Jose Aldo, left, absorbs a punch from Max Holloway at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro at Saturday’s UFC 212 event. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

“This is what kings do. Kings go to other kings’ villages and they take over.”

Those were the words of the UFC’s newly minted unified featherweight champion Max Holloway shortly after his fight with Jose Aldo was confirmed in February. On Saturday, when UFC 212 took up residence on Aldo’s home turf in Rio de Janeiro, Holloway followed through on that boast, finishing the longtime Brazilian champion off at 4:13 in the third round with a TKO by punches.

The win comes five years after Holloway debuted in the UFC as a raw 20-year-old, and it’s clear the Hawaiian has come a long way judging from the crispness of his finish, which began with a hard jab-cross and ended with a vicious series of ground strikes. Overall, he fought a smart, measured bout against Aldo, taking his licks early before responding in the second and third. It was masterful and dangerous, but exactly what had to be done.

Not since Conor McGregor beat Aldo in 13 seconds in 2015 has there been such excitement about a fight at the 145-pound level, or about a fighter at the 145-pound level. Although McGregor is likely never coming back to the featherweight division, it nonetheless remains filled with compelling matchups for Holloway.

Now one must ask, what happens to Aldo? With this second, almost equally devastating loss, Aldo is at a crossroads in his life and career.

As for the rest of the the event, it also delivered outstanding action.

Claudia Gadelha made a case for another shot at strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a dominant first-round submission win over former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

Meanwhile, Yancy Medeiros and Paulo Borrachinha delivered stunning knockout finishes, and aging lion Vitor Belfort claimed a contentious win over Nate Marquardt.

For more, scroll down for round-by-round analysis from fight expert Patrick Wyman and color commentary and contextual tidbits from The Post’s Marissa Payne.


Max Holloway def. Jose Aldo via TKO (punches), Round 3, 4:13

Holloway delivered a crisp, clear and definitive performance against the division’s former giant. Once Holloway measured Aldo’s timing and distance, he found his counters, his angles, and that led to the pace. Even if he hadn’t dropped Aldo with a beautiful third-round combination, there wasn’t much chance that Aldo could’ve kept up the exchanges and the kind of wild firefight Holloway had worked so hard to create. In the end, it was an incredible performance from Holloway and a tremendous display of heart and skill from Aldo to last as long as he did following the knockdown.

Round 1: Holloway comes out circling and looking for angles, gauging the distance and timing. Both fighters are looking for the jab early and slowly pick it up. Aldo explodes into a vicious left hook and then a combination that rocks Holloway, but the Hawaiian survives that early burst and gets back to business. He’s looking to counter Aldo and doesn’t seem afraid to stay in the pocket after getting stung early. Aldo looks to pick it up in the last minute with a combination but eats a counter from Holloway. This is Aldo’s pace and his kind of fight, and he takes the round 10-9.

Round 2: Both fighters are warmed up and ready to go as the round starts. Holloway is leaning on his jab, as is Aldo, and both fighters are looking to execute jab-cross combinations. Holloway is mostly consenting to fight at Aldo’s pace and hasn’t been able to swarm much with combos, a testament to Aldo’s ability to control the distance. Holloway is starting to pick it up and and gets off a nice counter sequence, then gets his feints going. He’s having success drawing out Aldo’s counter and then countering the counter, gorgeous stuff. They’re exchanging now and both fighters are landing. This is Holloway’s pace, not Aldo’s, and Aldo needs to get back to the jabbing and moving. A clean combination lands for Aldo and Holloway is mugging toward the end of the round, but pays for it. Closer, but still 10-9 Aldo and 20-18 overall, though momentum is shifting in Holloway’s direction.

Round 3: Holloway is pressuring more and is starting to work the body. The combinations are flying fast and furious for Holloway, going upstairs and down, but Aldo is landing as well. This is Holloway’s kind of fight, a firefight at pace, and it’s too much volume for Aldo to easily process. Holloway drops Aldo with a huge jab-cross combination and jumps on top. He’s in the mount and Aldo escapes back to half guard. Holloway is swarming with punches and Aldo is trying to survive as Holloway postures. Aldo goes out for a second and he’s in serious trouble. Holloway’s mount is sublime and he takes the back, looking to sink in the rear-naked choke. The punches are just relentless here and Aldo can’t get him off. Big John McCarthy stops the fight after a hailstorm of unanswered blows.

