Much like last weekend where Michael Bisping stepped in as a late replacement to headline UFC Fight Night 122 against Kelvin Gastelum; the UFC once again called on someone to step in on short notice, this time for Frankie Edgar who was set to fight the undisputed UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 218 this Saturday.
Now after losing a title unification bout at the hands of Holloway earlier this year, Jose Aldo has been given the chance at redemption in the main event which takes place on Dec. 2 in Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.
Aldo vs Holloway II
The pair first stepped in the Octagon together at UFC 212 in Brazil with Holloway holding only the interim belt, he would then unify the belts after securing a third round TKO, giving Aldo his first loss in the division bar the historic 13-second defeat to Conor McGregor.
Max Holloway’s rise through the division may have not been as meteoric as that of Conor McGregor’s but after putting together one of the UFC’s longest active win-streaks (11) the Hawaiian now finds himself atop of the 145lb division leaving a trail of victims at his feet.
On his route to claiming UFC gold Holloway has defeated the likes of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson. No matter where ‘Blessed’ goes action seems to follow with seven of his last ten victories coming by way of stoppage including his most recent and career defining victory over featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
Despite stepping in as a late replacement the circumstances are not against Jose Aldo who was already training for his bout against Ricardo Lamas two weeks after this weekend’s event on December 16. Prior to his title loss to Holloway, Aldo treated fans to an impressive performance on his way to securing a unanimous decision victory over the man he replaces, Frankie Edgar. Before the monumental loss to McGregor at UFC 194, Aldo’s reign was unprecedented spanning over nine years from his time at WEC to the UFC where he went 18 bouts without tasting defeat leaving the likes of Kenny Florian, Urijah Faber, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes in his wake.
This is just one of the many reasons why Jose ‘Scarface’ Aldo is regarded as perhaps the best featherweight of all time and will hope to rebuild and add to his legacy whilst claiming revenge over a former foe. Now 31 years of age, Aldo believes this is the dawn of a new era and a new Aldo.
Ngannou to prove he’s the real deal
In the co-main event we are treated to a bout which entails experience vs youth in the heavyweight division as MMA legend Alistair Overeem takes on rising prospect Francis Ngannou. Having fought since the age of 14 Overeem is the most decorated and experienced in the division and perhaps even the promotion, he is a former Dream heavyweight champion, former Strikeforce heavyweight champion and former K1 Grand Prix champion and is regarded as one of the best kickboxers to fight in MMA but is yet to clutch UFC gold.
He enters the bout this weekend having put together a two-fight win streak with victories over former champion Fabricio Werdum and former K1 Grand Prix champ Mark Hunt. Since his drug test ban in 2012, ‘Reem’ has evolved his style of fighting and now looks to utilise his skills and fighting IQ to be more precise and accurate with his approach and strikes. This approach seemed necessary for Overeem who found himself on the receiving end of three KO/TKO losses between February 2013 and September 2014.
The chin of the 37-year old is not what it used to be however that is expected from someone who has had 58 professional bouts whether that is in kickboxing or MMA. He has victories over former champions such as Brock Lesnar, Junior Dos Santos, Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski but will now have to hold his own against the new wave of heavyweight. Although he may have the experience and potential skill advantage over Ngannou the question is can he handle his power, eight of his last ten losses have come by way of KO/TKO and he could well find himself on the receiving end of another this Saturday.
Despite being 31 years of age Francis Ngannou is relatively new to the sport having only started MMA five years ago, the Frenchman has been a breath of fresh air in a stagnant division since he burst onto the UFC in 2015; he secured a KO victory over Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira on his UFC debut and since then he has shown huge potential defeating the likes of Bojan Mihajlovic, Anthony Hamilton and former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in his most recent outing. He holds a professional record of 10-1 (5-0, UFC) with all ten of his wins coming by way of stoppage.
Although he is renowned for his punching power and brute force ‘The Predator’ has also displayed a variety of skills such as his submission skills in the Hamilton bout. A win here for both fighters would definitely push them into title contention, the question is can Overeem derail the hype train of Ngannou or will the potential superstar that the division needs add another heavyweight legend to his list of victims.
Cejudo and Pettis cross paths
Elsewhere on the card two flyweights looking to work their way to a title shot are Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis; in a division which has been dominated by Demetrious Johnson these two fighters will look to make their claim as to why they deserve a shot at the champ. Both men entered the division as some of the hottest prospects on the roster but have yet to hit the heights they would have wanted; their rise has left little to be desired but now look to show why they should be recognised as some of the elite 125lbers.
