UFC 231: Max Holloway stops Brian Ortega in Toronto
Featherweight world champion Max 'Blessed' Holloway put a summer health scare firmly behind him as he retained his title at UFC 231.
Hawaiian Holloway stopped the previously unbeaten number-one contender Brian Ortega on his stool at the end of the fourth round of their five-round contest in Toronto.
It followed a breathless exhibition of pressure striking that overwhelmed the American challenger.
"I want to be the number one," he said.
The pair were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 226 in July.
But the fight was scrapped after Holloway exhibited "concussion-like symptoms".
Holloway was eventually given a clean bill of health and cleared to return this weekend in Toronto, but the question marks over what happened in the summer, combined with Ortega's remarkable undefeated record, meant Holloway went into Saturday night's contest as the betting underdog.
But the Hawaiian erased any doubts about his health as he produced the best performance of his career to hand Ortega his first loss.
After a blistering opening three rounds, Holloway motioned to UFC co-commentator Joe Rogan from his corner to tell him that he would finish the fight in the fourth. And he made good on his promise as he peppered the Californian challenger with punches throughout an incredible five-minute assault that forced the cageside doctor to halt the contest before the start of the fifth and final round.
Holloway has recently been linked with a move up to lightweight, with UFC president Dana White suggesting earlier in the week that the 27-year-old world champion may now be too big for the featherweight division.
But Holloway made weight with ease for this weekend's bout and delivered a show-stealing performance to prove his point, then declared he would happily fight anybody to prove he is the best fighter in any weight class.
He even made a tongue-in-cheek offer to fight reigning heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
"I made the weight, I made it look easy," he said.
"I tell you what, Dana White. I want to be the number one, pound-for-pound. If it's the guys at 155 pounds, let's do it. If it's the baddest man, my good friend Daniel Cormier, let's do it!"
The lightweight division looks like Holloway's most likely destination, where a host of huge potential match-ups await.
But whether his next fights have him competing at featherweight or lightweight, Holloway's goal for the last few years has always been the same: to bring a UFC event to his home of Hawaii for the first time.
"UFC Hawaii! Take me home, Dana! It's about time, let's go!" he said.
"We can get out of this cold weather and into some warm weather, and drinking mai tais on the beach."
At the same event, England's Jimi Manuwa suffered a devastating second-round knockout to Brazil's Thiago Santos.
Shevchenko crowned women's flyweight champ
In the night's co-main event, former bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko claimed a UFC world title at the second time of asking with a unanimous decision victory over long-time rival Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Shevchenko was left frustrated after losing out by the narrowest of margins in her split-decision loss to Amanda Nunes for the UFC bantamweight title in September 2017.
That loss prompted the Kyrgyzstan-born fighter to return to her natural weight class of flyweight, and her move paid dividends as she captured the vacant UFC women's flyweight title with victory over Jedrzejczyk.
The pair had already met three times earlier in their careers in amateur Muay Thai competition, with Shevchenko taking the win on each occasion.
And it was Shevchenko who prevailed once again, as she showcased her full range of martial arts skills to defeat the Polish former UFC straw-weight champion over the full five, five-minute round duration.
Shevchenko's sharp counter-strikes and well-timed takedowns proved decisive as the 30-year-old earned scores of 49-46 on all three judges' scorecards.
After claiming the win, Shevchenko paid tribute to her opponent, saying: "I'm very happy that I get this belt in this fight with Joanna, because she is very professional.
"This is more valuable to me to get this belt from this kind of fight than with any other opponent."