UFC 251 Fallout: What Next for Holloway & Aldo?

After a fantastic card on Fight Island, the UFC has a new Bantamweight champion and a new contender in the GOAT conversation at Featherweight.

With the vacant title on the line in the 135lbs division, Russian Petr Yan lived up to ‘No Mercy’ moniker as he scored a 5th round TKO victory over Jose Aldo, while Max Holloway was controversially pipped on the scorecards once again in his rematch with Alexander Volkanovski at 145lbs.

The results mean the UFC have new chapters beginning in those divisions. Volk has beaten Aldo and now Holloway twice, meaning he will almost certainly move on to new challengers next time out. Yan’s win means Aldo has lost both of his fights in his new weight class, confirming that his best is most definitely behind him.

But where do they go from here? Holloway hasn’t fought in a non-title fight since 2016 while Aldo’s downward spiral now reads 3-6 across two divisions since his 13 second KO defeat to Conor McGregor in December 2015.

In Holloway’s case, the door isn’t completely shut. In his post-fight press conference UFC president Dana White slammed “bad judging” and made it clear he had ‘Blessed’ winning on his scorecard. When asked whether that means he could be granted a trilogy fight despite losing the first two White responded, “we’ll see what happens.” Volkanovski however was adamant he was putting this rivalry behind him and moving on to new contenders.

UFC 251: Volkanovski v Holloway : News Photo
Despite most media scoring it in his favour, Holloway lost a split decision in his rematch with Volkanovski at UFC 251

If Volkanovski does move on to new contenders, it leaves Max in limbo. #2 ranked Zabit Magomedsharipov is currently scheduled to fight #5 ranked Yair Rodriguez, while he’s already beaten #3 ranked Brian Ortega who’s expected to fight #4 ranked Chan Sung Jung a.k.a The Korean Zombie. Unless Max is willing to wait for those results to come through and fight one of those fighter to determine a new No.1 contender, it’s likely that he may have to look at fighting way down the rankings against #6 Calvin Kattar, who fights on Fight Island later this week against Dan Ige.

Another option could be a potential move to lightweight. After a move up to try and become a ‘champ-champ’ Holloway got beaten convincingly by Dustin Poirier in April 2019. While his cardio carried well his volume didn’t quite have the same effect it usually does on the bigger opponent. Poirier is of course one of the absolute best at 155lbs, so maybe Max could look to start slightly lower down against someone like Cowboy Cerrone or Al Iaquinta and work his way up against new opponents in a new weight division.

For Aldo, the decision is tougher. After dominating for so long, he has struggled in recent years to maintain that consistency in the Octagon. After dropping down to Bantamweight he lost to Marlon Moraes in a controversial decision, which led to him getting this title shot to begin with. But now after losing that too, he surely goes to the back of the queue. With 135lbs so stacked at the moment, he may never get another chance. Aljamain Sterling, Cody Stamann, Corey Sandhagen, Cody Garbrandt, Marlon Moraes, Frankie Edgar and Sean O’Malley are all looking to become challengers to the throne in the near future which means Aldo will have to go against them. He may now act as a gate-keeper for some of the younger talent, which would be a damn shame considering just how good he was and still is.

At 33 he is still in his physical prime but because of all the wars he has already been through, his body seems like it may have had enough. Retirement is for sure a very real option for ‘The King of Rio’ and he would still go down as one of the best to ever do it. We often talk about how we always hope fighters don’t stick around for too long and damage their legacy for the sake of a pay-cheque and Aldo is now in that very scenario.

Despite how sad it is for long time fans of the two, it’s a positive for the UFC. They are continuing to develop and produce talent of a world class calibre and now have two new stars at the head of their respective divisions. All is not lost for the company, but two of the best ever now need to make a decision on their futures.

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