December could be the best month of 2018 in terms of mixed martial arts. The UFC offers two main cards to close out the year, starting with UFC 231 from Toronto on Saturday night. It’s headlined by Max Holloway defending his featherweight championship against Brian Ortega.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Holloway (19-3), an American, is ranked as the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter by the UFC. He has won 12 straight fights since a unanimous decision loss to Conor McGregor at UFC Fight Night 26 way back in 2013. Holloway won the interim featherweight belt over Anthony Pettis at UFC 206, also in Toronto.
Holloway then fought undisputed champion and featherweight legend Jose Aldo at UFC 212 and beat him by third-round TKO as a +120 underdog. That clearly was no fluke as “Blessed” fought Aldo six months later at UFC 218 and won by third-round TKO (punches) again. That time, Holloway was a -300 favorite.
Ortega and Holloway originally were to fight in July, but it was called off when Holloway started having concussion-like symptoms days before. Ortega, also an American, joined the UFC in 2014. He comes off a first-round knockout of former champion Frankie Edgar in March to earn the title shot. Ortega has finished his past six opponents.
The champion is a -125 favorite with Ortega at -105. This will be Ortega’s fourth straight fight as an underdog. His biggest number was +140 against Renato Moicano, whom Ortega beat by third-round submission.
The co-main event features Valentina Shevchenko facing former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the vacant women’s flyweight belt. That title was held by Nicco Montano, but she had to withdraw from UFC 228 against Shevchenko due to health reasons and was stripped of the belt.
It’s the second title fight for Shevchenko, who lost a bantamweight championship fight to current division title-holder Amanda Nunes at UFC 215 via split decision (her second career loss to Nunes). Jedrzejczyk lost the strawweight belt to Rose Namajunas at UFC 217 and then lost an immediate rematch to Namajunas, who remains that division’s champion.
Shevchenko is a heavy -365 favorite with Jedrzejczyk at +275. It’s the first time Jedrzejczyk will be an underdog since UFC 185 against Carla Esparza. Jedrzejczyk won that by second-round KO.