When Max Holloway left the octagon in Rio de Janeiro, there was no question that he was the undisputed UFC featherweight champion. There was no talk of his win over Jose Aldo being a fluke, no mention of one lucky punch, no overwhelming call for an immediate rematch. If anything, it felt like the fight could have been stopped a little sooner.
It’s too early to say Holloway is going to be the next great UFC champion, but at just 25, he’s already put together a run that has his name all over the UFC featherweight-division record books.
UFC 212 took place at Jeunesse Arena. Here are 10 memorable moments from the pay-pr-view event.
Ten straight. That’s the winning streak Holloway was on before the UFC decided to give him a shot at becoming the undisputed featherweight champion. Not one to waste an opportunity, Holloway achieved his goal in emphatic fashion, earning a third-round TKO win over perhaps the greatest featherweight in MMA history.
After knocking down Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) with three minutes left left in the third stanza, Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) was relentless in his pursuit of the finish. Aldo did his best to survive the ground assault, but Holloway would not be denied. When referee John McCarthy waved off the fight with 47 seconds left in the round, no one could dispute Holloway’s featherweight coronation.
Holloway’s 11-fight winning streak is the fourth longest among active UFC fighters.
Holloway could’ve left Brazil satisfied that his hands delivered every message that needed to be sent at UFC 212. However, the newly crowned featherweight champion wanted to let UFC President Dana White know he wanted a meeting – and a raise.
“Dana, I want my meeting! Pay the man! Pay me money! You said you were a big-game hunting! Tell me what big game! I just got one on your head now,” Holloway shouted on his way past press row.
UFC 212 marked the second time Gadelha (15-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) trained with Chris Luttrell, and the change has resulted in two victories, including her “Performance of the Night” bonus-winning effort over Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC).
Gadelha used her strong work in the clinch to take the fight to the ground. Once there, she effortlessly locked on a rear-naked choke for the submission win.
After the fight, Gadelha was in no rush to get a third fight against strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
“I don’t want that to happen,” Gadelha said. “I want to prepare myself, and I want to show that it’s my challenge to show that I am able to fight Joanna again. I want everybody to come up to me and say, ‘Now Claudia is capable of beating Joanna.’ And that’s why I’m working on the flaws I think that I had when I fought her the first and second time.”
If Gadelha continues to improve under Luttrell’s tutelage, then waiting for another title fight makes sense, especially if she can rack up more fight-night bonuses on her way to that rematch.
Sometimes we forget MMA can be a lonely endeavor. There’s nowhere to hide when you lose. When you face defeat in a team sport, you can get lost in a crowd or quickly make your way to the locker room, but in MMA you’re not so lucky. You’re locked in a cage, there’s no quick getaway, and making things worse, the camera is there to catch each heartbreaking moment as you try to process what just occurred, steps away from your celebrating opponent.
Don’t believe that? Take a look at the post-fight shots of Aldo and Kowalkiewicz:
Heading into UFC 212, Vitor Belfort had not won a fight since 2015 and had not gone the distance since 2007. He did both of those things against Nate Marquardt, earning a unanimous-decision win in the middleweight bout.
With the victory, 40-year-old Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) told UFC commentator Brian Stann, “I’ve got five more fights to go, guys.”
This from a man who recently said he would retire following the Marquardt (35-18-2 MMA, 13-11 UFC) fight.
Paulo Borrachinha had nine first-round finishes in nine fights heading into UFC 212. He didn’t add another first-round stoppage against Oluwale Bamgbose. Instead, it took Borrachinha until 96 seconds into the second stanza to finish his middleweight opponent.
Borrachinha (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) used a mixed striking attack on his way to the victory over Bamgbose (6-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC), and he looks like he could be a force in the middleweight division. The one question that continues to loom over Borrachinha is his gas tank, something that cost him during Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
Well, Assuncao kept his word following his split-decision victory over the former WSOF champion.
“I think I’ve paved my way to the title shot,” Assuncao said after the fight.
With his win over Moraes, Assuncao is 9-1 at bantamweight in the UFC, with his only loss coming to former champion T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 200. Dillashaw won that fight by unanimous decision.
Heading into his bantamweight fight against Johnny Eduardo, the book on Matthew Lopez was that he had aggressive striking on the feet and strong grappling skills. Lopez (10-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) added another page to that book in Brazil, stopping Eduardo (28-11 MMA, 3-3 UFC) via a ferocious ground striking attack.
After failing to secure a heel hook, Eduardo found himself on the business end of close to 30 unanswered ground strikes, a number that could have been reduced had referee Mario Yamasaki mercifully called a halt to the fight sooner than he did.
Before debuting at UFC 212, Brian Kelleher had fought for more than 10 MMA promotions. He made the most of his chance on the sport’s biggest stage when he stopped Iuri Alcantara in the first round of their bantamweight bout.
The end came surprisingly quick. Seconds after Alcantara (34-8 MMA, 9-3 UFC) attempted a takedown, Kelleher (17-7 MMA, 1-0 UFC) secured a guillotine choke, which brought an almost immediate tap from Alcantara, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, stunning the Brazil crowd.
Kelleher then taunted those in attendance, throwing the “you’re gonna die” chant back at them in Portuguese before putting his finger to his lips and adding “shhh.”
The win earned Kelleher a “Performance of the Night” bonus, the contempt of the Brazilian crowd and most likely a step up in competition in his next outing.
After going 0-1-1 in his first two UFC bouts, Luan Chagas was likely fighting for his UFC life against Jim Wallhead. Not only did Chagas get the win in this welterweight fight, he did so with a second-round rear-naked choke.
Chagas looked much more mature in this fight. He remained calm and showed improved striking and defense throughout the contest.
Before facing Wallhead (29-11 MMA, 0-2 UFC), Chagas (15-2-1 MMA, 1-1-1 UFC) told MMAjunkie he had not been prepared for the step up in competition the UFC offered.
“Now I understand that I’m in the biggest promotion in the world, so I made some changes during this fight camp,” Chagas said. “It’s a new start.”