Another fight, another huge win for Brian Ortega. The 27-year-old American became the first man to finish Frankie Edgar with strikes in the co-main event of UFC 222, which took place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ortega landed a vicious elbow to wobble Edgar and then knocked him out with a brutal uppercut that lifted Edgar off the ground, stunning the audience in attendance and catapulting himself to a 145lbs title showdown later this year against UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway.
With the win, Ortega improved to a perfect 14-0, 1 NC record in MMA, including a pristine 6-0, 1 NC record in the Octagon. Ten of his career victories have come via stoppage, including finishes in all six of his UFC victories (and in his No Contest, which was overturned after he tested positive for a banned substance). The list of names Ortega has taken out in a short period of time is nothing short of impressive, and the fashion he’s finished them in is nothing short of incredible.
Ortega came up on the California regional circuit, starting his pro career at age 19 in 2010 by fighting in shows like Gladiator Challenge before being signed by Resurrection Fighting Alliance and winning the featherweight belt over Keoni Koch in a five-round war that was one of 2014’s best fights. The win over Koch earned Ortega a call-up to the UFC, and since moving up to the world’s top MMA circuit all he’s done is continue to win fights.
In his first UFC bout, Ortega finished Mike de la Torre with a standing rear-naked choke, though that result was overturned. In his sophomore UFC effort, he came back and finished veteran Thiago Tavares late in the third round with a TKO in a “Fight of the Night” effort. In his next fight, he was down two rounds to none to Diego Brandao before coming on strong late and finishing Brandao with a third-round triangle choke.
Then he fought durable veteran Clay Guida and brutally finished him a KO via knee. After taking over a year off, Ortega returned in another “Fight of the Night”-winning performance with a third-round guillotine choke over hyped prospect Renato Moicano. The win over Moicano earned Ortega his first UFC main event, and he came through in flying colors by submitting Cub Swanson with a guillotine choke, winning yet another “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night” in the process. And now, the win over Edgar by KO which earned him another “Performance of the Night” bonus.
It’s hard to get a finish in the UFC, let alone six in a row, and it just shows how dangerous Ortega has become in a short period of time. Most people view Ortega as just a grappler and submission artist, but it’s clear he’s much more than that. He’s an incredibly well-rounded mixed martial artist who has excellent grappling, improving striking, and tremendous fight IQ. Ortega still has work to do, but if he goes in there and defeats Holloway, it’s going to be hard to deny his greatness.
There’s no question Jose Aldo is still the featherweight GOAT and Holloway is right behind him, but Ortega is right with those guys. He still has to go in there and beat Holloway, but if he does that, he’ll be well on the track to being the greatest featherweight of all time. At only 27, he still has many years left to cement his legacy in the sport, and it will be fun to watch his career unfold. What a great fighter Ortega is.
Do you think Brian Ortega has the potential to be the greatest featherweight in MMA history? Leave a comment below.