UFC 231 - Canada Breakdown & Predictions
When is UFC 231? Sunday 9th December, 2018 – 01:00 (UK)
Where is UFC 231? Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
What channel is UFC 231 on? BT Sport 3
Where can I stream UFC 231? BT Sport subscribers can stream the fight online via the BT website
Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega
UFC 231 is finally upon us as Max 'Blessed' Holloway and Brian 'T-City' Ortega headline the stacked card. We have all been desperate to see this title fight, especially after Holloway had to withdraw from their originally scheduled fight back in July. Hopefully he is healthy and makes weight without any issues to take on his fellow featherweight killer.
These guys improve drastically each time they enter the cage. Holloway has only lost to Dustin Poirier, Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor but he was only 20 and 21 years old at the time and has since won 12 fights in a row and proved he is the best in the division after finishing the greatest featherweight champion of all time in Jose Aldo – twice.
Ortega is embarking on a similar rise and since joining the UFC in 2014 at the age of 23, has strung together impressive wins and like Holloway, none more so than his last two fights; an astonishing submission over Cub Swanson and a shocking knockout over Frankie Edgar.
Their styles make it impossible for this to be a boring fight. Holloway is immaculate on the feet and uses his movement, reach and technique to destructive effect whereas Ortega is a Jiu-Jitsu wizard and truly one of the best practitioners in MMA. His submission game is incredibly dangerous but he also proved the calibre of his stand-up by upper cutting Edgar - who had never been finished before - into another dimension.
The biggest threat to Holloway’s title is clearly in the grappling of Ortega and even though his last fight with Edgar will make the champ wary of the power in his hands, he will be more than confident of winning the stand-up battle.
Ortega is used to having the reach advantage which helps him tie up chokes at will but he will not have the advantage over Holloway. 'Blessed' is all about delivering constant damage from range and has the technique to outclass Ortega. So, 'T-City' will feel Holloway out on the feet but will try and clinch up as soon as he eats too many shots.
Holloway will look to dictate the fight with his masterful distance control but Ortega is so dangerous and only needs a slight mistake to find a finish. A mistake while grappling and Ortega can find a submission from anywhere. Whether that is on the feet, in the clinch or even in his guard, he always finds a way to win regardless of how the fight is going.
Ortega has proven you can never count him out and Holloway will have to be at his very best to find the win. It his hard to go against Ortega but the difference will come down to Holloway's distance control and takedown defence.
Winner: Holloway via Decision
Valentina Shevchenko vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
The organising of this scrap has been chaotic and all came about after Nicco Montaño was unable to defend her strawweight belt. Former bantamweight Valentina Shevchenko had been scheduled to fight Montaño, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Sijara Eubanks but the UFC eventually settled on Jedrzejczyk in Canada, and what a fight it is going to be between two of the most talented women in MMA, with both changing divisions to meet for the flyweight championship.
Shevchenko has already fought the former strawweight champion in amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai fights and got the better of her on all three occasions. However, Jedrzejczyk has been more successful in MMA, defending her title five times, but Shevchenko is a different beast and is dropping down from 135 lbs where the current champion, Amanda Nunes, was the only fighter to beat her in the UFC and they were very tight decisions.
Even though Jedrzejczyk is moving up from 115 lbs and Shevchenko is moving down from 135 lbs, there will be little difference in size. This is definitely a more natural weight for Shevchenko and Jedrzejczyk will not have to cut much so we could easily see the best versions of these elite fighters.
Shevchenko is world class everywhere and she will have the advantage in the grappling department. But the fight is unlikely to take that route. They are two of the best strikers in MMA and Shevchenko will look to prove she is the Kickboxing and Muay Thai master again whereas Jedrzejczyk will seek revenge and prove she is now a different animal, calling upon her evolved stand-up skills that made her the fearsome strawweight champion.
This is one of the most exciting fights the UFC could make right now and although Jedrzejczyk will go down as one of the best ever female fighters, we could witness the early reign of the best flyweight champion of all time.
Winner: Shevchenko via Decision
Alex Oliveira vs Gunnar Nelson
Gunnar Nelson finally makes his return to the octagon after almost a year and a half out on the sidelines due to injury. His last fight was a rare loss to top contender Santiago Ponzinibbio where he got poked in the eye and knocked out shortly after. The stoic Icelander has been desperate to get back to the cage ever since and get back to finishing his fellow welterweights.
He has a formidable opponent on his return which will be a very interesting match-up. Alex Oliveira has 13 UFC fights under his belt and only lost three of them. He is also coming off two brilliant wins this year – a submission over Carlos Condit and a TKO over Carlo Pedersoli.
Both men are extremely talented and well-rounded so wherever this fight takes place will be a spectacle. Oliveira will hunt the chin of Nelson and with 13 knockouts to his name, he knows he has the power and technique to rack up his 14th. However, Nelson is a black belt in Karate and utilises this technique to bounce in and out of range and attack so he will be elusive with venomous speed providing a fascinating stand-up battle.
They will both look to inflict damage on the feet to set up a finish and Oliveira will back his size and power to find the knockout. However, Nelson is also an extremely accomplished grappler and his technique is so fluid and at such a high level that size does not matter and this could easily be the difference against the Brazilian.
Winner: Nelson via Submission
Hakeem Dawodu vs Kyle Bochniak
Kyle Bochniak has been rewarded for his ‘Fight of the Night’ performance with the feared Zabit Magomedsharipov back in April with a fight against another violent prospect in the shape of Hakeem Dawodu. Bochniak had a war with Magomedsharipov and earned a lot of fans after throwing down the gauntlet against a fighter who is in a different class to most featherweights.
The UFC are hoping he puts on another show and Dawodu will be more than happy to oblige as he loves nothing more than to stand and trade.
Fans will hope this fight stays on the feet as both men are thrilling strikers with speed to match their aggression. Expect a frenetic fight, particularly in the first round, with very high outputs. Whoever keeps the pace for the three rounds is likely to do the most damage and if Dawodu has more success, Bochniak may look to grapple after Danny Henry exploited a weakness in Dawodu’s game, forcing a submission and his first loss.
However, Bochniak’s eagerness to brawl is likely to land him in trouble and Dawodu has too much speed and power to not capitalise.
Winner: Dawodu via Decision
Jimi Manuwa vs Thiago Santos
For a stacked event, it is only fitting for the main card to kick off with two electrifying knockout artists. Fans love watching Jimi Manuwa and Thiago Santos – their aggression and unholy power makes every fight incredibly tense and as they meet in the cage, we can only expect fireworks.
The English powerhouse is in unfamiliar territory after losing two fights in a row and a rare decision to Jan Blachowicz. He is desperate to get back to winning ways and feel his leather glove on someone’s chin. Santos shares these motives but he is coming off two wins and a knockout over Eryk Anders in his last fight. This will also be his fifth fight this year so he has all the momentum.
In their combined 46 fights, they have been involved in 34 knockouts so we have a good idea of what to expect. They won’t come out swinging but they will both be extremely aggressive and technical, taking any opportunity to attack the head. Their defence is so crucial as they possess such destructive power; one mistake will mean waking up to the doctor’s flashlight.
Despite being so active and coming off a war with Anders, Santos is less likely to suffer as he has moved up from middleweight and has less weight to cut. Manuwa is always in terrific shape and after a few months out of action, he will be well-prepared to avoid the onslaught of the Brazilian and deliver a trademarked one-punch sleeper.
Winner: Manuwa via KO/TKO
Striking and grappling stats sourced via FightMetric