UFC 206: Betting Odds and Predictions

The UFC takes to the Great White North for UFC 206 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Though the card has been widely criticized and seemingly in constant flux, it has come together to provide fans of MMA with plenty of potentially explosive bouts.

The main event pits Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis against each other with the interim featherweight title and a shot at Jose Aldo’s undisputed title on the line. The rest of the main card also features a glut of strikers with the likes of Matt Brown, Donald Cerrone and Dooho Choi making the walk to the Octagon.

Max Holloway vs Anthony Pettis

*Update - Anthony Pettis has failed to make the 145 lbs limit for this fight. He weighed in at 148 lbs and as a result, he won't be awarded with the interim title if he wins and he'll have to forfeit 20 percent of his purse to Holloway. The odds have also adjusted slightly, with Hollaway going from -190 to -205.

Max Holloway is a special talent who enters this bout with wins in each of his past nine fights, six of which came via stoppage. Holloway’s meat and potatoes of his style is his striking and he is damned good at it. He is in the top two in featherweight history in knockdowns, significant strikes landed and striking differential. ‘Blessed’ also works a ridiculous pace, as his technique and footwork allow him to throw multiple-strike combinations without wasting any time.

Holloway isn’t going to be confused for a grappler any time soon, as he almost never shoots for a takedown. That is just not part of his game, as he would rather use wrestling defensively to keep the fight standing, where he almost always holds a huge advantage. His ability to avoid the takedown has been amazing, as he has not been taken down once in his past six fights.

Anthony Pettis is getting an interim featherweight title fight in just his second bout at 145 after he defeated noted submission specialist Charles Oliveira in his last outing. Pettis generally prefers to stand and strike with a game built around his jab and leg kick. In order to properly utilize this game plan, he needs to be able to dictate the range in which the fight takes place. It is his footwork that allows ‘Showtime’ to properly use his strikes at the proper range. I’d be lying if I said some of the aura around Pettis’ striking is gone after he lost to Edson Barboza.

With Pettis’ need for space in the striking game, opponents have started to smother him more in the wrestling game. This technique worked for Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez and even Clay Guida. Though generally not talked about as much, Pettis has actually recorded more wins via submission than knockout. Many opponents think it’s best to bring Pettis to the ground, but he is extremely lethal from there.

This fight is likely going to be contended on the feet. Both Holloway and Pettis have some amazing striking skills and neither has ever been knocked out in their careers. Holloway’s pace and aggression should help negate Pettis’ distance-based striking and give the Hawaiian his first taste of gold.

Prediction: Max Holloway (-205)

Donald Cerrone vs Matt Brown

Since moving to welterweight, Donald Cerrone has looked indestructible with three stoppage wins. Cerrone has proven that he can still maintain the speed and pace he pushed at 155 lbs, but has developed much more power at 170. This is evidenced by his knockout victories over Patrick Cote and Rick Story, both guys who had never been KO’ed in 10-plus years of MMA. ‘Cowboy’ is a master of distance and has some of the most lethal kicks in MMA today.

Cerrone is also a submission ace with 16 career victories via sub. He is extremely active from the guard and always looks for the finish when the fight goes to the mat. His wrestling game is serviceable, but not anything to write home about.

Matt Brown is one of the most dramatic fighters in UFC history, but he has hit the skids recently with just one win in his past five. None of those losses have been overly bad considering the level of competition, but it’s proven that Brown is never going to be elite. ‘Immortal’ is primarily a striker who aggressively pushes the pace and always has his foot on the gas. It’s not what you would define as pretty, but it has been effective.

Brown has put time into his wrestling and submission game, but it is still lacking. Ten of his career losses have come by way of submission and he is not likely to outmaneuver an opponent on the ground.

Cerrone holds the edge in pretty much every aspect of this fight. He is a more technical striker, has more power and has better grappling skills. Plus, Brown’s power hasn’t exactly been prevalent, as his last knockout came against the terrible Erick Silva in 2014.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone (-280)

Cub Swanson vs Dooho Choi

Cub Swanson is one of the more underrated fighters in the world right now. His striking style is so smooth and fundamentally sound, but he supplements that with some flashy techniques. Swanson loves to remain unpredictable in the striking game by constantly feinting and faking. The one thing that could be an issue in this fight is his hand placement, as Swanson can keep his hands low to help protect against takedown attempts.

Swanson’s wrestling isn’t especially great, but he has no problem whatsoever fighting from the ground. The BJJ black belt is constantly moving and angling for submission attempts if a fight takes to the mat and he has recorded seven victories via submission. However, this sometimes leaves him exposed, as five of his seven career losses have come via tap.

I’m going to open this by confessing that you are unlikely to find a bigger Dooho Choi fan than me. There’s something about a guy who looks like he is 14 years old and just lays waste to his opponents that I can’t help but love.

