Ontario, Canada will play host to what appears to be one of the years most promising nights of violence at UFC 231 on Saturday, December 8th. UFC 231 boasts talents such as the deadly and heavy handed Thiago Santos, up and comer Hakeem Dawodu, and the always exciting Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. As if that wasn't enough, the main card features quite possibly two of the most talent-rich matchups in the history of the UFC.
In the headlining bout, Featherweight champion Max Holloway hopes to continue his reign in the “Blessed Era” as he takes on fellow rising star, the undefeated, Brian Ortega. In an era where UFC title shots seem meaningless at times (and often given to fighters many would consider undeserving), no one can question that Max Holloway and Brian Ortega are indeed the two most talented Featherweights in the UFC.
After a two fight skid back in 2013 that featured losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor Mcgregor, Holloway has been on a warpath. Beginning in 2014, Holloway has laid waste to some of the most talented and respected fighters in the sport. In the wake of his destruction, Holloway has defeated the likes of former Lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, former Featherweight title challenger, Ricardo Lamas, and the hard-hitting Jeremy Stephens. But most impressively, Holloway has twice dispatched arguably the greatest Featherweight of all time in Jose Aldo.
Holloway's much improved striking is becoming more creative with every fight. He has shown a great ability to adapt mid-fight, and most importantly, he can set a pace that very few of his opponents can match. He also possesses the frightening ability to become stronger and more violent as the fight goes on. He is without a doubt, one of the most talented and confident champions the sport has ever seen.
Standing opposite of Holloway at UFC 231 is Brian Ortega, who also steps into the octagon with his own set of distinguishing talents. Ortega has yet to taste defeat in his MMA career; his impressive record stands at 14-0, with seven of his ten stoppages having come via submission. Ortega has shown that his Jiu Jitsu is not to be tested and that it can end any fight in a moments notice. Even scarier, at UFC 222 the world witnessed Ortega pull off one of the most shocking finishes, with a vicious uppercut KO of former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who at that point in his career had never been finished. The biggest knock on Ortega is that he is a notoriously slow starter and often has to pull off comebacks to win fights. Even with those slow starts, Ortega has proven time and again that he is never out of a fight. Thus, his opponents can never feel comfortable, even when they appear to have the upper hand.
Ortega's elite Jiu Jitsu and proven ability to overcome adversity will meet Holloway's violent and relentless pace creating one of the most exciting title fights that we will witness all year.
Equally as exciting, UFC 231's co-main event will feature two prolific strikers, as former Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and former Bantamweight title challenger Valentina Schevchenko face off in a highly anticipated match up for the UFC's Women's Flyweight title. This is a match-up that many have been anxious to see since the UFC added both of these women to their roster.
To watch Joanna is to see what the pinnacle of striking ability looks like in the sport of MMA. Joanna's violent brand of technical Muay Thai has brought devastation to nearly all of her opponents. She strings together precise combinations like a work of art, her movements are pinpoint and accurate. She has also shown stellar take down defense in most of her outings, leaving her opponents only the unfortunate option of standing with her. Another intriguing part of this match up is that it will take place at 125 lbs, up from Joanna's normal weight of 115 lbs. We could possibly see a more energized and reinvigorated Joanna since she won’t have to cut as much weight. If Joanna shows a comfort at her new weight, she might have found a new land to conquer.
Ready to introduce the newcomer to her new stomping grounds is fellow Muay Thai ace Valentina Shevchenko. Having defeated Joanna back on the Muay Thai circuit three times, Valentina looks to carry that streak into MMA. Coming down from Bantamweight, Valentina seemingly has a distinct size advantage. Adding to that, Shevchenko brings a diverse striking set of her own as seen in her recent performances against Juliana Pena and Priscila Cachoeira, both of which ended via submission. Shevchenko will look to assert herself as the more well rounded fighter.
Simply put, the talent in each of these championship bouts are world class. Both match-ups are too close to call; an argument can be made for any of these fighters to leave the cage with a belt around their waist at the end of the night. It is these kinds of match ups-that remind me why I fell in love with this crazy sport in the first place. The top of the UFC 231 card is the apex of talent in MMA. This is much see TV!
Fight Pass Prelims: 6:00 PM On UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Card: 8:00 PM On Fox Sports 1 Main Card: 10:00 PM on PPV
Michael "CerealSensei" Williams is the host of the Dojo Talk Podcast. He is an avid fight fan, author, hip hop enthusiast, and part-time gamer. You can find him roaming the Twitter streets at @CerealSensei and you can listen to the Dojo Talk Podcast on Soundcloud.