Former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo has stepped in on short notice to challenge current champion Max Holloway. The bout will be a rematch of UFC 212, where Holloway became only the third man to finish Aldo in his 29-fight career. As definitive as the first fight was, Aldo remains one of the best featherweights in the history of the sport and represents a significant test for Holloway. In many ways, the two fighters have contrasting striking styles.
The following is a breakdown of the statistical categories that highlight the stylistic divergence and could be difference on Saturday night.
One of the trademark elements of Aldo's striking style has always been that he is difficult to hit. Going into his last fight against Holloway, Aldo had managed to avoid 72 percent of his opponent's significant strike attempts. In their first fight, Holloway landed only 36 percent of his significant attempts through the first two rounds. However, Holloway still was able to get to him with the big shot in the third round that turned the tide in the fight. In order to be successful, Aldo will need to replicate his success in the first two rounds and to return to his defensive roots and avoid the big shots.
Significant strikes absorbed per minute
Prior to facing Holloway, Aldo had allowed his opponents to land only 2.09 significant strikes per minute against him in the UFC and WEC. At UFC 212, Holloway landed 7.32 significant strikes. That one fight caused a 14 percent increase in the rate of significant strikes that Aldo absorbs. As Aldo's striking defense began to fade, his rate of significant strike absorption rose dramatically. In the first two rounds, Holloway landed 2.4 and 5.6 per minute respectively. In the final frame, he landed 15.17.
In theory, this category should favor Aldo. For his career, he absorbs only 2.39 significant strikes per minute, while Holloway absorbs 3.75. However, in the first fight, Holloway's offense was able to overrun Aldo's defense. If that happens again on Saturday, the champion should be able to retain the title.
Significant strikes landed per minute
Holloway has the 10th-best striking output in UFC history. In the UFC, he has landed 5.79 significant strikes per minute. In his last five fights, he has been even more active, as he has landed 6.13 per minute. One of the reasons Holloway is an effective striker is that he is able to overwhelm opponents with volume. He has landed only 44 percent of his significant strike attempts in the UFC, but he attempts 13.15 significant strikes per minute. In fact, since losing to UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in 2013, Holloway has attempted at least 10 significant strikes per minute in 10 out of 11 fights. Aldo is a much more conservative striker. He has landed 3.32 significant strikes per minute in the UFC and WEC, and he has attempted only 7.42 per minute. In the UFC, he has thrown fewer attempts than his opponent in eight of 10 fights.
Holloway's ability to throw and land a large quantity of strikes was key to his success in the first fight. Even if a defensive fighter is on top of his game, it can be hard to handle that sort of volume. Holloway will almost certainly employ this type of offensive strategy again, and Aldo might once again struggle to avoid damaging blows.
For the first 15 fights of his UFC/WEC run, Aldo landed 0.56 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time and did not allow an opponent to register a knockdown. In his last three fights, he has landed zero knockdowns and allowed 0.76 knockdowns per 15 minutes. Holloway has never been knocked down in the UFC. He has scored eight knockdowns, including one against Aldo, and he averages 0.59 knockdowns per 15 minutes.
It remains to be seen if Aldo's recent knockdowns are the result of a declining ability to take punishment or simply facing two high level strikers in McGregor and Holloway. For the purposes of this fight, it does not really matter. Holloway has shown that he can knock down Aldo. Aldo will need to be even more defensive in this fight to avoid catching power strikes. However, with Holloway's volume, one is likely to get through the defense eventually.