Max Holloway sent a cold two-word message to those who would seek to overthrow him: Good luck.
The Hawaiian superstar carved up Jose Aldo in their rematch and authored a third-round technical knockout to retain the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title in the UFC 218 main event on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Holloway buried the Brazilian with punches 4:51 into Round 3, as he put his 12th straight win in the books and continued to paint himself as a historical figure at 145 pounds.
Even armed with his vaunted leg kicks, Aldo was no match for the champion. Holloway lulled him to sleep for the better part of two rounds and then lured him into a firefight from which there was no escape. According to preliminary FightMetric data, the 25-year-old unleashed 212 strikes on Aldo in the third round alone, connecting with 114 of them. Picture a lawnmower hitting an ant pile. By fight’s end, Holloway had landed nearly 100 more significant strikes than the future hall of famer.
In the aftermath of UFC 218 “Holloway vs. Aldo 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar: It will almost certainly take a Herculean effort to pry the featherweight championship away from Holloway. Over his last seven appearances, the Gracie Technics export has defeated Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson; only Lamas and Stephens managed to go the distance with him. Unless a serious contender emerges out of a next-generation group that includes Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez, Doo Ho Choi and Mirsad Bektic, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Holloway seated on the featherweight throne for the foreseeable future. Edgar, who was booked to face the “Blessed” one at UFC 218 before a training injury took him out of the equation, has not fought since he scored a second-round technical knockout on the aforementioned Rodriguez on May 13.
Francis Ngannou vs. Stipe Miocic: Ngannou did his part and then some. The surging heavyweight staked his claim as the No. 1 contender for Miocic’s title in the co-main event, as he knocked out Alistair Overeem with a sweeping left uppercut in the first round. An unconscious Overeem fell to the canvas, where he was met with a toe-curling hammerfist before referee Dan Miragliotta could arrive on the scene. It was one of the most frightening and violent knockouts in recent memory. Ngannou has finished all 10 of his opponents during his current winning streak. Miocic last competed at UFC 211 in May, when he blew away Junior dos Santos in a little more than two minutes and avenged one of his two career losses.
Henry Cejudo vs. Ray Borg-Brandon Moreno winner: Cejudo can make a strong case that he is the best flyweight in the sport not named Demetrious Johnson, whose shadow towers over all who populate the 125-pound weight class. Cejudo moved one step closer to a rematch with “Mighty Mouse,” as he stifled and suffocated Sergio Pettis across three rounds, overwhelming the Roufusport standout with takedowns and top control to earn a convincing unanimous decision. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist has responded to consecutive losses to Johnson and Joseph Benavidez in 2016 with back-to-back wins over Pettis and Wilson Reis. Borg and Moreno will square off at UFC Fight Night 126 on Feb. 18.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier: Alvarez met diabolical aggression with precise technique and lived to tell the tale. He succeeded where 17 other had failed, as he wiped out the previously unbeaten Justin Gaethje with an exquisite third-round knee strike and follow-up punches in one of the most anticipated matchups of 2017. Alvarez absorbed his share of punishment — Gaethje was particularly effective with thudding kicks to the lead leg and raised a massive hematoma on the Philadelphia native’s face — but stuck to his guns, worked over the former World Series of Fighting champion and ultimately found the opening he sought. Alvarez and Poirier have unfinished business to settle after their May 13 encounter resulted in a no-contest. American Top Team’s Poirier has since dispatched former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Anthony Pettis.
Justin Gaethje vs. Kevin Lee: MMA’s most beloved action hero finally went out on his shield, as Gaethje was brought down by a knee strike and follow-up punches from Alvarez in their violent lightweight showcase. Even in defeat, the Trevor Wittman protégé gained a measure of respect, and owing to his crowd-pleasing style, he figures to catch another high-profile bout in the not-too-distant future. Lee saw his five-fight winning streak snapped at UFC 216, where he submitted to a third-round triangle choke from Tony Ferguson in a battle over the interim lightweight championship on Oct. 7. Victories over Efrain Escudero, Jake Matthews, Magomed Mustafaev, Francisco Trinaldo and Michael Chiesa preceded the setback.