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UFC 212 Pick

MMA Fight: UFC 212
Key Matches: Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
When: June 3, 2017
Time: 9:00PM EST
Where: Jeunesse Arena, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Jose Aldo, (-135), 26-2 (14 KOs, 2 Subs) vs. Max Holloway, (+115), 17-3 (7 KOs, 2 Subs)

UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo defends the belt against top challenger Max Holloway in the main event of UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro on the third of June. This is a pairing of the only real champion at 145 pounds that the UFC has ever known in Aldo against a man many feel is the champion-in-waiting in Holoway. Does Aldo still have it? Is Holloway ready to ascend or does he need more time? This bout will answer those questions. Aldo is back on top after a momentary blip against Conor McGregor a few years ago, while Holloway has gotten to the top challenger spot on the heels of ten straight wins. Who will come out ahead?

Holloway might not be as well-known to the less-hardcore fans, but make no mistake, the 25-year old is a full load. Like Aldo, he also fell at the hands of Conor McGregor. That was his last loss. In mixed martial arts, and especially in the UFC where competition is so robust, a ten fight win streak is really something to behold. It's pretty rare for even top UFC fighters to register double-digit win streaks. In putting together the streak, Holloway has bested the likes of Cole Miller, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, and tough Ricardo Lamas. But in his last fight, for the interim 145-pound belt, Holloway beat former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis back in December. A kick to the body brought the curtains down of the ex-champ, earning Holloway the interim belt and making this a title-unification, of sorts.

Holloway should be expected to be pining for this fight, a shot at the big-time that is probably a bit overdue with McGregor having put the division on ice as he moonlighted in other divisions after beating Aldo. Holloway is similar to his fellow Hawaiian MMA standout BJ Penn, not so much stylistically, but in the instinctive way he fights. It's like fighting just comes to him easy for some reason. He is relaxed in the ring and never seems ruffled in conditions that have a lot of fighters in a frenzied state.

Holloway is a veteran, but still a youthful fighter at 25. He was at one time the youngest fighter in the organization, having joined the UFC at the tender age of 20. He had some rough edges to smooth out upon joining the UFC and took a few defeats to really good fighters like McGregor. But he took to the UFC like a duck to water and was soon thriving. Over five years later, you're looking at a complete fighter who can do it all. He has submitted the likes of Andre Fili and Swanson, while finishing top talent like Pettis and Akira Corrassani on strikes. Max has also shown an ability to grind out wins on the scorecards. Having won on the road before also helps him as he approaches the daunting task of fighting an illustrious champion in his homeland. And in Brazil, those road conditions are ratcheted up a notch or two.

The narrative on Aldo was that he was yesterday's news following his 13-second loss to McGregor. After all, he had been on top a long time and there was considerable mileage on his odometer. But in July of last year, a 5-round decision win over Frankie Edgar showed otherwise, with Aldo doing a lot of the things that made him champion. In the big picture, the value on Aldo might be high here with so many people making the McGregor KO loss a bigger deal than it really is. The betting odds attest to that, with Aldo only a slight favorite. While a quickie KO goes down in people's memory banks as the most-dominant of wins, it can also be among the most misleading. Fighters get caught cold—it has happened to the best. Fighters can be vulnerable in the opening moments of a fight, as their bodies and minds acclimate to combat. At the end of the day, you have a guy in Aldo who has beaten everyone at 145 except for one guy who never made featherweight poundage again en route to winning the lightweight title, in addition to whatever else Conor manages to do in the future. It's not the end of the world.

Aldo is only 30. Losing once in a ten-year span is hardly ground to ring the sirens. At the same time, it also illustrates how long Aldo has been on top. I don't think the notion that his best fighting is in the rearview is an entirely faulty one. He looked great against Edgar, but that was against a member of the old-guard who he had previously beaten. Against a newer-wave 145-pounder like Holloway, we might see something different and then we'll know if Aldo is really yesterday's news or if thoughts of his demise were completely off-base. Holloway is a more-dangerous striker than Edgar. And even if the loss to McGregor is being overly-considered, a fighter who gets his lights turned out like that is always an iffy proposition at this level.

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In addition to the questions about Aldo's chin is just the overall wear and tear. Yes, he's experienced at this level—fighting in five-rounders against the world's best fighters time and again. That also means he's been in a lot of long fights against tough competition. Just by looking at him, you can see the toll the sport has exacted on him. We are talking about a sport that features a short shelf-life for even its best performers for the most part. It's a sport still in its relative infancy in a lot of ways and that's likely why you don't see a lot of fighters reigning for too long. There have been exceptions and Aldo is one of them. But does he have it in him for yet even more championship glory at this point? Or has he been passed by young talent—guy like Holloway?

It's a tough call. I think Holloway is destined to be a champion. The only issue is if it's too early for that to happen for the still-young interim champion. After ten wins in a row and an extended run in the UFC, I think he is ready. He needs to watch out for Aldo's leg-kicks, overall craftiness, and striking. I see Holloway using distance to dictate terms of the fight in stretches. His stamina and length will be put to good use and I see him being the better candidate to thrive late in the fight, despite Aldo's experience in championship fights. I see a competitive fight that Holloway ekes out at the end, maybe by decision.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm wagering on Max Holloway at +115. Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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