UFC 226 Pick: Holloway vs. Ortega

MMA Fight: UFC 226
Key Matches: Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
When: Saturday, July 7, 2018
Time: 10:00PM EST
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Max Holloway, (-210), 19-3 (9 KOs, 2 Submissions) vs. Brian Ortega, (+175), 14-0 (3 KOs, 7 Submissions)

Max Holloway defends his UFC Featherweight Championship against Brian Ortega in the co-main event of UFC 226 on July 7. It’s really a dynamic fight, one that could be a main event on most UFC cards. You have a guy in Holloway who has proven he is the best 145-pounder in the world against a challenger many consider to be among the new wave of MMA talent in the unbeaten Ortega. Holloway has galvanized his greatness with 12 straight wins in the UFC, coming off two straight wins over Jose Aldo. But after punching out tough ex-champ Frankie Edgar in his last fight, Ortega is starting to rightfully be viewed as a major threat. Will Holloway keep the streak going or are we about to see a changing of the guard?

Ortega, 27, has really shined in his 6 UFC wins, none of which have lasted the distance. With stoppage wins over Edgar, Cub Swanson, Clay Guida, Diego Brandao, and others, he has shown himself to be a versatile fighter, capable of locking in submissions, while also able to finish fights on strikes. He’s clearly the most-dangerous contender at 145 pounds. Holloway has his hands full in this championship encounter. For those looking for a weakness to exploit, there is some damning stuff on Holloway. Injuries have started to affect him, forcing a pullout from UFC 222. And on short notice, he was penciled in to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov in UFC 223, before a bad weight cut left him unable to perform.

Now forced to lose ten more pounds to face Ortega, one perhaps would have liked to see the reigning champion enter a fight of this magnitude with more positive momentum. But that aside, Holloway is a fighter who had been improving with each passing outing. So these things might not matter much. And any notion that Ortega is the new wave and Holloway is the old-guard should be tempered by the fact that Holloway is actually a year younger at 26. We’re talking about a fighter who joined the UFC right after his 20th birthday. Things were up and down for a while in his career, before he dialed it in. With this latest run of wins he is on, he has beaten just about every big-name featherweight you could name.


Holloway is a unique fighter to evaluate. At first glance, what he does best might not leap off the screen. There aren’t a ton of Holloway clips when looking at the top UFC highlights. He just knows how to fight and hurt people. There is a ferocity to his approach and no fighter relishes a brawl quite like Holloway. There are a lot of things he does well, while not doing any one thing all that great—at least not in a flashy way. The champ has a good handle on all aspects of the game, galvanized by unending stamina and a true warrior’s mentality that has helped him put together this big winning streak. To win a dozen straight at this level is not something you see a lot.

Even those inclined to back Holloway would have to admit that Ortega represents something new for the reigning champion. A look at a list of Holloway’s top wins shows a lot of triumphs over a more-cemented group of 145-pounders, guys who have been around for a while. Ortega represents a newer wave of MMA fighter—an athlete who is well-versed across the board. Ortega has scored victories with kicks, punches, and a set of Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills that are beyond compare in the 145-pound division. He has three choke-wins in his last five fights. And the way he sets up those holds is very unique, as Ortega takes to the air and uses all the different moves to get to where he wants to be.

Holloway is a lengthy featherweight. Ortega, however, is 5’8″ and he won’t be dwarfed by Holloway like some of Max’s previous challengers. Ortega seems to be on another level with his BJJ. It doesn’t take much for him to threaten with finishers. If he gets a hold of a guy, it can quickly lead to disaster. And when gauging the chances of an underdog challenger, it’s nice to see such a clear-cut ability to finish fights. Ortega most certainly has that going for him, which definitely enhances his case.

Time will tell, but this could be Holloway’s toughest challenge. Obviously, no one will say that if the champ goes out there and smokes Ortega. But from what we have to go on now, that might be asking a lot. Ortega is deadly on the ground and Holloway needs to somehow turn this into one of his patented brawls. But even when standing up, Ortega is hardly a picnic, having shown he can hang in there with some tough guys.

Again, Holloway in the octagon is still a force on the rise. His second win over Aldo was more-conclusive than the first and it never seemed like he stopped improving. And even if you don’t think the ankle injury or the botched weight cut will play a role, it’s hard to disregard Ortega’s chances in this championship try. Ortega has never faced anyone like Holloway, a man who just might be the best 145-pounder ever. But the challenger is the kind of new fighter that excels at everything. The margin of error is frighteningly-small with him. At +175, there is some betting value and he’s worth a hard look. We’re taking the underdog challenger in this one.

Loot’s Pick to Win the Match: I’m betting on Brian Ortega at +175 betting odds. Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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