For the sixth time, the UFC will stage a card in Toronto as Saturday night’s UFC 231 from Scotiabank Arena is headlined by a featherweight title bout between champion Max Holloway and No. 1 contender Brian Ortega.
The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their Sports Interaction UFC odds.
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
Records: Holloway (19-3), Ortega (14-0)
Prediction: Holloway by KO/TKO
The 27-year-old American Holloway defends his title for the first time in more than a year. “Blessed” won the interim featherweight belt by beating Anthony Pettis at UFC 206 in December 2016 and then got a shot at undisputed champion and featherweight legend Jose Aldo at UFC 212 in June 2017. Holloway won by third-round TKO (punches). Aldo got his immediate rematch in December of last year but it was the exact same result: third-round TKO (punches).
Holloway, ranked the No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter by the UFC, hasn’t been in the Octagon since for a variety of issues. He was set to make another defense at UFC 222 but suffered an injury and had to withdraw. Then, he was a shocking last-minute replacement for a lightweight fight against now-champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223, but Holloway was deemed medically unfit because he was cutting weight too quickly.
Finally, Holloway was to fight Ortega at UFC 226 in July, but Holloway was scratched due to concussion-like symptoms. This could be Holloway’s last bout at featherweight (145 pounds) as he’s expected to move up to lightweight (155 pounds) because it’s just too tough on Holloway to make weight at 145 these days (he couldn’t even do it at lightweight on short notice). Ortega, also an American, last fought in March and beat Edgar by first-round knockout. No question that Ortega will try to bring this fight to the mat (seven submission victories), while Holloway will prefer to keep it standing.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Records: Shevchenko (15-3), Jedrzejczyk (15-2)
Division: Women’s flyweight
Prediction: Shevchenko by submission
The women’s flyweight belt is currently vacant because former champion Nicco Montano was stripped of the title after she withdrew from a UFC 228 fight vs. Shevchenko because of health reasons. The UFC ranks Shevchenko No. 1 in the division, Montano No. 2 and Jedrzejczyk is unranked because she’s making her division debut. She’s No. 1 behind champion Rose Namajunas in the women’s strawweight ranks.
Jedrzejczyk won the UFC’s first strawweight belt three years ago and defended it five times before losing back-to-back fights to Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk rebounded with a unanimous decision over Tecia Torres in July. Shevchenko lost a bantamweight title fight to Amanda Nunes in September 2017 and then moved to flyweight and beat Priscila Cachoeira in February by second-round submission.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Alex Oliveira
Records: Nelson (16-3), Oliveira (19-5)
Prediction: Oliveira by KO/TKO
Nelson is ranked 14th in the welterweight division – champion is Tyron Woodley – and Oliveira 13th. The 30-year-old Nelson, a rare MMA fighter from Iceland, comes off a first-round knockout loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in July 2017. “Gunni” was set to fight in May vs. Neil Magny but had to withdraw due to a knee injury. Nelson is a grappler with 12 of his 16 wins by submission. Oliveira, a 30-year-old from the MMA hotbed of Brazil, has fought twice this year alone and won by first-round KO and second-round submission. Only four of his career bouts have gone to the judges.
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
Records: Dawodu (8-1), Bochniak (8-3)
Prediction: Dawodu by KO/TKO
Both fighters are looking to break into the division rankings with a victory. The UFC always tries to have at least one fighter from a host country on a main card, and the 27-year-old Dawodu is from Calgary with a background in kickboxing. He began his pro career in the World Series of Fighting organization. He was unbeaten in seven fights there and is 1-1 in the UFC, coming off a unanimous decision loss to Austin Arnett in July in Calgary. Bochniak, a 31-year-old American, is 2-3 in his past five fights – all have gone to the judges.
Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos
Records: Manuwa (17-4), Santos (19-6)
Division: Light heavyweight
Prediction: Santos by KO/TKO
Manuwa is ranked seventh in the light heavyweight division – champion is Daniel Cormier – and Santos is 14th … in the middleweight division. These two were to fight at UFC Fight Night 137 in September at light heavyweight, but Manuwa pulled out injured. The Brazilian Santos, who was having trouble making weight at middleweight and thus moved up to 205 pounds, stayed on the card and beat Eryk Anders by third-round TKO (elbows). Manuwa, a Brit, is coming off back-to-back losses. If he wins, it’s by KO or TKO with 15 of his 17 victories via that route.