The UFC Featherweight Division is a mess at the top right now. Current champion Max Holloway has been sidelined with something that doctors can’t even figure out. Seriously, it could be anything ranging from weight cutting problems to a minor stroke. Many fighters have come out publicly to show support for the ailing champion such as former opponents in Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, as well as recently scheduled opponents such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Frankie Edgar, and Brian Ortega. What’s currently happening with Max sucks, however, the positive thing about the division is that it is stronger than it has ever been. UFC Staples are still making an impact and young prospects are blossoming every month.
Champion – Max Holloway
Max Holloway had a brilliant run to the top of the division. At only 20 years old he made his debut and started at 3-3. He then proceeded to go on a tear, defeating the likes of Will Chope, Andre Fili, Clay Collard, Akira Corassani, Cole Miller, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens, Ricardo Lamas, and Anthony Pettis. After a ten fight win streak, Holloway was finally granted his undisputed title shot against Brazilian legend Jose Aldo and Holloway was able to finish Aldo in the third round by TKO to win the Title. Max Holloway is an absolute Badass, depicted most brilliantly by the end of his fight with Ricardo Lamas, where with twenty seconds left in the fight Max pointed to the ground to signify to Lamas, let’s throw bombs. Lamas obliged and one of the most incredible ends to a fight ever was born. Max needs to get his health problems cleared up soon if he wants to defend his belt this year. I’m very excited for his up and coming battle with Brian Ortega and wish Holloway a speedy recovery.
Brian Ortega: The consensus number one contender is undefeated as a professional and has defeated many of the top featherweights in the world. Not only that, but this kid might just be the best Jiu-Jitsu Practitioner in the UFC that isn’t Brazilian. He put on a show in his UFC Fresno Main Event against Cub Swanson where he was able to restructure his arms while hanging off of Swanson’s body and sink in a Guillotine Choke to end the fight. Ortega cemented his place as number one contender by knocking out the former UFC Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and becoming the first person to finish Edgar in his long and storied career. Ortega recently declined an offer to stay on the UFC 226 fight card and instead opted to wait for the title fight he’s been due for. I believe that Ortega was smart to do so as he was the man who took Frankie Edgar’s guaranteed title shot away from him back at UFC 222. Holloway Vs. Ortega for the Featherweight Title is still the fight to make and once Holloway gets healthy us fans are going to have a barn-burner of a fight to watch.
Frankie Edgar: The Former UFC Lightweight Champion won his belt when he dispatched “The Prodigy” BJ Penn on a brilliant night in Abu Dhabi. Edgar will fight anyone that the UFC puts in front of him without argument. The Former Champion is a shining example of what a Mixed Martial Artist should be. He fought Yair Rodriguez at UFC 211 when the UFC was marketing him as their next big Mexican Superstar and stunned the young gun, and he agreed to fight Brian Ortega when Max Holloway backed out of their scheduled title fight at UFC 222, which led to Edgar ultimately losing his shot at the title for the time being, but he still didn’t duck him. His courage as a competitor and his abilities as a Martial Artist make him one of the most admirable fighters in all of MMA. Edgar bounced back from his Ortega loss recently by defeating Cub Swanson by unanimous decision and is scheduled to face the Korean Zombie in the main event of UFC Fight Night – Denver.
Jose Aldo: Aldo is a Brazilian Superstar and he was able to shut my stupid face up when he TKO’d Jeremy Stephens last weekend. I didn’t necessarily think that Aldo was washed up, I just thought that he wasn’t able to fight at a championship caliber level anymore. I was wrong, he looked fantastic. Aldo is the former champion of the Featherweight Division in both the WEC and UFC and had successfully defended his belt multiple times in each organization, defeating fighters like Mike Brown and Urijah Faber in the WEC, and defeating fighters like Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar in the UFC. Unfortunately, Jose Aldo’s legacy was tarnished by his nemesis Conor McGregor in only thirteen seconds. People won’t remember the good things that Aldo did, but only what McGregor did to him, which Aldo doesn’t deserve. I expect Jose to keep a close eye on the title fight between Ortega and Holloway later this year, If Ortega wins, Aldo will be his first title defense.
