UFC 206: Holloway vs Pettis – Winners and Losers

When you lose a fight as anticipated as Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson, fans are going to be justifiably upset. Losing a marquee fight to be left with a series of fights that had potential for excitement, but not much major buzz? That’s going to lower expectations tremendously.

So in the case of UFC 206, we have a situation where a lot of fans were very let down and were not happy with the offerings. What we got instead was a tremendous main card with some excellent moments on the undercard, and one of the most memorable nights in an already unprecedented year in MMA action. Some fighters earned wins that move them ahead by a considerable amount, and the quality of the fights led to some unforgettable sequences. Card of the year? Perhaps not. Undeniably an excellent one, though. Good to see a long-suffering and deprived Canadian audience get a card that will stand out decades from now.

Max Holloway – Let’s put the belt around his waist aside for a moment. The man just finished a former lightweight champion that was once seen as the future of the sport – a man that had never been finished before. Holloway played it smart, but not necessarily safe throughout the bout. His footwork, timing and range gave him what he needed to eventually break Pettis and make his body quit. The path here is clear now. He faces Aldo next for a title unification while holding what is one of hottest win streaks ever seen (if not the hottest). Back to the belts – while you can downplay the value of either, or both, belts at 145, having Conor McGregor leave has both cleared up the logjam and made the division exciting again by allowing everyone to refocus on the talent that’s still there. This fight put a lot of shine on a division that needed it, and Max Holloway has truly developed into the star fighter he appeared destined to be.

Donald Cerrone – Welterweight Cerrone is still a nightmare. This fight was the story of two fighters that really appeared to dislike each other, had a hard but odd Muay Thai style and a propensity to be hurt by body shots. After a great first round, Brown hurt Cerrone pretty badly and refused to simply go away in the second, battering Cerrone with body shots and busting up his face a bit. After that, Brown earned Cerrone’s respect and the two put their animosity aside only to have Cerrone knock out Brown with a brutal headkick. Welterweight already has a three man dance between Woodley, Thompson and Maia, so it’s unlikely that Cerrone get a title shot next, but another win or two and he should definitely be in the conversation.

Cub Swanson – It seems that due to some recent performances, a lot of people thought Cub Swanson was shot and not a top guy at featherweight anymore. Well, Mr. Swanson is more than happy to disabuse anyone of that notion, every chance he gets. This could very well be fight of the year, with the seasoned veteran taking on the surging phenom and both of them giving each other everything. This fight was brutal and not for the faint of heart, but both of them had their stock raised exponentially. Swanson could realistically get the next crack at the winner of Aldo/Holloway. None of this is guaranteed, but a fight like that is something that’s highly rewarded, and he’s already at #4. Failing that, he’s really more likely to end up fighting #3 Ricardo Lamas. Probably the biggest winner on the card overall, coupled with the performance of a lifetime.

Doo Ho Choi – After three UFC fights that ended with him finishing his opponents in beautiful fashion, this was the big coming out party that some fighters can only dream of. Choi showed the makings of a fighter that still has a ways to go in development, but still put on a war against an opponent that’s faced a who’s who in the sport. This is going to do wonders for him and his career. With recent developments at 145, he should inch closer to or maybe even be among the ranks of Jeremy Stephens, and Charles Oliveira (or maybe even Anthony Pettis should he change his mind and stay at featherweight after all), even coming off a loss. It was still this loss, and we all know rankings are often random and not necessarily based on hard and fast rulesets. Happy to see him continue to grow, as well as what he will become as a fighter. We’re witnessing something big here, folks.

Lando Vannata – Sometimes, an MMA fighter does something that just seems unfair. It’s not that any rules are broken, just that it shouldn’t be humanly possible for someone to be so good at beating someone else up. Vannata’s odd striking stance and style make for fascinating fights, as evidenced in his UFC debut. If a losing effort to Tony Ferguson (in which he almost scored a massive upset) doesn’t tell you that this guy is special, his oblique to spinning wheel kick KO definitely should. Still unranked, but now on everyone’s radar. Plus, he’s in the most stacked and talent-rich division in the sport. Another coming out party for a guy sure to make waves.

Misha Cirkunov – Being a more accurate and damaging striker than before is one thing, having the presence of mind to not miss a beat and slap on a submission at the right moment is another. And that’s where Cirkunov really has shown himself…