TORONTO – It happens every time Octagon lands in Ontario, there is magic in the air.
UFC 231 marked the sixth time the UFC has held an event in Toronto, and the second time four-legged champion Max "Blessed" Holloway has raised his hand somewhere Hawaii has dubbed the 10th island because of his many Canadian followers. Holloway gave Brian Ortega the first loss of his MMA career in an electrifying main event, the latest in a series of classic UFC matches that took place in Toronto.
"It was one of the sickest matches I've ever seen," said UFC President Dana White.
Holloway put a UFC single-fight record by landing 290 significant strikes, linking at an absurd high 59 percent of the shots he threw.
Another way to look is that Ortega put a UFC single-fight record absorbent 290 major strikes.
White was "blown away" by Ortega's determination and toughness, but fully followed the cageside doctor's decision to stop the match after the fourth round.
"The fifth round should never have happened, and I'm glad it did not," White said. "The fight should be stopped. For all of us here, you've been in the game for a long time, that's what you call too hard for your own good. I think he could have done fifth round. would have done fifth round, but it should never have happened …. He is a young talented man and I think going into the fifth round would have been very bad for him healthally. The fourth round was not good for him health. "
There is always concern for a giant's wellbeing. There must be. But when a scrap like Holloway-Ortega is taking place at the moment, the whole scene exceeds anyone who thinks about the health risks associated with it.
Holloway is not just a brilliant fighter. He is a true showman. Several times, he applauded his opponent sarcastically when Ortega wanted to land a stroke. He popped Ortega a couple of times with open hand and spotted the stiffness of Ortega's stroke and movement. Not in a disrespectful way, think about you. Simply in a way that makes the world know that he is so comfortable in a world championship MMA match as he is on the beaches of Waianae.
He pieced him up. One two. Just right slam. Blykors. Even Holloway's defense was entertaining.
What year of farewell?
– UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Ortega had it and when the horn was looking for another stanza, the two men might have the best in-fight staredown since Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald's UFC 189 classical moment.
It was an excellent prizefight. In short, the Toronto fans were blessed once more.
"People are not aware of what a big city of Toronto is," said White. "It's a highly educated market. Almost 20,000 people in the evening, on their feet every turn gets crazy, understands all the technical things that take place in these matches. This is a fun place. Cool city. Large hotels, restaurants, the entire agreement.
"I love to come here and make matches."
Based on his company's track record in Canada's largest city, it's no surprise.
In 2011, not long after the province finally legalized the sport, hungry fighters Rogers Center filled the bars into what was the biggest event in UFC history at that time. Georges St-Pierre was at the top of the card, Jose Aldo and the local favorite Mark Hominick gave us a five-year featherweight classic, Rory MacDonald threw Nate Diaz around, and Lyoto Machida went full Karate Kid and ended Randy Couture's MMA career.
UFC's first event at the Scotiabank Arena, former Air Canada Center, occurred later that year. Jon Jones allowed Machida's lifeless body to fall to the canvas, and Frank Mir hit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's humerus leg in half the night.
Jones exceeded the UFC 152 in 2012 and was almost filed by Vitor Belfort that night. Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson won the initial fly title by beat Joseph Benavidez. The following year on the UFC 165, Jones and Alexander Gustafsson competed in what is generally considered to be one of the biggest matches in UFC history.
Despite all the exciting actions produced by these cards, ticket sales dropped steadily over the four events, so the UFC took a three-year hiatus from the city and did not return to 2016. There was a bit of buzz around this UFC 206 card, but in terms of sheer excitement in the cage it ended up being a card of year competitor with Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi delighting the audience for this year's match.
Holloway highlighted this event against former lightweight kingpin Anthony Pettis, beat him quite easily, and had UFC gold clamped on his waist for the first time.
Jones fought on three consecutive Toronto cards and went 3-0. Holloway is two thirds of the way to match it and based on how much he loves his 10th island, it may not be the last time he crosses north of the border.
– UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
One star is born
Joanna Jedrzejczyk made her cage with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, bending the wildly popular "Shallow" song from One star is born soundtrack. One star was born on Saturday evening. Unfortunately for Jedrzejczyk it was her opponent.
