Holloway (19-3) defended his 145-pound title for the first time at UFC 218 on Saturday, defeating Aldo (26-4) via TKO at 4:51 of the third round inside Little Caesars Arena.
The end looked eerily similar to Holloway’s third-round TKO against Aldo in June. The Hawaiian champion hurt Aldo on the feet, before finishing him with strikes on the ground.
“At the end of the day, it is what it is,” said Holloway, using a phrase that’s become his trademark on social media.
Holloway, 25, was supposed to face former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 218, but Edgar was forced to pull out due to injury. That opened the door for Aldo, who is considered the greatest featherweight of all time.
The opponent change clearly didn’t matter, as Holloway recorded his 12th consecutive win. That places him behind only two active winning streaks: Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre have each won 13 in a row.
“I told you, all these guys are cupcakes,” Holloway said. “Any of them can get it. I like cupcakes. I’ll eat them all, baby.”
According to Fightmetric, Holloway out-landed Aldo in total strikes 181 to 89. In their first fight, Holloway held a 104-55 advantage over Aldo.
Holloway’s pace continues to create problems for the entire division. He kept Aldo at arm’s length from his lanky, 5-foot-11 frame with steady jabs and right hands. Aldo answered with his own jab and the leg kick, which was blatantly missing the first time they fought, but it did little to slow Holloway’s pressure.
In the third, Holloway dropped his hands and slowly walked toward Aldo, talking to him as he did so. Aldo made him pay occasionally with counters, including several hard right hands, but Holloway showed zero respect for his power.
Eventually, Aldo had no choice but to open up with flurries in the pocket or simply cover up and circle away. Neither worked. Whether Aldo answered with offense or defense, Holloway relentlessly pursued him.
“The way he fought tonight, the way he walked him down and tried to break him down mentally and physically — he looked like a stud tonight,” UFC president Dana White said. “He was willing to put himself in harm’s way. He got hit with some big shots, just to prove he could walk through them.”
Holloway credited highly-ranked pound-for-pound boxing champ Vasyl Lomachenko for his style in the third, when he crowded Aldo with his hands down.
Holloway hasn’t lost since he dropped a three-round decision to current lightweight champion Conor McGregor in 2013. Aldo has now lost three of his past four, and all three losses were by knockout.
“All due respect to the man, Aldo is a hell of a champion,” Holloway said. “I told you guys, though, this is the blessed era. It’s something new. I told you he was going to get tired.”
When asked about the possibility of an eventual rematch between Holloway and McGregor, White responded, “I still don’t know if Conor will ever fight again. So, I’m rolling like he’s not. If Conor comes back and defends the title, anything is possible.”