Post UFC 206 Thoughts
MMA can be a funny sport sometimes. UFC 200 in July was loaded from top to bottom with big fights featuring big names. There wasn’t a bad fight in the bunch on paper. But somehow at the end of the night most people felt let down. This past weekends event was the opposite. UFC 206 in Toronto looked like a cursed card from the beginning. Everyone kept waiting for the UFC to announce that George St. Pierre’s return after three years away would be headlining the trip into his home country. When that failed to materialize we were left with the Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson rematch and not much else. Luckily they were able to add a Featherweight title eliminator and two other solid fights after Donald Cerrone and Tim Kennedy had their fights from UFC 205 taken away from them at the last minute. Then Cormier got hurt and there was no longer a title fight to end the night. The UFC worked their magic to force that despite all logic and still, it was one of the best cards of the year. We had a fight of the year candidate, two knockout of the year candidates, and a great performance in the main event to set up an outstanding title fight at some point down the line. Sandwiched between two of the biggest Pay-Per-View events you’ll ever see it would be easy for UFC 206 to be forgotten but that would be a mistake for anyone that enjoys this sport.
Interim, Interim Champ Max Holloway – When Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis was added to UFC 206 as the co-main event I was excited. Two of the most entertaining stand up fighters going against each other to see who gets to fight one of the best strikers in the sports history. The only problem was that it was only three rounds. That was until the main event was canceled and this got promoted to an interim title fight. Which was weird because Jose Aldo already held the interim Featherweight championship. In a convoluted effort to juggle all of their priorities the UFC decided to strip Conor McGregor of the Featherweight belt since he hadn’t defended it since knocking out Aldo in 13 seconds last December. (So much for all that promotion of him becoming the first simultaneous two division champ…) In turn that made Aldo the official champion of the division once again which also acted as a way to make him happy after he threatened retirement if he didn’t get a rematch with McGregor. And despite the fact that the winner of Holloway/Pettis was already going to fight Aldo next they decided to make it an interim title fight to try and wring out a few more Pay-Per-View buys in the process. Then Anthony Pettis missed weight and it was suddenly half of an interim title fight with only Holloway eligible to earn it with a win.
It would’ve thrown the division into disarray had ‘Showtime’ won, leaving the number one contender as someone who hasn’t proven they can make the weight regularly. Fortunately for the UFC that wasn’t the case as Holloway put on a clinic and was able to TKO Pettis in the third round to become the first person to ever finish the former Lightweight champion. That gave ‘Blessed’ his 10th consecutive win and a guarantee that his next fight would be for the real title against the guy who ruled the division since its inception in the promotion. That fight looks like its going to take place in Brooklyn on February 11th at UFC 208. As for Pettis this marks his fourth loss in his last five fights. Its back to Lightweight for him as he said after the fight his body just can’t handle the cut down to 145. What a fast fall from grace. This time two years ago he had just made his first title defense and looked poised to be a dominant champion with superstar potential but that ship has sunk faster than the Titanic. The natural ability is still there but perhaps injuries have taken their toll. He’ll always be a guy I’m excited to watch fight but I hope they give him a real step back to let him build some momentum before facing the elite guys in the Lightweight division.
Leg Kick to the Head, Times Two – We’re getting towards the end of the year which means its almost time to put together the year end accolades and UFC 206 has given us a lot to chew on. Two beautiful, brutal head kick knock outs made their case for knockout of the year on Saturday night. First Lando Vannata mimicked Edson Barboza’s iconic spinning wheel kick KO from 2012 when he pulled off a very similar trick against John Makdessi. And this is after making his UFC debut on late notice against Lightweight challenger Tony Ferguson and almost shocking the world. This might be a guy to keep your eye on. He proved that he could put on an entertaining brawl against ‘El Cucuey’ but was even more impressive when given a full training camp to prepare for a fight. He has a cool fighting style to go with his cool name, two things that can help him reach another level as long as he keeps performing the way he has so far.
The other foot to the skull came from everybody’s favorite ‘Cowboy’, Donald Cerrone. He knocked Matt Brown out cold in the third round of their spirited back and forth fight in the co-main event. They took turns putting each other in danger over the first two rounds. I had the fight scored 19-19 heading into the final round. Cerrone connected on a few head kicks earlier in the fight and ‘The Immortal’ Matt Brown seemed like he may just be that until that last one made him go unconscious immediately. Cerrone is now 4-0 with four finishes since moving up to Welterweight after being a consistent contender at Lightweight. Eliminating the weight cut seems to have allowed him to recover faster from damage and increase his power. Hes at the point now where he should be fighting a top five guy at 170. In my opinion the only viable options are Robbie Lawler, Damien Maia, or maybe GSP if he ever comes back. But ‘Cowboy’ is a guy that loves to fight frequently and is already angling to get on the fight card taking place in Denver in January. Thats a risky proposition but never one hes shied away from.
Featherweight is Alive and Well – Not to be outdone by the entertaining and meaningful fight at the top of the card, 145 pound contenders Cub Swanson and DooHo Choi put on not only the fight of the night but perhaps fight of the year about an hour earlier in the night. As far as three round fights go this is about as good as it gets. Both guys came out aggressive and landed big powerful punches for 15 minutes. Both fighters had moments where it looked like they were about to get knocked out only to persevere and turn the tables back in their fable. Its the rare fight where both guys greatly increased their stock including the loser. Swanson has set himself up to be next in line to fight for the title if he can win one more fight while Holloway and Aldo handle their business. It would be better for him if Aldo wins even though hes already lost to them both because the Holloway loss was much more recent and Aldo won’t have many top contenders left to fight if he doesn’t chase Conor McGregor up to Lightweight. And Swanson’s loss to Aldo was a long time ago before the 145 pound division was even in the UFC. He got knocked out spectacularly in just seven seconds by a double flying knee. It would be all over the marketing if the rematch ever happens. As for Choi, hes only 22 years old and almost took out one of the top five fighters in the division while showing off technical striking, incredible heart, and an unbreakable chin. I would be surprised if he doesn’t fight for a title before all is said and done. He looks like a kid and has a very likable quality to him. This could almost be considered a star making performance but he has to capitalize on it in his next couple fights. He could very well be the future at 145 pounds.
Next up is UFC 207 in just over two weeks where Ronda Rousey finally makes her return to the Octagon to fight for the women’s bantamweight championship. This sport never slows down for long. Until then, let me know what you thought of UFC 206.