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UFC 206 Fight Previews: Pettis vs. Holloway Picks

Anthony "Showtime" Pettis(19-5-0) @ Max "Blessed" Holloway(16-3-0)

  • Where: Air Canada Centre. Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
  • When: December 10, 2016 7:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Holloway (-200) vs. Pettis (+160)
  • Over / Under: Over 2.5 rounds (-220) vs. Under 2.5 rounds (+180)

Anthony “Showtime” Pettis faces a daunting task to become just the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles at two different weight classes Saturday when he looks to avoid becoming Max “Blessed” Holloway’s 10th straight victim in a fight for the interim featherweight title and a guaranteed matchup against Jose Aldo next year.

This fight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto became the main event after Daniel Cormier suffered an injury ahead of defending his light heavyweight title against Anthony Johnson, and it’s also a bout many MMA fans have been wanting to see take place. The featherweight belt became available after Conor McGregor _ the first UFC fighter to hold two belts simultaneously _ relinquished it and the UFC named Aldo interim champ. Holloway is the No. 2 contender in the division and Pettis enters at No. 5 in his second fight at 145 pounds.

Despite still being a novice in the division, Pettis (19-5) forced Charles Oliveira to tap out in the third round at UFC Fight Night 93 in August in his first featherweight bout. The victory ended a three-match losing streak in which Pettis lost his light heavyweight title at 155 pounds and then suffered back-to-back defeats to Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza via decision.

Holloway (16-3) is unbeaten since dropping a decision to McGregor back in August 2013. He has recorded six wins by knockout or submission during his winning streak, but the last two have gone the distance via unanimous three-round victories over Jeremy Stephens in UFC 194 almost exactly one year ago and Ricardo Lamas in UFC 199. The only common fighter they’ve faced is Oliveira, whom Holloway knocked out in the first round in August 2015.

A Battle of Wills and Styles

Pettis vs. Holloway PicksHolloway and Pettis are contrasting figures in The Octagon, with Holloway willing to stand in the center of the ring and fight with his opponent, while Pettis’ superior kicking game lends to him measuring up an opponent and picking his spots at a distance. Holloway fights at a more frenetic pace, evidenced by his rate of 5.61 significant strikers per minute. That is nearly double Pettis’ mark of 2.64, but the former middleweight also takes less punishment, absorbing 2.38 significant strikers per minute while avoiding 57 percent of his opponents’ blows.

Holloway is also adept at slipping his foes’ strikes _ two-thirds of them never find their mark _ but his desire to engage leads him to be hit more, taking 3.76 significant strikes per minute. So look for Pettis to try and keep a perimeter with his kicks as well as use his three-inch reach advantage. In turn, Holloway will try to slip inside both to crowd Pettis, which was used to great effect by Alvarez and Barboza previously.

Will the Extra Two Rounds Matter?

Since this is now the main event and a title fight, UFC has extended this bout to five rounds. On paper, that would appear to favor Holloway, who is 5-2 when his fights have gone the full 25 minutes. Pettis, whose build makes him seem ideal at the featherweight class, is 2-5 in such matches. There doesn’t appear to be a major advantage for conditioning purposes in terms of fighting, with Holloway’s matchups averaging 11:28 and Pettis’ clocking in at 11:07.

The Best of the Rest on the UFC 206 Main Card

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (31-7, 1 NC) will try to win his fourth straight fight at the welterweight level when he takes on Matt “The Immortal” Brown (22-15). Cerrone has won Performance of the Night honors in each of his last three bouts, getting Alex Oliveira to tap out before knocking out Patrick Cote (KO, 3) and Rick Story (KO, 2) to move up to No. 5 in the division. Brown, who has slipped to 14th in the welterweight rankings, is looking to avoid a third straight loss after falling via submission in the third round to Demian Maia and a first-round knockout by Jake Ellenberger. Given how both fighters are no strangers to trading blows, this bout could be just as action-packed as the Pettis-Holloway main event.

Back in the featherweight division, Doo Ho Choi (14-1) has a prime opportunity to move up the ranks and potentially earn a title shot if he can topple No. 4 Cub Swanson (23-7). Choi, nicknamed “Korean Superboy,” has won his last three UFC fights via first-round knockouts but takes a huge step up in quality of competition against Swanson, who has gone the distance his last two bouts in victories over Hacran Dias and Tatsuya Kawajiri. While it’s hard to glean much from Choi’s statistics given his first-round knockouts, his 7.03 significant strikes per minute rate stands out noticeably opposite Swanson’s more modest 3.43 mark. Choi is a solid favorite at -230, while Swanson is a +185 underdog.

The UFC 206 Parlay Angle

While Cerrone-Brown may cause some anxious moments given their hard-fighting styles, Cerrone should have too much quality for Brown to overcome. The issue is where to parlay on this card, which has been weakened somewhat without the Cormier-Johnson bout. Both Pettis and Holloway have plenty at stake in gaining a spot opposite Aldo for the 145 title, but for Pettis, this bout borders on a must-win to stay relevant. He has title-fight experience, and his patience and tactics have the potential to create the payoff he needs. No one is saying this will be an easy fight to win for Pettis, but parlaying Pettis with Cerrone is the recommended play at the Bovada Sportsbook.

UFC 206 Fight Odds: Main Card and Prelims

Chris AltrudaThis article was written by Chris Altruda

Chris Altruda has spent more than two decades as a sportswriter, first for ESPN SportsTicker in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he rose to the level of college sports coordinator and was NCAA Men's Basketball Columnist. From there, he moved onto The Associated Press, where Chris started as an editorial assistant in their MegaSports division in the AP's headquarters in New York City before taking on the role of Scores Manager. He most recently served as an editor for nearly 11 years for STATS' editorial department based in Northbrook, Illinois, writing game previews for all US professional and major college sports as well as the English Premier League and international soccer. Currently a freelancer, Chris is still working the international soccer beat and other assorted projects. A native New Yorker and graduate of Marquette University who still refers to them as the Warriors, Chris is now holding out hope the Jets will reach a Super Bowl in his lifetime since the Cubs proved miracles are possible by winning the 2016 World Series. Chris can be found on Twitter at @AlTruda73

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