Though he may not have headlined the card, Brian Ortega and his spectacular performance over Frankie Edgar was the biggest story coming out of UFC 222.
Ortega knocked out Edgar with a stunning first-round sequence on Saturday night in Las Vegas to seize the next title shot against UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway. In the process, he became the first man in 13 years to finish Edgar, doing so in extraordinarily violent fashion with less than 20 seconds left in the opening round.
And for Ortega, the key to a star-making victory was simple: patience.
“The way I looked at it was, let me see what this guy’s going to bring to the table real quick, let me try to figure out his plan,” Ortega said at UFC 222’s post-fight press conference. “He came in, he was sticking, he was moving. I didn’t see him trying to wrestle so I put some pressure on him, then once I really relaxed in there, then I started throwing my shots and landing them, and I was just figuring my own self out. And once I did, that was it.”
The finish was a gorgeous example of Ortega’s rapidly evolving striking.
Ortega first rocked Edgar with a standing elbow, then sent Edgar crashing to the canvas with a nuclear missile of an uppercut that actually lifted Edgar off his feet.
“I took my time in trying to finish him,” Ortega explained of the sequence. “I knew he was rocked, and when I saw that opportunity to throw an uppercut, I threw it with bad intentions. I don’t want to have bad intentions, but when I’m in there, I had bad intentions when I threw that one — and it landed right on the dot.”
Already renowned for possessing the most dangerous jiu-jitsu game in the featherweight division, Ortega gave his fellow 145-pound fighters something else to worry about with his highlight-reel knockout of a surefire future Hall of Famer.
And for Ortega, who pushed his undefeated record to 14-0 with one no contest, it was rewarding to show off a side of his skill set that proved he is far more than a one-trick pony.
“I’ve always said it, and maybe the way I fight doesn’t really show it. I feel like you really have to be in there with me to feel the way I am,” Ortega said. “And I said: Pick your poison. We can bang it out or we can go to the ground, I’m comfortable either way and I feel like no matter what happens in the fight, I’ll be alright.”
Ortega, 27, now looks ahead to a matchup against Holloway, which UFC president Dana White confirmed on Saturday night is the promotion’s plan moving forward.
Ortega’s current six-fight win streak is highlighted by six stoppages over the likes of Cub Swanson, Renato Moicano, Clay Guida and more. And when asked about the suggestion Holloway made Saturday night on Twitter — a UFC 226 dance date on July 7 at International Fight Week — Ortega was frank in his response.
“Yeah, sure,” Ortega said, grinning.
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