 6 Losses)
This thrilling match-up between two sensational punch-first-think-later strikers is the best fight after the two title matches. Manuwa was supposed to take on Santos at September at UFC Fight Night 137 in Sao Paulo, but had to pull himself out of the fight for undisclosed reasons. While Brazilian fans are obviously upset about the fight not happening in their country, Toronto fans are delighted about it being added to the UFC 231 card. This match will likely be a contender for fight-of-the-night as it is expected that both will be throwing haymakers in an effort to end things quickly.
Santos has won six out of his last seven while Manuwa clearly needs the win more to halt his two-fight losing streak.
ALEX OLIVEIRA (19 Wins – 5 Losses – 1 Draw) VS. GUNNAR NELSON (16 Wins - 3 Losses - 1 Draw)
Welterweight Gunnar Nelson hasn’t been seen inside the Octagon since last summer. In his last fight against Santiago Ponzinibbio, the popular Icelandic fighter didn’t look great as he took too many early punches. To make matters worse, the fighter filed an unsuccessful appeal after the loss, citing that his success was impeded by his opponent’s constant eye pokes.
Alex Oliveira on the other hand seems to be riding a hot streak. His knockout of Carlo Pedersoli Jr. in 39 seconds last month was the fighter’s fourth stoppage win in his last five fights. He also secured a win over former champion Carlos Condit in April.
HAKEEM DAWODU (8 Wins – 1 Loss – 1 Draw) VS. KYLE BOCHNIAK (8 Wins – 3 Losses)
Calgary’s Hakeem Dawodu will also take on Kyle Bochiak on the UFC main card.
Dawodu is regarded as one of UFC’s best prospects and is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Austin Arnett in the summer.
Kyle Bochniak is looking to bounce back from an impressive loss to the undefeated Zabit Magomedsharipov (where the match was given “Fight of the Night” honours).
Tonight promises to be an evening of action and a stepping stone toward the establishment of the UFC’s next generation of stars.