25-year-old Max Holloway completed his rise to the top of the UFC’s featherweight division in the main event of UFC 212 earlier this month (June 3, 2017), finishing Jose Aldo in the third round to become the undisputed 145-pound champion.
Despite losing the first two rounds, Holloway took note of how Aldo was reacting to his movements, and “Blessed” recently said that the Brazilian was often ‘jumping back’:
“When I was putting my hand out and stuff, every time I’d put it, he would shut it down,” Holloway told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He would throw something, he would do something reactive. Every time in the beginning rounds when I feinted at him, he was jumping back. I [saw these] big motions from him and he was countering super fast at certain things I was doing.”
Towards the tail end of the second round and into the third, Holloway began to loosen up, letting his hands go and taunting Aldo. It was at this point that Holloway said he realized that Aldo didn’t want to fight:
“I told myself, he’s not firing,” Holloway said. “It’s time to taunt. Let’s taunt. Let’s see if he cracks me. I taunted him — I put my hands up for a couple of seconds. And he didn’t do nothing. I was like OK, I’m gonna do it again. And he did nothing. I was like man, this guy don’t want to fight.”
“These guys are playing checkers,” Holloway said. “I’m out here playing chess. When they figure it out, it’s too late.”
Despite the slow start that many viewers clearly saw taking place from him, Holloway says the fight with Aldo went exactly according to his game plan, and now the young Hawaiian plans to lead MMA into a new era:
“I already knew our game plan was gonna work,” Holloway said. “There’s enough tape. Aldo, he’s one of the greatest ever, but it’s just time for a new era. It’s time for the new wave of guys, us young guys are coming up and we’re proving it. We’re showing to the world that we’re here to stay, we’re taking forever. MMA is forever evolving. You either evolve with the sport or you get left behind. I’m trying to lead the back. I’m trying to sprint.”
What do you make of Holloway’s assessment of the fight?