Few in the division can match the achievements made by Cejudo prior to joining the UFC, an Olympic gold medallist in freestyle wrestling saw him labelled as the hottest prospect in the sport the minute he made the crossover. The American joined the promotion in 2014 picking up a decision win over Dustin Kimura on his UFC debut; from here he went to notch another three victories earning himself a shot at the champion Demetrious Johnson.
Cejudo’s rise in the sport was nothing short of meteoric working his way to a UFC title shot in just over three years afrer his debut in the sport. Unfortunately the 30-year old failed to capitalise on the opportunity falling to a first round TKO at UFC 197.
He then faced back to back losses after he found himself on the losing end of a split decision loss to top contender Joseph Benavidez. Now he enters the bout this weekend on the back of his first stoppage win in the promotion, at UFC 215 the Olympic gold medallist secured a second round TKO victory over Wilson Reis. Cejudo looks to have made noticeable improvements in his last bout integrating the karate style of fighting to his game which we have seen used so successfully by the likes of Stephen Thompson and Conor McGregor. Now he will look to make it two wins on the bounce as he eyes a rematch with champion Demetrious Johnson.
Pettis too entered the promotion undefeated and rated as one of the division’s top prospects having already become RFA flyweight champion, despite this he endured mixed success at the start of his UFC career where he went 3-2 in his first five bouts. His most recent loss dates back to 2015 where he fought a tough opponent in Ryan Benoit at UFC 185. Although he is only 24-years of age, the younger brother of Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis already has nine UFC bouts under his belt having made his debut at the age of 21 and enters this weekend’s matchup in fine form.
The American has accumulated a four-fight win streak defeating the likes of Chris Cariaso, John Moraga and Brandon Moreno in his most recent bout at UFC Fight Night 114. Between the pair there has only been one stoppage in their last four victories but the incentive that a convincing win could see them get a chance to fight for the title could add even more fireworks to a bout between the two.
Former champ Alvarez hoping to bounce back
In what is a card rich in talent we are treated to a lightweight match-up which could easily walk away with ‘Fight Of The Night’ honours as former 155lb champion Eddie Alvarez looks for his first win since being dethroned by Conor McGregor, when he faces former WSOF champion Justin Gaethje.
A little over a year ago Eddie Alvarez was lightweight champion having defeated the likes of Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis before dethroning Rafael Dos Anjos. Now he finds himself four places beneath the current champion hoping to take out one of the promotions newest and highly rated additions. In his last bout Alvarez faced off against Dustin Poirier in the hope of bouncing back from his title loss, this was to no avail however as the bout was called off when the former champ landed a knee to the head of the grounded Poirier. Despite this the knee was deemed accidental by referee Herb Dean resulting in a bout being deemed a no contest. Before he can get back to winning ways he’ll need to get past the relentless Justin Gaethje.
The UFC newcomer steps in the Octagon this weekend for only the second time, in what was a memorable debut bout Gaethje secured a second round TKO over Michael Johnson after nearly being finished twice himself. Prior to joining the promotion the 29-year old dominated all who was put before him on the World Series of Fighting platform where he finished with an overall record of 17-0.
There were many questions as to if he could look as impressive against higher opposition and so far the answer is yes. His style which could be viewed as reckless has so far paid off in his career in which entertainment seems to follow, and I see tomorrow being no different.
Opening the main card is a bantamweight bout between two of the elite in the division as Tecia Torres takes on Michelle Waterson. Both women have endured mixed success with their most recent losses coming against the current champion Rose Namajunas. Now they both look to secure a win over a fellow title contender at UFC 218 this weekend.
Main Card (Pay-Per-View)
- Featherweight: Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo
- Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou
- Flyweight: Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
- Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje
- Bantamweight: Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, UFC Fight Pass)
- Welterweight: Alex Oliveira vs. Yancy Medeiros
- Lightweight: David Teymur vs. Drakkar Klose
- Strawweight: Felice Herrig vs. Cortney Casey
- Welterweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi
- Light-heavyweight: Jeremy Kimball vs. Dominick Reyes
- Strawweight: Amanda Cooper vs. Angela Magana
- Heavyweight: Justin Willis vs. Allen Crowder