For whatever excuses Jose Aldo had in losing his featherweight title in June, Max Holloway made sure to remove any doubt in their rematch on Saturday at UFC 218.
Holloway, 25, was too young, too strong and too hungry. And the UFC's rising young star made an emphatic first defense of his 145-pound title by securing a second straight third-round TKO victory over Aldo, who had ruled the division for nearly a decade.
Aldo, 31, was fully healthy and refocused this time around. He was also effective, fighting at worst even with Holloway (19-3) through two rounds. But Aldo, who needed two attempts to make weight on Friday, used up too much energy to get there.
Once Holloway was able to lure Aldo (26-4) into a war in Round 3, the fading champion was easy pickings.
"I knew he was tired already," Holloway said. "My trainer said, 'Let's take him into deep waters. I know he can't swim there and we are going to drown him.' That's exactly what I did."
Holloway, a native of Hawaii, pushed the pace considerably to open the third round and used his reach to outbox Aldo and further bruise his badly swollen right eye. While Aldo was game and willing to go out on his shield, his furious attempt at fighting Holloway off only sped up his demise.
A desperate takedown attempt left Aldo on his back, eating a barrage of punches. Referee Herb Dean gave the former champion every opportunity to recover as the round neared the end, but the extra time saw Holloway brutally pound his face. Dean finally waved it off at 4:51, leaving Aldo a bloody mess.
The performance was worthy of the pound-for-pound accreditation Holloway received for stopping Aldo the first time at UFC 212 in Brazil. The victory was also his 12th in a row as the poised striker continues to evolve into a dynamic fighter.
Just how impressive was this performance? Of Holloway's 116 strikes landed, 114 of them were considered significant. He also utilized a striking move he learned from watching junior lightweight boxing champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, in which he extended his hands to paw and distract Aldo before landing heavy strikes.
"At the end of the day, it is what it is," Holloway said. "All due respect; Aldo is a hell of a champion but I told you that the 'Blessed Era' is something new.
"I was watching Lomachenko a lot and I put my hands in front of [Aldo]. I was trying to Lomachenko a lot but I wasn't moving and I passed the test."
Holloway, who is nicknamed "Blessed," was humble in victory, shooting down UFC announcer Joe Rogan's assertion that he had already become "the greatest featherweight of all-time" after two victories over Aldo.
"I've got a lot of catching up to do," Holloway said. "You have to respect the man who has all the numbers."
Aldo, took the fight on three week's notice after Frankie Edgar pulled out with an injury, suffered his third loss in four fights.
"I told you guys, all these guys is cupcakes," Holloway said. "I look forward to the new flavor but any of them can get it. I like cupcakes. I'm going to eat them all baby."
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