The UFC returns to Toronto for UFC 206, which takes place Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. The card was originally set to be headlined by the rematch between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, but an injury to Cormier scratched that fight from the card, which set the UFC into scramble mode. Ultimately, the matchmakers put together a pretty solid show, one that features a title fight in the main event as well as a number of other intriguing matchups, making it a card that should please most MMA fans.
Here are the top-five things to watch for at UFC 206.
Interim Featherweight Title Battle
After Conor McGregor was stripped of the UFC featherweight title and Jose Aldo was bumped up to champion status, Max Holloway ($8,800) will now take on Anthony Pettis ($7,400) for the interim featherweight championship in the main event of UFC 206. Holloway is 12-3 in the UFC and has won nine fights in a row, with his last loss coming to Conor McGregor three years ago. Holloway is one of the best featherweights in the world, as the 25-year-old is a devastating finisher with huge power and submission skills to go along with great cardio and a great chin. He looks like he has championship material and could win the title and prove his supporters right this weekend.
As for Pettis, the 25-year-old is 6-4 in the UFC and the former UFC lightweight champion just won his featherweight debut with a finish over Charles Oliveira. Pettis was once a top-ranked fighter who had amazing finishing skills, but after going 3-1 in his last four fights, it’s hard to say if Pettis will ever get back to that championship level, although he will have the chance to do so this weekend.
Analysis: Holloway is on a nice roll right now, and Pettis looks like he’s a in a decline. The fact this fight is five rounds should favor Holloway even more and he should be able to get a finish. I like Holloway at $8,800.
The co-main event will see fan favorite Donald Cerrone ($9,300) take on Matt Brown ($6,900) in what should be a crowd-pleasing fight. Cerrone has gone a perfect 3-0 since moving up to welterweight, and the former lightweight title contender looks better than ever at his new weight class. Cerrone has exceptional striking with big-time power, a slick submission game, solid wrestling, pristine cardio and a great chin. The only weakness of the 33-year-old’s game is his ability to take strikes to the body, otherwise he’s an exceptional fighter.
As for Brown, the veteran is 13-9 overall in the UFC, but he has lost four of his last five fights. Brown is known for his powerful striking attack and his great cardio, but like Cerrone, he is not able to take damage to the body, and he also has been submitted an alarming 10 times in his career. To be fair to Brown, he has fought elite competition in his recent losses, but still, it’s clear he is on a decline at age 35, making this a dangerous fight against the red-hot Cerrone.
Analysis: Cerrone has looked amazing at welterweight, and he is the rightful favorite to win this fight. Cerrone is excellent at attacking the body, and Brown has shown a weakness there, so I’m looking for Cerrone to land some brutal kicks and either win the fight via TKO or get a submission if the fight hits the ground. I think Cerrone is a solid fighter to build your team around even at a pricey $9,300.
Featherweight Prospect Gets Step Up
Top featherweight prospect Dooho Choi ($8,900) gets a big step up in competition when he takes on Cub Swanson ($7,300) in a main-card bout. Choi is only 25, and he is already 3-0 in the UFC. The South Korean has won 13 fights in a row and has won his last eight fights in a row by knockout. He has massive power in his limbs and if he keeps improving he can be a future title contender at 145lbs.
Swanson, on the other hand, is 8-3 in the UFC and has won his last two fights. The 33-year-old is a well-rounded featherweight who is good everywhere, but he appears to be in the decline phase of his career, having not finished a fight in three years, making for an interesting matchup against the upstart Choi.
Analysis: This is a tough one because even though Choi has looked amazing, he really hasn’t fought anyone at Swanson’s level. I worry that if Choi doesn’t get a first-round knockout he will tire, and Swanson will take over late and win a decision. I do lean towards Choi, but he doesn’t feel like a safe pick at $8,900 against a veteran like Swanson.
Kennedy Returns In Middleweight Contest Against Gastelum
Top-ranked Tim Kennedy ($8,300) returns to the cage after a two-year absence when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum ($7,900), the former Ultimate Fighter winner, who is moving back to middleweight after a failed career as a welterweight. Kennedy, who is now 37, is 3-1 in the UFC and has not fought since a TKO loss to Yoel Romero in September 2014. The U.S. Army Ranger is a powerful wrestler with a solid striking and submission game, making him one of the middleweight divisions’s most well-rounded fighters. Of note, he is the last man to beat current UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, holding a notable 2014 win over the champ.
Gastelum is coming off of a win over former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. That should mean good things for him, but the problem is Gastelum recently missed weight at UFC 206, his third weight miss at welterweight, and the UFC has forced him to move back to 185lbs. At middleweight, Gastelum is 2-0 in the UFC, but at middleweight things become trickier for him. He’s clearly a great fighter with a well-rounded game, and he’s only 25, so he can keep improving, but with him moving up to a bigger weight class, it’s hard to see him having too much success.
Analysis: Kennedy should be able to grind out a decision here, but with a finish unlikely, I would recommend passing on Kennedy at $8,300.
Battle Of Young Light Heavyweights
A scrap between two top-rated prospects takes place as Nikita Kylov ($8,100) takes on Misha Cirkunov ($8,100). Krylov is only 25 and since moving down to 205lbs he is 5-1 in the UFC with five-straight finishes. The Ukrainian has been wrecking shop at light heavyweight and in his last fight he knocked out respected veteran Ed Herman. Krylov is a big-time striker with huge power in his strikes, but he also has a solid ground game, making him an intriguing name to look forward to as far as the light heavyweight division goes.
As for Cirkunov, he is 29 and is 3-0 in the UFC. The Latvian-born Torontonian is a well-rounded prospect with big power and great skills on the ground, making him a potentially tough matchup for Krylov in a fight that is almost certainly going to end inside the distance for one man.
Analysis: This is an awesome fight and one that should end in a stoppage. Cirkunov is extremely solid, but Krylov has all sorts of momentum right now. As the younger fighter, he has more room for improvement. I’m looking for Krylov to get a finish in this fight, and at $8,100, I think he makes for a nice pick to fill out your team.
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