December 11, 2018

UFC 231: The Storylines Emerging From Last Weekend's Toronto Event

By Adam Martin

Last week, I wrote about the most important storylines heading into UFC 231. After attending the event as a credentialed media member, I had a firsthand view of fight night and want to share my experience and insight with the readers here at MMA Ratings. Here are my thoughts on my overall experience, aa well as the biggest storylines emerging from the UFC's latest event in Toronto:

Max Holloway Is An All-Time Great, Even If He Doesn't Think So Himself

UFC Featherweight Champion Max Holloway defended his belt for the second time in the main event, as he took out Brian Ortega via fourth-round TKO. Ortega was a viable challenger, putting up a competitive fight for at least the first couple of rounds, but Holloway really took over the fight in the fourth, and he was able to get the doctor stoppage win after painting Ortega's face with a mask of bloody crimson. The win pushed Holloway's UFC record to an impressive 16-3 mark, including his current 13-fight win streak, second all-time in UFC history behind Anderson Silva and his 16 straight wins.

In the post-fight press conference, I asked Holloway if he believes he's not only the best featherweight of all time but also one of the best fighters ever. He told me that I was wrong and that it's still Jose Aldo, who Holloway finished via TKO twice in 2017. I think Holloway is a very respectful guy who is extremely humble despite his accomplishment, but even though he might not think he's as great as the rest of us think he is, the fact is, Holloway is only 27 and has another decade to really build his legacy as one of the best fighters to have ever stepped into the Octagon. For now though, Holloway and the UFC will sit down and decide whether he will stay at 145 or make the move to 155.

Valentina Shevchenko: Tiny But Devastating

The co-main event saw a brand new UFC Flyweight Champion crowned, as Valentina Shevchenko defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk via lopsided decision to become the new queenpin at 125 lbs. It was the second straight one-sided victory for Shevchenko since moving down in weight, and at this point you have to wonder if there's any woman out there who can even put up a competitive fight against her as a flyweight. What struck me during the post-fight interview was how small Shevchenko is in person. When she's in the cage she has this aura about her and looks like a monster as she destroys everyone the UFC puts in her path (aside from rival Amanda Nunes). But in reality she's a small-statured person who is just really, really good at fighting inside of a cage. She says she wants a third fight against Nunes, but for now the UFC will have to find her opponents at flyweight as she looks to defend her title at least a couple of times before potentially making a return to bantamweight.

A Busy 2018 Has Thiago Santos As A Real Contender At 205 lbs

After an inconsistent run as a middleweight in the UFC, Thiago Santos moved up to the light heavyweight division a few months ago and now has back-to-back TKO wins -- over Eryk Anders and Jimi Manuwa. The win over Manuwa was particularly devastating, as he looks to be much more durable at 205, and of course he's just as powerful as ever, making Santos a real threat in this new division. In the post-fight media scrum, Santos told reporters he wants a top-ranked opponent next, and he deserves it. People forget he knocked out Anthony Smith back in February, and now Smith is a top contender at 205 after his win over Volkan Oezdemir in his last fight. Perhaps Santos will get a rematch with Smith soon enough.

Elias Theodorou Pushing Medicinal Cannabis

Toronto's own Elias Theodorou won a split decision over Eryk Anders for arguably his best win to date, and in the post-fight media scrum Theodorou once again took the opportunity to promote medicinal cannabis. "The Spartan" fought USADA to get a TUE for cannabis but was denied. The fight is far from over though, and with Canada legalizing cannabis a few months ago, Theodorou will continue to fight for what he considers an essential right as a Canadian, the right to medicate with cannabis. This is a story that won't be going away anytime soon. For now, Theodorou picks up a quality win over Anders to cement his place in the bottom half of the Top 15 at 185 lbs.

Nina Ansaroff Bothered By Disrespect

One of the biggest upsets of the night took place in the strawweight division, as Nina Ansaroff won a unanimous decision over Claudia Gadelha for what is by far the biggest win of her career. Gadelha is a perennial title contender at 115 lbs, so for Ansaroff to beat her cleanly is huge for her, especially when few were giving her a chance to win the fight. In the post-fight scrum, Ansaroff criticized Gadelha for overlooking her, but you can't help but think it was a shot at the media, many of whom questioned why this matchup was booked in the first place. With the win over Gadelha, Ansaroff has firmly cemented herself in the Top 10, and is closing in on a title shot at 115.

For Dhiego Lima, It's A Family Affair

Of all the finishes on the card, perhaps the most shocking was seeing Dhiego Lima knock out Chad Laprise on the undercard. With Lima having a 1-5 record in the UFC and Laprise being the local native, everyone and their mother thought this was a set-up fight. Guess again. Lima took care of business, and in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan used the opportunity to plead for a bonus and say his kids needed the money. That didn't work out too well, as Lima was denied a bonus, but in the post-fight scrum he told reporters he was just grateful to save his UFC job. By his side as he basked in his glory was his brother Douglas Lima, the longtime Bellator welterweight contender who looked great in his Reebok fight kit (hint, hint). For the Lima brothers, family is everything.

Aleksandar Rakic Is The Real Deal

When you talk about the prospects who really made a statement at UFC 231, you have to talk about Aleksandar Rakic, who finished Devin Clark via first-round TKO in a back-and-forth fight. Clark was actually winning the fight early on before he was clipped by a spinning forearm and then finished with Rakic's nasty ground-and-pound. The 26-year-old Rakic has now won 11 straight fights and is 3-0 in the UFC. He told reporters at the post-fight media scrum that he wants to fight a ranked opponent, and he clearly deserves that opportunity after such an impressive run to kick off his UFC career.

UFC 231 lived up to the expectations and then some. It was an important card that featured a number of impressive wins by fighters that have both title aspirations and divisional relevance.

UFC 231: Holloway vs. Ortega takes place December 8, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Click HERE for more UFC 231 Post-Fight Analysis

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