Valentina Shevchenko is the UFC Women's Flyweight Champion after dominating her five-round title with her old Muay Thai rival. Jedrzejczyk already had a strong result from his years as a strawweight champ, but after Saturday's performance, Shevchenko's fan base grows at a fast pace.
Shevchenko was the faster and more powerful fighter who operated half a step ahead of Jedrzejczyk in their striking exchanges and introduced her will on the ground when she wanted to take the match there.
Impose his will
– UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Jedrzejczyk seemed to have more fun, often laughing under the action. After each round, she smiled and waved her arms to shoot the crowd, even though she lost the rounds quite clearly.
Shevchenko waited until the game was over before she allowed to smile. That smile will not come out of her face for some time.
"I'm so happy to finally have this championship," she said. "I've been waiting for this moment and it feels fantastic."
– UFC (@ufc) December 9, 2018
Jedrzejczyk now finds himself in non-women's country with two losses for the current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and now one for the flyweight champ.
"I would like to thank Joanna for this fight," Shevchenko said safely. "It was an honor to fight her. She is a true professional and champion."
White said after the event that he regards Jedrzejczyk for a friend and would like to see her take some time before potentially going back to 115 pounds.
Shevchenko says she does not care who her next opponent is and she means it. She wants to be an active champion who will make her friends. More looks and more gains mean more star power. She says she has unfinished business with bantamweight fight Amanda Nunes after losing a controversial split decision to her at UFC 215.
Avoid being surprised if Shevchenko one day moves back to 135 pounds to challenge Nunes in what would now be a legitimate superfight between two masters.
Meanwhile, if she can continue to avoid injuries and dominate opponents, as she has in her two appearance so far in airweight, her popularity will continue to float.
Santos is a savage attacker
Thiago Santos is only two games in his career as a 205-pounder, and he has already come as a title contender. Santos beat No. 7-ranked Jimi Manuwa in a spectacular fight that did not reach the six-minute mark. The scary Brazilians earned a $ 50,000 performance of Night Bonus for the win and, according to White, everything was set for another $ 50,000 check for the Fight of the Night until Holloway and Ortega put their show.
It was Santos third consecutive victory and his fifth match in 2018, the first of which was a TKO by Anthony Smith in a midweight in February. Smith moved to the division lightly after the match and has since captured knockout wins over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, as well as a third-round submission of the latest title challenging Volkan Oezdemir. These three victories have Smith currently ranked No. 3 in the division. In theory, Santos must take Smith's place in the top three and when a fighter is placed so high, they are usually only a victory away from getting a crack in gold.
"I'm very happy," said Santos. "I thought the match was great for the fans and I went away with another knockout. I've been good since I moved up to 205. This is my division and I want to be the champion."
Santos is also not a lightweight heavyweight, so it's fun that he thinks he started his UFC in the second season of The ultimate fighter: Brazil competes as a welterweight. The 34-year-old takes a page out of Anthony "Rumble" Johnson's playbook by continuing to move through the weight classes while retaining his CO-effect. Suitably, Johnson was attending Saturday, mingling and taking pictures with fans. Shout-out to Rumble.
Nelson makes triumphant return
Gunnar Nelson went randomly to the middle of the octagon, covered with blood and wiped out a roar. The blood came from his defeated opponent Alex Oliveira's head and roar was one of elation.
Nelson sent Oliveira with a bagaker choker late in the second round of their welterweight bout seconds after splitting Oliveira open with a tight elbow. It was Nelson's first match since his knockout loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in July 2017 and his first win since he sent Alan Jouban almost two years ago.
"It feels good to be back and I want to be more active now," said the stoic icecream. "I have not told anyone but I'm faced with a slight downturn with my knee. Now that the game is over, I will get it checked out and I'll get back as soon as it's healed." I've said before but I want to fight someone. I just want to get out and fight as much as possible. "
Fingre crossed that his knee problem will not keep him out of action for a long time because the 170-pound division is much more interesting when he's active.
Nelson was one of three SBG Ireland-trained warriors to leave victory. Canadians Brad Katona and Hakeem Dawodu, who have both traveled to Dublin to prepare for the matches, were the others.