TORONTO -- Any lingering concerns about the well-being of UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway melted away on Saturday over the course of a brilliant, four-round title defense against Brian Ortega at UFC 231.
Holloway (20-3) defended his 145-pound throne for the second time, defeating Ortega via TKO at the end of the fourth round. A cageside doctor waved off the championship fight before the start of the fifth round because of obvious damage to Ortega's face.
"I just gotta say, is there anyone else?" Holloway said. "We didn't get it in the [fourth] round, we got it at the finish. Hey, he's a tough opponent, a tough guy."
It was a masterful performance by Holloway, who was forced to withdraw from two title fights earlier this year because of health concerns. The scariest incident occurred in July, when he was pulled because of "concussion-like symptoms."
The bout played out almost entirely on the feet, and Ortega (15-1), of Los Angeles, had a handful of moments.
The closest he came to seizing momentum came early in the third, when he walked Holloway down with several hard right hands and nearly took his back in a scramble. The jiu-jitsu ace ended up sliding off Holloway's back, however, and the opportunity was gone.
Other than that, it was mostly the Holloway show. He repeatedly slipped Ortega's punches and peppered him with jabs and right hands. He bloodied the challenger's nose in the second round and brought the Scotiabank Arena to its feet in the fourth with an onslaught of punches.
According to Fightmetric, Holloway landed a UFC record 290 significant strikes, breaking Nate Diaz's previous record of 238. Ortega had 110 significant strikes.
Holloway also outlanded Ortega 307-112 in total strikes. ESPN scored every round for Holloway.
Ortega was never knocked down and never appeared badly dazed, but the accumulation of punches showed on his face and in his reflexes. His hands started to drop, and he was a sitting duck for Holloway's combinations.
Holloway said he agreed with the stoppage.
"They're in their for our safety," he said of the cageside doctors. "If there was one more round, it was going to be one more round of the same thing. The doctors are doing their job."
At the postfight news conference, UFC president Dana White reiterated his desire for Holloway to ditch the weight cut to featherweight, which is strenuous for the Hawaiian, and move up to lightweight.
White said he could see several "big-money fights" for Holloway at 155 pounds.
"I would love to see him go to 155," White said. "At this point you have to start talking about him as one of the all-time greats, and there's a lot of big-money fights for him at 155. If you start at No. 5 and work your way up to the champion, they are all good fights for Holloway."
Holloway said he would like to hang on to his current title, saying that "a king's gotta defend his throne," but he acknowledged interest in a potential superfight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
"Dana White is the boss, and the boss is looking for superfights," Holloway said. "Khabib is an undefeated fighter. I have this niche -- I give undefeated fighters their first loss. That fight would intrigue me."