WATCH: TOMMY TOE HOLD UFC 206
The UFC’s penultimate pay-per-view of 2016 takes place inside the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. While expectant fans lost out on the original main event between light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, there’s every reason to believe that the new main event of Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis will produce plenty of fireworks. UFC 206 may lack the sport’s biggest superstars, but it does have plenty of fights that are more than likely to be action-packed.
As we approach fight night in Canada’s largest city, let’s take a closer look at some of the fighters on this weekend’s card who could produce some big scores for your DraftKings lineup(s).
Max Holloway ($8,800) vs. Anthony Pettis ($7,400)
Holloway has won an astonishing 9 straight fights, with his last setback coming against Conor McGregor in August 2013. During his winning streak, “Blessed” has taken apart the likes of Cub Swanson, Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas. Meanwhile, Pettis is a newcomer to 145, having made his debut in the weight class back in August, submitting Charles Oliveira with a guillotine choke in the 3rd and final round. The former lightweight champ had suffered 3 straight losses at 155, including the loss of his belt to Rafael dos Anjos, a split decision vs. Eddie Alvarez and a one-sided beating administered by Edson Barboza.
This is terrific matchmaking, and the promotion from a three-round non-title affair to a five-round interim featherweight title fight is even better. While Pettis’ striking presents a threat through his lethal body and head kicks, I find Holloway to be the more technically sound, creative striker with superior boxing skills. The x-factor here is if Pettis can work his underrated submission game on the mat, but I have a feeling this fight will be spent mostly on the feet. Even without a finish, this being a five-round fight means Holloway can accumulate a high point total through significant strikes alone, and he’s my pick here to shut down “Showtime.”
Number of Note: 4. Max Holloway has landed more than 100 significant strikes in 4 UFC fights, all of which were scheduled for 3 rounds. Pettis has never landed more than 56 in a UFC or WEC fight.
Donald Cerrone ($9,300) vs. Matt Brown ($6,900)
“Cowboy” was supposed to be fighting Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 205, but Gastelum’s weight-cutting disaster forced the bout’s cancellation, and now they’re both on this card, but in separate matchups (and weight classes). Cerrone is 3-0 at welterweight, with each win ending in an impressive stoppage, the last of which was a gorgeous four-hit combo of Rick Story. As for Brown, he’s hit a serious rough patch, having lost 4 of 5, including a stunning 1st round TKO loss to Jake Ellenberger, which marked his first ever defeat via strikes.
At $9,300, Cerrone is the highest-priced fighter on the card, but I think he’s worth every penny. His striking looks better than ever, and lest we forget his jiu-jitsu skills. Brown is tough as nails, and is a quality pressure fighter with strong Muay Thai skills, as well as a vastly improved ground game, but Donald’s on the ascent and Brown is not. I’m predicting Cerrone picks up another highlight-reel finish and furthers his case for a welterweight title shot.
Number of Note: 4. Cerrone’s last 4 wins have all been by stoppage, which ties for the longest streak of finishes in his UFC and WEC career.
Cub Swanson ($7,300) vs. Dooho Choi ($8,900)
Swanson once had a six-fight winning streak, but Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway both dealt him heavy losses to set his title aspirations back considerably. The 32-year-old has bounced back nicely, besting Hacran Dias and Tatsuya Kawajiri by unanimous decision. “The Korean Superboy” wanted to fight Swanson, and his wish was granted. Choi is 15-1 with an incredible 12 KO/TKO wins, including a perfect 3-for-3 in the UFC. He was last seen melting veteran Thiago Tavares back in July.
At $7,300, Swanson is great value. He’s a good, creative striker in his own right, has a great chin — only Jose Aldo’s double flying knee has KO’d him — and while he’s never excelled at takedowns, he’s crafty from top position on the ground. Choi’s got dynamite in his hands, but is hittable and hasn’t faced anyone as well-rounded as Swanson. An upset may be in the cards with the veteran Swanson (at least temporarily) halting Choi’s rise to the top.
Number of Note: 4:33. Dooho Choi’s three UFC fights have lasted a combined 4 minutes and 33 seconds, with the Tavares win representing the longest fight at 2:42.
Misha Cirkunov ($8,100) vs. Nikita Krylov ($8,100)
Cirkunov is 3-0 (with 3 finishes) inside the Octagon, including a 3rd round arm-triangle choke of Ion Cutelaba at UFC Ottawa in June. The former judoka has looked very much like a future contender in a division badly in need of some new talent. Also making a major push for title contention is Nikita Krylov, who has rattled off 5 straight victories, with none of his opponents lasting into the 3rd round. “The Miner” last fought at UFC 201, sensationally KOing Ed Herman with a head kick.
This is good matchmaking between two bright talents. Krylov fights at a much faster pace than Cirkunov, and is the better striker, but the key here will be takedowns. Krylov literally doesn’t attempt them, and he’s not particularly great at defending them. Cirkunov possesses powerful takedowns, devastating ground-and-pound, smooth grappling transitions and a quality submission game. Based off of that, I’m going with Cirkunov to get a win in front of his home fans in Toronto.
Number of Note: 0. In his entire 25-fight career, Krylov has never had a fight go to a decision, win or lose. That doesn’t figure to change against Cirkunov, who has only gone the distance twice in his 14 fights.
Lando Vannata ($8,700) vs. John Makdessi ($7,500)
You may remember “Groovy” Lando’s UFC debut…Vannata nearly pulled off a short-notice upset of Tony Ferguson before he tapped to Ferguson’s signature d’arce choke. It was an unbelievable battle that had fans eager to see how he’d fare with a full camp (which he claims he hasn’t had since 2014). Canada’s Makdessi is coming off a split decision win over Mehdi Baghdad, which snapped a two-fight losing skid to Donald Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros. Makdessi has been a middle-of-the-road lightweight, fittingly with a 5-5 record inside the Octagon.
Makdessi is the more technical striker with better footwork and a good arsenal of kicks. Unfortunately, he lacks power (and doesn’t often hurt his opponents with head shots), and I firmly believe Vannata has high upside and superior athleticism. His striking is sharp and powerful, and while he prefers to strike, he can fall back on his BJJ and wrestling background if necessary. I think the JacksonWink product takes this one.
Number of Note: 0. John Makdessi has never attempted a takedown in his 12-fight UFC career. I think we can look forward to a stand-up battle here.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mookiealexander) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.