Choi’s game is built around countering and landing his massive right hand. ‘The Korean Superboy’ is very meticulous in the striking game and has no problem waiting for his opportunity, though that opportunity has not needed to be very large for him to capitalize on.

His defensive wrestling looked OK in limited exposure but he was taken down very easily against Thiago Tavares. If Tavares would have actually attempted to do something on the ground, then maybe we wouldn't be talking about Choi. Though he is still young, the biggest asset when grappling has been his ability to stay calm and conserve energy.

Swanson has to know that his path of least resistance is to get this fight to the mat. However, can he take down Choi with some solid, yet unspectacular wrestling skills? Swanson’s initial unpredictability in the striking game could cause Choi issues, but his poise and quickness will ultimately win out over 15 minutes. 

Prediction: Dooho Choi (-225)

Tim Kennedy vs Kelvin Gastelum

Tim Kennedy has always been a phenomenal grappler. He is an aggressive wrestler who can both land and defend takedowns, which is attributed more to his tenacity and aggressiveness than his actual technique. Though he is not widely recognized as such, Kennedy has some slick submissions with eight wins via sub (seven of which came via a choke).

Kennedy’s striking game is just OK. Much like his wrestling, it’s more about his volume and cardio in the striking game. In the open, he is relatively ineffective but can do plenty of damage in the clinch. Kennedy’s iron chin usually does enough to keep him alive in the standup game, but at 37 you need to wonder when that will start to evaporate.

Kelvin Gastelum has all the pieces to be one of the best fighters in the world. He is strong, athletic and has the skills to dominate a fight in every area. His striking game has become the focal point of his attack, with the Arizona native sporting a fantastic jab. Early in his career, Gastelum was a grappler and he still has great skills in that department.

The biggest issue with Gastelum seems to be mental. He looks like a killer in one moment and then looks completely lackadaisical the next. He also has had issues making weight, as he has missed weight in three of his past six fights.

It’s always hard to figure out who wins in a Gastelum fight. If Gastelum shows up at 100 percent and focused, he could beat almost anybody, but when he doesn’t want it, he is easily beaten. I know Kennedy will show up and he will push the work rate at a high level. More often than not, in a fight like this, I lean toward the constant. 

Prediction: Tim Kennedy (-140)

Jordan Mein vs Emil Meek

Jordan Mein returns from retirement after being away from competitive MMA for over a year. Mein is still just 27 years old and should still have the power in his hands that made him a threat to end any opponent. ‘Young Gun’ has grown up in martial arts, as his father operated Rumble in the Cage, and has been training in various forms of fighting since the age of four.

He is a lanky welterweight and he uses his reach well in the cage. He has deadly knockout power in all of his limbs and has some of the best knee strikes around. He isn’t much of a wrestler but if a fight goes to the mat, he has the submission skills to get it done, with seven victories via sub.

Defense has always been Mein’s biggest weakness. He is a violent fighter who takes a hit to give a hit. That accumulation of damage to the body was ultimately a motivating factor in his retirement. If the time away allowed Mein to fix this issue, he can be a threat in the division, but you can’t consistently beat the best fighters taking that level of punishment.

Emil Meek will finally make his UFC debut after several incidents have caused it to be delayed on several occasions. ‘Valhalla’ is an aggressive puncher who attacks his opponents, as each of his seven career knockout victories has come via his hands. This style is risky and it has gotten Meeks knocked out twice himself, but it’s damned exciting.

It’s difficult to get a great grasp of Meek’s complementary skills, as seven of his 10 pro fights have been finished within the first round. His limited wrestling defense seems based more on strength than refined technique. He does have one submission win to his name, but it was more opportunistic than anything else.

The first round is going to be extremely violent. Both Mein and Meek are powerful strikers who search for the knockout and have questionable defense. In a spot like this, I tend to just take the better value and that’s Meek.

Prediction: Emil Meek (+130)

UFC 206: Anthony Pettis vs Max Holloway Betting Odds:
  • Anthony Pettis +165
  • Max Holloway -205
Odds as of December 9 at Sportsbook
  • Donald Cerrone -280
  • Matt Brown +220
  • Cub Swanson +175
  • Dooho Choi -225
  • Tim Kennedy -140
  • Kelvin Gastelum +110
  • Jordan Mein -160
  • Emil Meek +130
  • Misha Cirkunov -130
  • Nikita Krylov EVEN
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier -175
  • Drew Dober +145
  • Valerie Letourneau -175
  • Viviane Pereira +145
  • Mitch Gagnon -155
  • Matthew Lopez +125
  • John Makdessi +150
  • Lando Vannata -185
  • Jason Saggo +160
  • Rustam Khabilov -200
  • Zach Makovsky -165
  • Dustin Ortiz +135