Detroit — He was smiling before the fight, he was smiling during the fight, and you can be certain that Max Holloway will be flashing an enormous grin long after knocking out Jose Aldo to win his 12th consecutive fight during Saturday night’s UFC 218 main event rematch at Little Caesars Arena.
In the first round, Aldo reminded the world why he held the featherweight belt for seven years, channeling the legendary figure that made their first matchup so intriguing.
“I think Brazil should be building statues of that guy,” Holloway said. “He’s a legend, he’s the (greatest of all time), and I got a lot to fill.”
Holloway exited the first five minutes with a plus-2-strike differential, but Aldo was landing strikes — a majority of them headshots — at a 34-percent clip compared to Holloway’s 19.
Still, the 25-year-old champion wasn’t shy about his dominance. Holloway said, even after an even first round, he knew the fight was his.
“I told you guys, if I beat you one time, the second time is going to be worse, and then the third time you should re-think your life about accepting the fight,” Holloway said.
“After the first round I walked up to Joe Rogan and John Anik, I told them, ‘The guy’s tired.’”
Holloway continued to out-strike his opponent in the second round, but despite being significantly bloodied, Aldo was having success with heavy strikes to the head. He was throwing punches with knockout potential, including a chaotic exchange to end round 2.
The champion outclassed his challenger his challenger in round 3.
He threw combo after combo to back Aldo against the cage in the round’s final minute. From there, Holloway rained punches to every area of Aldo’s upper body, bloodying the Brazilian and taking him to the ground where he finished the job with consecutive hammer fists.
“By the time I’m done with this division, when you look at the top 15, everybody’s going to have an ‘L’ next to their name, some guys two, and if you’re lucky you’ll have three,” Holloway said.
If there was any doubt that Francis Ngannou was ‘for real,’ he ended that conversation at 1:42 of the first round in his co-main event matchup with No. 1 contender Alistair Overeem.
“I have worked hard to be here and I thank Overeem for the fight. It is one punch,” Ngannou said.
“Not just to Overeem, not just to Stipe (Miocic), I will do that to everyone.”
He landed 10 punches to Overeem’s two, knocking out the legend in devastating style. UFC president Dana White confirmed Ngannou’s impending title shot with Miocic.
"That's as impressive of a heavyweight knockout as you will ever see," White said. “When you look at him, he looks like the heavyweight champion of the world.”
Ngannou said: “Tell Stipe that I am coming. I am on my way to collect my belt. I thank him for keeping it for me but that time is over.”
In what many successfully predicted as fight of the night, a swift knee from Eddie Alvarez connected with the jaw of a down-looking Justin Gaethje at 3:59 in the third round, putting the young star to sleep and sending his first professional loss to bed with him.
“Titles are great, but at the end of the day, the thing everyone cares about is who the most violent fighter is and that’s what this fight was tonight,” Alvarez said. “I trained for this like it was a five rounder and my plan was to finish in the third.”
Alvarez strayed from his plan to wound Gaethje with leg kicks, throwing headshots his opponent’s way at an 85-percent clip while mixing in shots to the torso.
“If you’re not ready to hurt Justin Gaethje, he’ll put you on your butt every time so I used the body shots to hurt him and control the pace,” Alvarez said.
The two men traded blows at a similar rate early, but the veteran delivered crisp strikes on a more consistent basis throughout, boasting a plus-36-strike differential in the latter two rounds.
To kick off the pay-per-view TV portion of the card, Tecia Torres defeated Michelle Waterson via unanimous decision.
Torres landed 154 strikes to Waterson's 66, overwhelming her opponent both standing up and when on the mat.
The bout between Henry Cejudo and Anthony Pettis lacked a certain luster, as a majority of fans were happy to turn their attention to a floor-level fan fight that occurred in the final two minutes of the third round.
Cejudo defeated Pettis via unanimous decision. He efficiently worked Pettis on the mat, controlling 9:35 of the fight and landing over twice the number of strikes.
Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira made their case for fight of the year — and earned co-fight of the night in the process — with a three-round battle that was so reciprocally violent, both men hugged to start rounds two and three. Medeiros defeated Oliveira via knockout.
“Thank you to Oliveira,” Medeiros said. “He’s a cowboy and we all know that cowboys are tough; he proved it in that fight.”
Two Michigan natives also competed during the prelims: Amanda Cooper of Bath defeated Angela Magana via second round TKO, and Drakkar Klose of Kalamazoo was defeated by David Teymur via unanimous decision.
“It was very therapeutic to win like this in my hometown,” Cooper said. “It showed me that all I need to worry about is growing and being the best fighter I can be.”
Paul Felder (15-3-0) defeated Charles Oliveira (22-8-0) via second round TKO.
Yancy Medeiros (15-4-0) defeated Alex Oliveira (17-4-1) via third round TKO.
David Taymur (7-1-0) defeated Drakkar Klose (8-1-1) via unanimous decision.
Felice Herrig (14-6-0) defeated Cortney Casey (7-5-0) via split decision.
Amanda Cooper (4-3-0) defeated Angela Magana (11-9-0) via second round TKO.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (8-1-0) defeated Sabah Homasi (11-7-0) via first round TKO.
Dominick Reyes (8-0-0) defeated Jeremy Kimball (15-7-0) via first round submission.
Justin Willis (6-1) defeated Allen Crowder (9-3) via first round knockout.