Claudia Gadelha def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 3:03

Claudia Gadelha celebrates her quick finish of Karolina Kowalkiewicz. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

That was a comprehensive victory for Gadelha, who landed hard counters on the feet, hit a gorgeous takedown chain, and then passed to the back for the choke. She’s the second-best strawweight on the planet and if anybody deserves another shot at the champ, it’s her. For Kowalkiewicz, there aren’t many positives to take from that: She got outmuscled in the clinch and made a rookie mistake to give up her back in the scramble. It’s back to the drawing board for her.

And maybe next time, she’ll come to the Octagon with a bit more fire.

Round 1: Kowalkiewicz comes out looking to pressure and endures counters from Gadelha the first couple of times she lets her hands go. When they clinch up, Gadelha lands a pair of sharp elbows. Those battles on the inside will be key for both fighters. They clinch again after Gadelha weathers several more shots than she’d like, and this time she plants Kowalkiewicz on the canvas. The Brazilian gets to the back as Kowalkiewicz tries to scramble and sinks in the rear-naked choke for the submission finish.

Vitor Belfort def. Nate Marquardt via unanimous decision (29-28,
29-28, 29-28)

Vitor Belfort, left, squares off with Nate Marquardt. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

It wasn’t a barnburner of a fight or one of Belfort’s best performances, but he did just enough early and turned it up late to win a questionable decision. Marquardt did what he could, but winning over the judges in Belfort’s home territory was always going to be a tall order. There isn’t much to say beyond that, though Belfort apparently has no plans to retire.

Round 1: The fight starts off a little slow until Marquardt blitzes forward with a sharp right hand and dives into the clinch, where he completes a slick trip and gets on top. Belfort ties him up, though, and neither gets anything going on the mat. It seems clear Marquardt is looking to punch into the clinch, which is a smart strategy against the quick and potent hands of the Brazilian. Belfort has yet to throw much of anything, but that speed is still there the first time he lets his left hand go. Marquardt is doing a great job of maintaining a long range with oblique, side and round kicks, and then picking his spots to come in, which is scoring for him without exposing him to unnecessary danger. 10-9 to Marquardt.

Round 2: Belfort just isn’t throwing enough, and while Marquardt isn’t the busiest fighter out there, he’s landing enough. Finally Belfort lands a good left hand and swarms with a combination against the fence, and it’s clear the old Vitor is still there, but for how long?

Marquardt ends up surviving and fights off the fence. The American is fighting really smart here: He’s either all the way out at range or all the way in the clinch and has mostly avoided the kinds of exchanges in that middle distance where Belfort’s speed and power shine. 10-9 to Marquardt and 20-18 overall.

Round 3: Marquardt is staying just busy enough to keep Belfort at range and score, but not enough to expose himself to danger. This is a sharp, veteran approach from Marquardt, but not one that lends itself to a firefight. Belfort is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here, waiting for just the right shot instead of one that will score for him and open up other things. Finally Belfort turns up the pressure and attacks, putting together a flurry of punches and kicks. He lands sharp, hard left hands and draws out a bad takedown from Marquardt, who’s stunned and on his heels. Marquardt is digging deep into his bag of tricks to survive the last minute. 10-9 Belfort in the third and 29-28 Marquardt overall.

Paulo Borrachinha def. Oluwale Bamgbose via TKO (punches), Round 2, 1:06

That was a calm and measured performance from Borrachinha in the face of an unorthodox and extremely dangerous Bamgbose, the best version of the American we’ve seen in the Octagon. The moment Bamgbose faltered, Borrachinha was all over him. The UFC seems ready to push Borrachinha as a star in Brazil, where they badly need someone to carry the flag for the promotion, and he has the look, the style, and the charisma to make it work. Although he wants a Top 10 opponent, the UFC should give him a soft step up next time in a stylistically favorable matchup, maybe someone like Thiago Santos or Jack Marshman. That would be fireworks and a chance to grow.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, they can still be friends.

