Bless Anthony Pettis and Max Holloway. They didn’t ask for the firestorm that came their way over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
No, as far as they saw it, the two featherweight were set to be the co-main event for UFC 206 in Toronto with the division’s No. 1 contendership on the line while Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Daniel Cormier battled for the light heavyweight title.
Instead, Cormier suffered a groin injury and was forced to pull out of the fight. In need of a title fight to entice fight fans to purchase the pay-per-view, UFC did what many thought would happen — just in, like, five or six months.
The organization stripped two-division kingpin Conor McGregor of the featherweight title — a belt he never defended — and elevated Jose Aldo to full-time champion at 145. Now, Pettis and Holloway will battle for the interim featherweight crown as the main event in Toronto, leading to a lot of confusion.
“I thought I was going to get Pettis as the main event and move to five rounds. I didn’t think it was going to get elevated to a title shot,” Holloway said via MMAJunkie. “But the featherweight division was in murky waters, and now it’s super clear. I’ve been telling everybody this is God’s plan, not mine, and God’s plan is perfect. We’re here now, and it’s all about taking opportunities. This is an opportunity I need to take, and it’s the first step toward greatness.”
Now, more than ever, everything will be on the line between the two fighters. While this event may have lost some of its luster, Holloway and Pettis are sure to put on a show.
Holloway enters the bout on a nine-fight win streak. The last man to best him? None other than McGregor. Since that loss in 2013, Holloway has ripped off victories in every way imaginable — four KO/TKOs, three decisions and two submissions. If you’re looking for a well-rounded fighter, he’s your man.
Meanwhile, Pettis enters this fight playing with house money. The former UFC lightweight champion is making just his second appearance at 145 after suffering three consecutive losses at 155. If he is able to pull off the win, his star will be back.
The action gets started at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 with a four-fight prelim card. Then it heads to pay-per-view with five more fights on the docket including three guys expected to fight at UFC 205: Tim Kennedy, Kelvin Gastelum and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Here’s how the main card shakes out with up-to-date odds from Bovada.
|Max Holloway (-190)||Anthony Pettis (+155)||Featherweight title|
|Donald Cerrone (-280)||Matt Brown (+220)||Welterweight|
|Doo Ho Choi (-235)||Cub Swanson (+185)||Featherweight|
|Tim Kennedy (-160)||Kelvin Gastelum (+130)||Middleweight|
|Jordan Mein (-160)||Emil Meek (+130)||Welterweight|
How Holloway wins: The Hawaiian comes in as hot as any fighter currently on the roster. Holloway has done an excellent job of building himself back up after that disappointing result against McGregor in 2013. For Holloway to stop Pettis, he needs to keep this fight standing up. Holloway excels the most when his fights become boxing/kickboxing matches. He needs to pick apart Pettis’ defense until he finds an opening for the knockout blow.
How Pettis wins: Despite the three consecutive losses at lightweight, the older Pettis brother has not been stopped in his 24 career professional fights. He has a strong chin and is good a parrying strikes away from him. To beat a strong standup fighter like Holloway, Pettis needs to take the fight to the ground and force him to defend against submission attempts — the way that Pettis has won his last three fights.
Prediction: As much as people like Pettis and love to remember his run in WEC, those days are long gone. He’s not as explosive as he once was and that’s going to hurt him in a matchup against a younger, more powerful striker in Holloway. I don’t think Pettis gets stopped, but I think Holloway does enough to secure the interim featherweight title. Holloway by unanimous decision