Brian Ortega is undoubtedly one of the finest young fighters on the planet.
But he happens to share a weight class with a competitor who is on the short list for pound-for-pound best in UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway.
The Waianae, Hawaii native threw down with Ortega for four scintillating rounds on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 231 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. The ultra-tough Ortega weathered the storm and rallied before Holloway found a second wind and won the fight.
Ortega made it through a fourth round in which he absorbed a brutal beating, but the cage side physician waved off the bout, meaning it goes into the books as a TKO victory at 5:00 of round four for the defending champion.
With the victory, Holloway won his 13th consecutive fight since a 2013 decision loss to former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor.
“Is there anyone else? Let’s go,” said Holloway (20-3). “He’s a tough opponent, a tough guy.”
Holloway had not fought for a year, but he quickly reminded viewers what he brings to the table, as the pace picked up midway through the opening round. Holloway landed from funky angles and darted out. Ortega, though, scored often enough to keep Ortega honest, including a wicked elbow off the break.
Ortega is from the famed Gracie jiu-jitsu academy in Torrance, Calif. and he went for his bread-and-butter in the second round, landing takedowns in the early rounds, but Holloway proved slippery and Ortega never came close to scoring a submission.
The fight turned in Ortega’s favor in the third, as he fearlessly waded in and rocked Holloway with heavy hands. Holloway weathered the storm, though, and had his bearing back by the time the round ended.
By the fourth, Holloway took over. He landed punch after punch in what was likely a 10-8 round. Ortega showed otherworldly resilience and kept attempting to wrest Holloway to the mat. But Ortega had his face rendered a horrific mess for his efforts, and Holloway began peppering Ortega with body shots as well.
The horn sounded, and Ortega never quit, but the doctor wasn’t about to let him take any more abuse.
Holloway doesn’t appear to have many more challenges left at 145 pounds after his second featherweight title defense, and he indicated he’d be open to at least entertaining the notion of competing in a lightweight fight.
“I made the weight, I made it look easy,” Ortega said. “Dana White I want to be number one pound for pound, there’s some guys at ‘55, let’s do it.”
Ortega is now 14-1 with one no-contest. Holloway’s victory was his 12th career stoppage.
“The bout was the second attempt to put together this fight, and first time Holloway got to the cage in four scheduled fights this year. Holloway had to pull out of a UFC 222 title defense against Frankie Edgar due to a leg injury. Ortega stepped in and defeated Edgar to earn a title shot. Holloway then was going to fight lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on six days’ notice, but was pulled by the athletic commission during his weight cut due to health concerns. Holloway vs. Ortega was then scheduled for UFC 226, but Holloway was pulled during fight week after displaying concussion-like symptoms.