Dang, UFC 206 was supposed to suck. Originally this was supposed to be the card to showcase GSP‘s return to fighting. The UFC and GSP could never come to terms (and they’re still negotiating a potential return) so Cormier and Johnson were elevated to main event status. While that is a matchup that excites MMA hardcores, neither one of those guys has the drawing power of Conor or Ronda. None of the fighters on the card had much drawing power at all, and when Cormier had to pull out a few weeks ago, some in the MMA media speculated this card could be pulled from PPV and put on Fox. You never know what’s going to happen in MMA, and while this card may not have had a lot of star power, it more than compensated when it came to the actual fights.
Holloway vs. Pettis
Max Holloway‘s star is on the rise. He was on a 9 fight winning streak coming into this fight with an abundance of confidence and momentum behind him. Anthony Pettis on the other hand is a former champ who was 1-3 in his last 4 fights. He was hoping a drop to 145 would rejuvenate his career. This fight was Holloway’s to lose, and he absolutely delivered.
Holloway is a natural 145 fighter. His body belongs in that division. Pettis is a 155 fighter, and his body is simply too big for 145. He weighed in three pounds over the limit after a gruesome weight cut. That cut showed in the fight. Holloway looked faster, stronger, and more fluid throughout the fight. Pettis looked slower and drained. Pettis had never been stopped before this fight, and Holloway put him away in the third. As much as this fight solidified Holloway as the number one contender to the “undisputed” 145 king Jose Aldo, this fight also exposed how far Pettis has fallen in the fight game. There was a time not so long ago that he was thought of as one of the best fighters in the world. He was on the Wheaties box for crying out loud. His fall from elite level competitorship is on par with Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.
Cerrone vs. Brown
Both of these guys are in my top 10 favorite fighters. They’re both known for wild, explosive fights. Matt Brown is reaching the end of his career, while Cowboy has been putting lightweights and welterweights away left and right the last few years. Going into this fight, Cowboy was 11-1 in his past 12, with his only loss being a title fight at lightweight. I think most people had this fight called for Cerrone, but the fight itself delivered. It was almost entirely contested on the feet and both guys got their shots in. In the end, Cowboy is on his way up and Brown is on his way down. Cowboy finished Brown with a brutal headkick in the third. As much as it sucks to see Brown lose his third in a row, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Cowboy. Hopefully we see him in a number one contender fight with Demian Maia next.
Swanson vs. Choi
I’d only seen Choi fight once before this fight, and I was amazed by his performance. The guy looks like he’s 12 years old and he knocked out Thiago Tavares in the first. He seriously looks like an innocent little boy, but he’s starching legitimate featherweights and making it look easy. Cub Swanson is a veteran fighter and this was the first true test for Choi. This was my most anticipated fight on the card, and it turned out to be a fight of the year candidate. Throughout this fight, both guys landed vicious combinations on each other. There were multiple times where it looked like one or the other was going to be finished by strikes. The fight was back and forth and both guys got their licks in. In the end, Swanson was able to get in the better shots and take the unanimous decision. His creative striking helped keep Choi moving backward and reacting to Swanson. I’d love to see this fight again, and I get the feeling this loss is only going to make Choi better.
Kennedy vs. Gastelum
This was a tough one to watch. Tim Kennedy has been off for two years since fighting Yoel Romero at stoolgate, a fight he should have won but didn’t. Kelvin Gastelum has missed weight multiple times at 170, the most recent time being last month at UFC 205. It’s hard to root for a guy who repeatedly ruins fight cards. I was hoping this would be a return to form for Kennedy, as I’m a huge fan. Alas, Gastelum is a legitimate threat at either welterweight or middleweight, and he was able to keep the fight on the feet where he outstruck Kennedy to a third round stoppage. You can try and justify it by saying Kennedy was distracted with the MMAAA or a two year layoff, but you can’t deny Gastelum fought an excellent fight against a tough opponent. Just like Cerrone and Brown, Gastelum is on his way up and Kennedy is on his way down.