Max Holloway claimed the undisputed UFC featherweight title on Saturday night, stopping long-reigning champion Jose Aldo in the third round of an impressive upset victory.
Holloway (18-3) won the belt in Aldo’s native Brazil with a dynamite finish. The interim 145-pound champion floored Aldo with a big right hand, getting on top and raining down punishment until referee John McCarthy stopped the bout with 47 seconds left in the round.
The Hawaii-born Holloway earned his 11th consecutive UFC victory and claimed the title held by Aldo for most of the past six years. Aldo lost the belt to Conor McGregor in December 2015, but regained it last year.
Aldo (26-3) is the most accomplished featherweight in mixed martial arts history, but he has lost two of his last three bouts after winning 18 consecutive fights from 2006-15.
Top Brazilian strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha recorded an impressive first-round stoppage of Poland’s Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Vitor Belfort also won a debatable unanimous decision over Nate Marquardt, thrilling the Brazilian fans of the 40-year-old former UFC champion from Rio.
But in the main event, Aldo couldn’t capitalize on his home-crowd advantage after the opening round against Holloway, who didn’t waste his first shot at the undisputed title.
Holloway clawed his way to this stage with a lengthy unbeaten run since his loss to McGregor in August 2013, capped by his stoppage win over Anthony Pettis for the interim belt last December.
Aldo’s hand speed and overall quickness were confounding early on for Holloway, whose normally crisp striking struggled to match Aldo’s movement. After Aldo controlled the first round, Holloway found his rhythm in a tight second, matching Aldo’s famed work rate and aggression.
Holloway then decked Aldo with a ferocious right in the third, sending the champion to the ground and allowing Holloway to get into mount.
Holloway rained down punches on Aldo and nearly landed a rear naked choke during the prolonged scramble. Holloway was relentless, and Aldo couldn’t figure out a way to escape before getting finished.
Aldo was the strong favorite at Jeunesse Arena in his adopted hometown. He was fighting in Rio for the fourth time in his last eight bouts.