Any combat sport thrives when it has a colorful, engaging and dominant champion.

Max Holloway gives the UFC just that. The kid who signed his first UFC contract as a 21-year-old on the same day that his first child was born has blossomed into a star.


Holloway had racked up victory after victory en route to Saturday’s champion-versus-champion bout against the legendary Jose Aldo in Rio de Janeiro in the main event of UFC 212, but he wasn’t getting a lot of respect for it.

But after stopping Aldo, the greatest featherweight in the sport’s history, at 4:13 of the third, he’s going to get plenty of respect now.

He took the hard road to the top, but made it look easy in the big one. After a slow first round in which he took a few hard shots, Holloway relaxed and handled Aldo in a way that no one has in more than a decade.

Oh, Conor McGregor knocked Aldo out in 13 seconds in 2014, but a one-punch knockout like that isn’t the same as a concerted beating like Holloway delivered on Saturday.

Starting early in the second, Holloway relaxed and fired his hands at Aldo. He was connecting with hard shots, taking the best Aldo had to offer with a shrug and a smile, and looked like a battle-tested veteran and not a guy who just a few days ago said, “I’m still learning every day and I’m still getting better every day.”

He’s now won 11 in a row, tied for the fourth-longest streak in UFC history behind only Anderson Silva (16), Jon Jones (13) and Demetrious Johnson and Georges St-Pierre (12 apiece). Royce Gracie also won 11 in a row.

He’s got a swagger to him now that he didn’t have when he joined the UFC. He didn’t say much in his early days, but after dominating Pettis in December, he was trash talking Aldo for months.

Aldo seethed as he listened to this upstart run his mouth, but in the cage, he couldn’t do much about it.

Just a few years ago, Holloway was a high school freshman in Hawaii who felt he was destined for stardom, but didn’t know in what arena. [/restrict]