Cub Swanson: Killer Cub Swanson was on the verge of a title shot, which would be the first in his lengthy and successful career when he ran into the very talented Brian Ortega. Ortega defeated Swanson and Frankie Edgar did the same a few months later. Nonetheless, Swanson is still a killer, he is a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, and his fight with Doo Ho Choi is the best Featherweight fight I’ve ever seen, and just like he said in the post-fight interview, “Never Doubt Me Again”. Cub Swanson is scheduled to fight Renato Moicano on Saturday at UFC 227 and I expect him to come back successfully.
Jeremy Stephens: Stephens is possibly the Featherweight Division’s most powerful fighter. Like Stephens would say himself “When I punch people they don’t fuckin move” and to be fair, I couldn’t say it better myself. The well-versed veteran has fought the who’s who of the UFC Lightweight and Featherweight divisions and has been a part of the promotion since 2007. His notable highlights include defeating the future UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos by knockout, and head-kicking KO-ing Rony Jason to oblivion in under a minute. More recently he defeated three straight opponents in Gilbert Melendez, Doo Ho Choi, and Josh Emmett, the latter two he finished by brutal knockout. He did just lose to the Former Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo last weekend, but that alone shouldn’t jeopardize his spot as a top Featherweight Contender. I fully expect him to get one more fight in by the end of the year, possibly against Mirsad Bektic or Chad Mendes.
Mirsad Bektic: Bektic was on the receiving end of one of the best comebacks in all of MMA history back in early 2016. Bektic was dominating Darren Elkins for two rounds, but Elkins was able to take his back, fire off a few crisp punches and give him a quality head kick to finish him. Bektic took some time away after the Elkins fight to make sure that his camp was all set and it led him to Firas Zahabi at Tristar in Montreal. Bektic has since garnered two Godofredo Pepey and Ricardo Lamas. I could see a fight against Chad Mendes or Jeremy Stephens as his next bout.
Chad Mendes: Chad was suspended by USADA for two years because he had a skin condition and wanted to treat it. A flagged substance was found in the cream and he was blindsided. Now, back in the cage, he got a first round stoppage over Myles Jury and proclaimed that he’s back. I feel that he would provide an interesting match up to Max Holloway if he was to work his way back to the top.
Josh Emmett: Emmett pulled off a massive upset when he defeated Ricardo Lamas to jump into the top fifteen rankings. That win propelled him into a fight with Jeremy Stephens in the main event of UFC on Fox – Orlando and that proved to be too much too quick for Emmett as he was Knocked out in the second round. Emmett still has a future in the big show, I feel as if a fight with Alexander Volkanovski would be fitting next for Emmett.
Alexander Volkanovski: The Aussie is 17-1 as a professional and undefeated in the UFC with wins over Yusuke Kasuya, Mizuto Hirota, Shane Young, Jeremy Kennedy and Darren Elkins. His latest win over Elkins was particularly impressive because not many people can outwork “The Damage”
Zabit Magomedsharipov: Zabit might be the next great MMA Prodigy. His coach Mark Henry has stated that Zabit would destroy Conor McGregor if that matchup would ever be made. Against Kyle Bochniak, Zabit broke his hand warming up in the locker room and still went a full fifteen minutes in a Fight of the Year contending win back at UFC 223.
Yair Rodriguez: Yair was billed to be the next big superstar in Mexican MMA and was looking like it up until he ran into “The Answer” at UFC 211. He has had a tumultuous recent history with the UFC, one in which he was cut from the promotion for a short while until he agreed to fight Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 228.
Arnold Allen: Allen is an exciting young Brit, who has gone 4-0 in his UFC career with an impressive come from behind victory over Mads Burnell earlier this year.