The Great Debate is back. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a Great Debate for UFC 217, but to make up for it, we had two matchups for UFC 218. We debated the co-main event between Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou yesterday. Today, we focus on the main event of UFC 218, the rematch between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo Jr. Keith Shillan will be de his Great Debate title when he takes on Jason Powers. Keith will be arguing that Max Holloway retains his featherweight title while Jason argues that Jose Aldo will be King of the division again.
Why Max Holloway is Going to Win By Keith Shillan
I am surprised that I am defending my Great Debate title this weekend. I didn’t expect to get a quality opponent to pick Jose Aldo Jr to beat Max Holloway in a rematch. Didn’t think anybody would think the fight would be any different. Now don’t get me wrong. I love Jose Aldo Jr. I am forever grateful for what he did for MMA (especially the smaller weight classes), and I used to be in awe of his skills. Used to be! He is a legend. Max Holloway will also retire as a legend.
So let me ask this question, what has changed since the last fight? Has Jose Aldo gotten younger? Has his chin suddenly gotten better? Will he suddenly be able to throw at a much higher pace? The simple answer to these questions is no.
Sure, the former champion landed some really nice shots in the early going of the fight. I expect the same in this fight. But you have to understand Holloway’s game to realize that it is okay. Anthony Pettis was actually doing okay in the early going with Holloway. Holloway is a volume fighter. The Hawaiin puts on a pace that nobody can handle. Aldo has always been a counter fighter, looking to land a combination of a fighters attacks. The big issue is he can’t counter Holloway’s volume. In their first fight, Holloway almost doubled the significant strikes landed in the fight (104 to 55 according to Fight Metric). This is also true for their careers. Holloway lands 5.79 significant strikes per minute compared to Aldo’s 3.30 per minute.
Holloway is so good at fighting in positions. He has tremendous footwork. He can land his long jab from the outside followed by one of the best straight right hands in all of MMA, If you rush him, he moves laterally and back and forth smoothly, while also being able to land solid strikes while backing away. Aldo has always been a great pocket striker (one of the best all-time), but this is also a strength for Holloway, Hollway battered Ricardo Lamas in the pocket.
The wildcard I keep hearing is the kicks of Jose Aldo. With all due respect to Pedro Rizzo, nobody has even been more effective with leg kicks than Aldo. His short left hook, followed by right leg kick is one of the most legendary combinations in MMA history. Here is the issue, Aldo doesn’t throw leg kicks anymore. Aldo landed 27 leg kicks in his fight with Urijah Faber. He has landed a total of 11 leg kicks in his last 4 fights combined. He kicked Holloway’s leg once, and when he did, he was countered with a punch in the face.
Their first fight wasn’t nearly as close as people remember. Aldo came out strong to start, but Holloway was seriously taking over and battering the former champion. He landed 104 significant strikes on the Brazilian fighter in just three rounds. The most landed before that was 79 by Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, in a full five round fight.
The scary thing is Max Holloway is only 25 years old. We might not have even seen the best Holloway yet. He might not have even come into his power yet. I expect Aldo to come out fast again, but Holloway piecing him apart in the middle rounds. Holloway wins his 12th fight in a row.
Prediction: Max Holloway beats Jose Aldo by 3rd round TKO (again).
Why Jose Aldo Jr Beats Max Holloway by Jason Powers
Jose Aldo Jr not only saved the UFC 218 main event by stepping in for an injured Frankie Edgar on less than one months’ notice, but he’s on the verge of saving his career by beating Max Holloway and winning the UFC Featherweight Championship. That’s right, I’m saying it. Jose Aldo will be champion again and join Randy Couture as the only person in UFC history with three title reigns in a single weight class.
Why are people sleeping on Aldo? This guy went eight years without losing. He’s only lost twice in his UFC career. One of those fights ended in 13 seconds and the other one, against Holloway, Aldo was winning before he got caught late in the third round. Do fans and experts really forget the dominance this guy had over the featherweight division for years? He has the record for most consecutive wins in WEC history with eight. After the WEC-UFC merge, Aldo carried that streak into the UFC where successfully defended the ‘promoted’ UFC Featherweight title seven times, a record for the UFC Featherweight division. So he lost to Conor McGregor… who hasn’t? I could make a pretty good argument that when that fight happened McGregor would have run through anyone in the Featherweight division. Aldo was also coming off a long absence, due to injury, and hadn’t fought for over a year. He got caught early and the fight was over. Aldo rebounded with a dominating effort against Frankie Edgar, who was scheduled for this title fight against Holloway but had to be removed due to a broken orbital bone.
Then came his first fight with Holloway, where it was back-and-forth with Aldo ahead on most cards until getting caught in the third and finished late in the round. Aldo begged for a rematch, like after the McGregor loss, but didn’t get one. Now, due to Edgar’s injury, he gets one in what I call ‘fate’. Fate for Aldo to get his belt back and get his future fight(s) on his terms… something a champion like him deserves. He was also coming off a long layover of almost a year in the first Holloway fight. I’m not using “octagon rust” as an excuse, but his only two losses in twelve years have come on year ‘plus’ hiatuses. This is the quickest turnaround for a fight we’ve seen from Aldo in years which means he’s both healthy and hungry for this rematch.
Let’s face it, Aldo was using his counter-attack beautifully in the first fight with Holloway and even put Holloway in some troubling positions early, which to Holloway’s credit he was able to escape the pressure. Holloway slowly was able to figure out Aldo’s timing and eventually built up more confidence as the fight progressed until he was able to drop Aldo and finish from the top. So what, if anything, can Aldo do this time to change the course of this fight? The same thing he should have done the first time. He needs to utilize his ferocious leg kicks. It’s hard to come up with many in the sport with kicks as powerful as Aldo’s. Check his fight with Urijah Faber if you need a reminder of what those look like. Why he didn’t utilize them more in the first tilt with Holloway is beyond me, but I have no doubt we’ll see them in this fight.
Aldo will be able to keep the distance and more importantly keep Holloway off-balance with his leg kicks. Look for Aldo to remain more patient and utilize his counter striking to perfection. I would be surprised to not see Aldo attempt to take this fight to the ground and exploit Holloway’s ground game. I’ve heard talk that “both fighters haven’t changed too much”… well, I don’t think Aldo has to. He just has to utilize his strengths to their fullest potential. I will concede that if both guys are just standing in front of each other that Holloway is the better striker. He proved it, basically, in their first fight. So Aldo needs to mix it up and he has the skills to do it. He can take this fight anywhere, which I feel gives him the edge over Holloway. Aldo recently stated: “I’m looking forward to making history and putting my name in the history of the UFC,” Aldo said through a translator at UFC 218 open workouts. “I want to retire being the champ.” I won’t go as far as to say he’ll retire as champ, unless he retires after this fight. But I will say a trilogy fight with Holloway will be on the horizon. Aldo gets the rematch and result he wants in this one.
Prediction: Jose Aldo Jr via Unanimous Decision