Round 1: Borrachinha comes out looking to pressure as Bamgbose darts through the cage, using his awkward motion to find weird angles from which to land. It’s an inefficient game that burns a ton of energy, but a potentially dangerous one. Bamgbose gets in on a takedown and plants Borrachinha on the mat, but can’t keep him there. The combinations are flying fast and furious from Bamgbose, and he’s starting to slow at the round’s halfway point. Borrachinha hasn’t thrown much, and he’s looking to counter. Body kicks are cutting off Bamgbose’s escape angles, and now Borrachinha is flurrying to the body and head against the fence. Bamgbose is in big trouble here, but Borrachinha might be punching himself out. Both guys look tired with a minute to go and Bamgbose secures a takedown but doesn’t do anything with it as time expires. 10-9 Borrachinha.

Round 2: Borrachinha comes out looking to pressure again and Bamgbose still looks tired. He’s explosive, though, and he’s putting together sharp combinations. Bamgbose finds himself on his back after a slip and Borrachinha jumps on him, blasting him with punches from top position. That was WILD.

Yancy Medeiros def. Erick Silva via TKO (punches), Round 2, 2:01

That was a fantastic fight and a great bit of matchmaking to open the card, but it didn’t end without a bit of controversy. Just as many fight fans complained the referee stopped the fight too soon, so did Medeiros, the winner. But anyway, Medeiros looked much improved, as did Silva, but the difference is that Silva is closer to the end of his prime than the beginning and Medeiros is getting better every time out. Medeiros is going to be a reliable action fighter moving forward and a matchup with someone like Alan Jouban would be great. Silva will always have a place as a violence machine on these Brazilian events, but only as a lower-level fighter.

Round 1: Medeiros comes out measured but looking fast, landing a couple of kicks and testing the range before committing to anything heavy. Silva takes a while to let his shots go and eats counters when he does. Silva is hurt from something, maybe a headbutt, and Medeiros swarms him with punches. Silva’s technique is a little crisper than it has been in his last couple of fights, particularly his counters, but he’s coming up short after Medeiros throws. Silva finally pressures Medeiros back to the fence and lands a sharp head-body flurry, but Medeiros fights off the fence and puts together clean punches of his own. Neither fighter is quite the counterpuncher he thinks he is, but both are dangerous moving forward. The jab is working for Medeiros, but Silva’s low kicks — he’s landed five or six of them — are chewing up Medeiros’s lead leg. Close, but 10-9 Silva.

Round 2 Medeiros comes out aggressive early, and this is what he’ll need to do if he’s going to beat Silva. Pressure takes Silva’s kicks out of the equation and turns him into a powerful but wild puncher, and that’s a matchup Medeiros can win. He’s still eating counters, but he’s giving as good as he gets from Silva. On cue, a huge counter left hook from Medeiros flattens Silva and puts him on the mat. Follow-up punches pull the referee in for the stoppage, which may have been a bit early.

Meanwhile, some fighters opt to arrive in fancy suits with gold-plated ties, like Max Holloway.

While others — ahem, Jose Aldo — arrive looking like they came straight from the gym.


  • Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway (championship fight)


UFC 212 kicked off with an exciting slate of preliminary fights. While there wasn’t much in the way of name value here, the fighters delivered the action, with five of the seven bouts ending inside the distance.

Among the highlights, exciting prospect Luan Chagas had an exquisite knockdown and choke finish of tough veteran Jim Wallhead, while journeyman Brian Kelleher made a splash in his first UFC appearance with a quick submission of Iuri Alcantara.

Meanwhile, the preliminary main event was a bit of a letdown, as top bantamweight Raphael Assuncao held off debuting World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes by split decision.

  • Raphael Assuncao def. Marlon Moraes via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
  • Antonio Carlos Junior def. Eric Spicely via submission (rear-naked chokehold), Round 2, 3:49
  • Matthew Lopez def. Johnny Eduardo via TKO, Round 1, 2:57
  • Brian Kelleher def. Iuri Alcantara via submission (guillotine), Round 1, 1:48

Early prelims results

  • Viviane Pereira def. Jamie Moyle via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Luan Chagas def. Jim Wallhead via submission (rear-naked chokehold), Round 2, 4:48
  • Deivison Figueiredo def. Marco Beltran via TKO (referee stoppage), Round 2, 5:00