UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway knew that if he could wear Jose Aldo out, he could finish the former champ.
He had seen it firsthand six months ago when he took the belt with a third-round knockout.
Holloway battered the exhausted former champion in the third round again Saturday night in the main event of UFC 218 in Detroit until the referee stopped the fight at 4:51.
“Aldo was a hell of a champion, but I told you the ‘Blessed’ era is something new.” Holloway said after winning his 11th consecutive fight. “I told you he’d get tired. My trainer said, ‘Let’s take him into deep water. We know he can’t swim there.’”
Holloway had eased into the fight in the first meeting before coming on late in the second and taking over in the third. He was ready to go from the opening bell Saturday and had Aldo on his heels from the outset.
The back-to-back wins over the longest reigning featherweight champion in UFC history secured his spot atop the division.
But Holloway has his eyes set on more.
“All of these guys are cupcakes, and I love cupcakes,” he said. “I look forward to the new flavor, but I’m going to eat them all.”
Also on the main card, rising heavyweight star Francis Ngannou was more than ready for the biggest test of his young career, as he made quick work of Alistair Overeem.
Ngannou knocked him cold with a devastating left hand at 1:42 of the first round.
“I will do that to everyone,” Ngannou said after winning his 10th consecutive fight overall and sixth straight since joining the UFC. “I am on my way to completing my dream.”
The win more than likely set him up for a title shot against champion Stipe Miocic.
“I always dreamed of being a world champion,” said Ngannou, who has relocated to Las Vegas to continue to build his career. “I thought it would be in boxing, but my dream changed when I discovered MMA. MMA was my calling, and now I am on my way to this dream. 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.”
Former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez made a big move toward regaining his title by handing Justin Gaethje the first loss of his professional career.
Alvarez knocked him out with a crushing right knee in the third round.
“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.
Flyweight Henry Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, put on a clinic in controlling Sergio Pettis on the mat for the vast majority of their three-round fight on his way to a unanimous decision.
“I felt stronger out there,” Cejudo said. “I never felt his power. My plan was to wrestle a little more, let my hands go when we were standing and impose my will. I’ve been dreaming about getting back to the championship for a long time, and I just beat two top-five contenders.”
Women’s strawweight contender Tecia Torres opened the pay-per-view card with a unanimous decision over contender Michelle Waterson.
“Going into the third, I thought I had done enough to win the fight, but I was a bit iffy because of her takedowns during the second round so I wanted to seal the deal in the third,” Torres said. “I just kept throwing and looking for the finish. My goal in the third round was to finish her, but I’m very happy to get the win.”
Torres is 1-1 against new champion Rose Namajunas and lobbied for a trilogy fight for the belt, though Namajunas is likely to be booked in a rematch with former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Paul Felder, Yancy Medeiros, Amanda Cooper, Abdul Razak Al-Hassan and Justin Willis picked up knockout wins on the preliminary card.
David Teymur and Felice Herrig each earned decision wins, and Dominick Reyes remained unbeaten by submitting light heavyweight Jeremy Kimball.