DETROIT — Max Holloway sought to build up his UFC legacy and push Jose Aldo closer to the end of his career.
Done and done.
Holloway defended his UFC featherweight title by dominating the former champion in a rematch, winning his 12th straight fight with a TKO late in the third round Saturday night.
“He is a hell of a technician, but this is the ‘Blessed’ era,” Holloway said, referring to his nickname. “This is something new.”
Holloway (19-3) beat Aldo in his native Brazil in June, rallying from a slow start to win with a TKO in the third.
The 25-year-old Hawaiian was in control throughout the bout in Detroit, but Aldo (26-4) landed his fair share of punches and kicks as one would expect from one of the greats in mixed martial arts.
Holloway’s last loss was to Conor McGregor in 2013. McGregor made about $100 million for boxing Floyd Mayweather Jr. last summer. UFC President Dana White isn’t sure if McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, will ever get in the octagon again, even though he’s under contract for four more fights.
“Who knows even if Conor is going to fight again,” White said. “I’m rolling like he’s not.”
Frankie Edgar was supposed to fight Holloway but broke an orbital bone a few weeks ago while training. He was asked to fight two weeks earlier than scheduled. Aldo acknowledged he got away from his strength in the previous fight, keeping his feet on the mat instead of kicking them. He went back to kicking in Detroit, but it didn’t seem to affect the agile Holloway.
“He kicks very hard, but I think we passed the test,” Holloway said. “I took him into deep waters.”
The 31-year-old Aldo has lost three of his last four fights, including to McGregor nearly two years ago after going nearly a decade without a setback.
Heavyweight Francis Ngannou knocked out Alistair Overeem (43-16) with a left hook, and as the division’s top contender lay on his back motionless, a right fist made sure he was finished for the night.
“That’s as impressive of a heavyweight knockout as you’ll ever see,” White said.
Ngannou (11-1) set himself up to get a shot against champion Stipe Miocic, a matchup White said will happen soon, by improving to 6-0 in UFC without a fight going to the judges.
“I’m ready for that,” said Ngannou, who is from Cameroon. “Ready as ever.”
VIOLENT, AS ADVERTISED
Eddie Alvarez dropped Justin Gaethje in the middle of the octagon by thrusting his right knee into his opponent’s chin in the third round for a TKO, ending a lightweight matchup that lived up to the billing of being very violent.
The former champion took his share of blows, leaving him with a jaw so swollen it looked like he had a tennis ball in there, plus wobbly legs.
Alvarez (29-5) gave Gaethje (18-1) his first loss, staying upright against the former Northern Colorado All-American wrestler and hitting him with a flurry of punches that drew blood about his right eye to affect his vision.
“I don’t expect either one of them to be back anytime soon,” White said.
U.S. Olympic champion Henry Cejudo, who won wrestling gold in 2008, beat Sergio Pettis with a unanimous decision in a flyweight bout. Cejudo (12-2) was in control throughout the bout against Pettis (16-3) by grappling on the ground, drawing boos from fans wanting to see more punching and kicking.
“I feel bad for the fans because I do want to entertain and put on a show,” said Cejudo, who went to Coronado High School. “I do want to fight (division champion) Demetrious Johnson. I want to say (wrestling) was a safe way out.”
“I want to be a crowd-pleaser, but Sergio is one of the best strikers in our division,” Cejudo said.
Colorado Springs-based Tecia Torres (10-1) started the main card by beating Aurora-born Michelle Waterson (14-6) with a unanimous decision, putting herself closer to a potential opportunity to fight women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, who trains in Colorado.