UFC 300 takeaways: Max Holloway, Alex Pereira highlight night with title-winning knockouts

The pride of Hawaii is now the BMF champ of the UFC. Max Holloway dethroned Justin Gaethje on Saturday night at UFC 300 to win the BMF title via thrilling knockout in the very last second of the fifth round.

The bout for the symbolic title was jam-packed with action from the opening round to the literal last second. After 24 minutes and 50 seconds of thrilling exchanges, Holloway pointed at the center of the mat and told Gaethje to bring it.

Seconds later, Holloway smashed him with an overhand right to send Gaethje faceplanting into the mat.

“I’m him,” Holloway screamed afterward.

Joe Rogan called it the greatest knockout of all time.

All that momentum began 20 minutes earlier with a spinning heel kick in the final second of the first round that badly injured Gaethje’s nose.

The leaking nose bothered Gaethje the rest of the fight, and Holloway never slowed down. Holloway’s third round was particularly sharp, hitting Gaethje with repeated combos and drilling another spinning kick.

Battling through Gaethje’s repeated heavy calf kicks, Holloway also displayed elite defense all fight. He deftly avoided Gaethje’s power shots and countered his pressure with straights that sent Gaethje recoiling and touching at his injured nose.

But despite a one-sided first 15 minutes, Gaethje battled back in the fourth round to knock Holloway down, the first time he ever hit the canvas. Holloway survived the power onslaught and bounced back with more flurries in the fifth round.

Holloway moved up from featherweight to lightweight to take on Gaethje at the landmark UFC event, Holloway’s second career fight in the weight class.

Despite the success against a top contender at lightweight, Holloway previously told The Athletic he has unfinished business at featherweight, where he once held the division’s title for 925 days. But after dropping the title to Alexander Volkanovski and losing two other times to Volkanovski in efforts to reclaim the belt, Holloway’s career was at a crossroads.

However, after Ilia Topuria took the featherweight belt from Volkanovski at UFC 298, the division has been reopened and Holloway’s title hopes rekindled. Holloway told The Athletic he plans on being in line for a shot at the featherweight title after Topuria and Volkanovski have their rematch.

Alex Pereira drops Jamahal Hill with a knockout left hook in the first round to close UFC 300. (Photo: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

In the main event, Alex Pereira flattened Jamahal Hill with a highlight-reel knockout that would’ve been remembered as Knockout of the Night on any other card.

Hill’s title challenge lasted less than four minutes before the light heavyweight champion continued his reign behind his signature weapon: the left hook that has brought Pereira decades of success. The clinching hook came seconds after Pereira waved off referee Herb Dean, who stepped in to check on what appeared to have been a low blow kick by Hill.

Low blow or not, Pereira closed the show with a bang.

The title defense was Pereira’s first since winning the belt at UFC 295 by defeating Jiří Procházka in just Pereira’s second fight at light heavyweight.

Pereira’s win Saturday improves his career record to 10-2 and 6-1 in the UFC. Six of those now seven wins have come against current or former champions.

After his win, Pereira said he’d be interested in fight in Brazil someday, and then went on to mention a potential future fight at heavyweight. The UFC will be heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for UFC 301 on May 4, and heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall is currently without a next opponent.

Pereira previously told The Athletic he has no plans on returning to middleweight for another bout with Israel Adesanya, but would welcome his old rival to a bout at light heavyweight.

Zhang Weili strikes at Yan Xiaonan in the women’s strawweight title fight at UFC 300. (Photo: Chris Unger / Getty Images)

In the co-main event, Zhang Weili defeated Yan Xiaonan via unanimous decision (49-45 across the judges’ cards) to retain her UFC strawweight title in the first-ever title fight between Chinese competitors.

Weili handled Xiaonan throughout the bout with suffocating ground offense, warding of Xiaonan’s persistently spirited offense. In the closing minute of the first round, Weili sunk in a submission that appeared to choke Xiaonan, but the challenger never tapped and the referee never stopped the bout as the round’s horn rang.

Instead, Xiaonan bounced back even more defense in round two, surviving more Weili submission attempts and reversing position as the champion looked gas.

But after being knocked down a couple times in the third, Weili showed her championship mentality in the final rounds to neutralize Xiaonan’s momentum with key takedowns. In the fourth and fifth rounds, Weili worked in solid ground-and-pound as she maintained her edge on the scorecards.

The fight was Weili’s eighth consecutive bout against a former champion or with a title on the line. With the win, Weili now has three career title defenses across her two strawweight reigns.

Weili entered Saturday as the No. 2 women in the UFC pound-for-pound rankings. Her only two losses since 2013 came against Rose Namajunas, both of which came in 2021.

Namajunas moved to flyweight after dropping the strawweight title in 2022, but is coming off a win against Amanda Ribas. Among current strawweight competitors, Jéssica Andrade entered Saturday ranked No. 4 in the division before picking up a strong win over No. 6 Marina Rodriguez.

Kayla Harrison throws a headkick at Holly Holm in their bout at UFC 300 (Photo: Chris Unger / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Kayla Harrison has been hyped for years as arguably the greatest women’s fighter outside of the UFC, and she proved Saturday night at UFC 300 that she may now be the most feared women’s fighter within the UFC.

Harrison defeated former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm in her UFC debut, submitting Holm with a rear-naked choke in the second round.

The choke is Harrison’s seventh career submission win. Prior to the UFC, Harrison compiled a 16-1 record in the Professional Fighter’s League, winning the PFL’s women’s lightweight tournaments in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

In the PFL, Harrison exclusively fought at lightweight (155 pounds), but the heaviest women’s division in the UFC is bantamweight (135 pounds). Any questions about how the 5-foot-8 Harrison would handle the weight cut were answered Saturday, as Harrison looked dominant in her bantamweight debut.

She looked strong stand-up exchanges with Holm, a former world champion boxer, and executed multiple trip throws to get Holm to the ground. In the first round, that led to multiple minutes of heavy ground-and-pound, with Holm on the receiving end of heavy punches and elbows as she was pressed against the fence.

In the first minute of the second round, Harrison hit Holm with a headkick then shot a double leg takedown, nearly sinking in a submission before tripping Holm down for another takedown. Less than a minute later, Harrison had Holm’s back and was sinking in a rear-naked choke for the win.

Before her first MMA fight in 2018, Harrison built a career as one of the most dominant judokas of all time. She won Olympic gold medals in judo in 2012 and 2016, was a three-time IJF Grand Slam Tournament champion and was elected to the United States Judo Federation Hall Of Fame.

After her 2016 Olympic gold, Harrison was promoted to rokudan (sixth degree black belt) making her the youngest person in the U.S. to ever be awarded this rank.

Harrison found her way into MMA by becoming a training partner of Ronda Rousey, who was a fellow judoka champion. Rousey’s legendary title reign in the UFC was famously headkicked into oblivion by Holm in 2015.

Follow along The Athletic’s live coverage of UFC 300 here.

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(Top photo: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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