UFC 206 PPV PRIMER: Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions including Pettis vs. Holloway for Interim Featherweight Title, Cerrone vs. Brown

By Matthew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC 206 Primer – Matt Ecochard

The first UFC PPV since the incredible UFC 205 is taking place on Saturday night, airing from Toronto, Ontario and being headlined by Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis for the featherweight interim title. The main card should be a good one, filled out with some fun fights in a variety of divisions. The following are some previews and predictions for the entire card:

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

(#7) Zach Makovsky (19-7) vs. (#10) Dustin Ortiz (15-6) – Flyweight Bout

An incredibly well put together bout is opening up this weekend’s pay-per-view. Zach Makovsky and Dustin Ortiz have lost to the same opponents as of late in Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga. Both fighters have great wrestling, striking and submissions. Ortiz has the edge in striking while Makovsky has it in grappling. The bout should be a very hard fought one, but the experience of Makovsky and grappling ability should help him take out Ortiz in a rough decision.

Prediction: Zach Makovsky via Split Decision

Jason Saggo (12-2) vs. Rustam Khabilov (20-3) – Lightweight Bout

Two climbing lightweights will take center stage in the next bout with the dangerous sambo fighter Rustam Khabilov takes on submission grappler Justin Saggo. Saggo’s grappling has allowed him to work some strong top game positions and get a few TKOs. Everything that Saggo is good out however, Khabilov is really good at neutralizing. Khabilov’s sambo game and wrestling allow for his striking to really excel. Saggo is a really good fighter, but he is going to be hitting a brick wall in the form of Khabilov on Saturday night, he is tough though so don’t expect a finish,

Prediction: Rustam Khabilov via Unanimous Decision

John Makdessi (14-5) vs. Lando Vannata (8-1) – Lightweight Bout

For the final UFC Fight Pass preliminary bout in his return to action, Lando Vannata will look to impress against veteran fighter John “The Bull” Makdessi. In what should be a striking war, Makdessi needs to protect his chin if he has any hope of surviving. Vannata took a short notice fight with Tony Ferguson for his first UFC bout, which is just a crazy thing to do. The first round of their fight saw Vannata land a really good shot that almost finished Ferguson, but then he came back and got submitted in the second round. This fight could very well get fight of the night and is certainly worth a Fight Pass purchase for the month. Makdessi will likely get finished at some point and Vannata should come out ferociously.

Prediction: Lando Vannata via TKO Round 2

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Mitch Gagnon (12-3) vs. Matthew Lopez (8-1) – Bantamweight Bout

Submission specialist Mitch Gagnon will take on Matt Lopez who is looking to get back to his winning ways after a disappointing UFC debut. Gag non is the exact stylistic match that will cause trouble for Lopez. In Lopez’s loss he was just controlled and submitted by Rani Yahya. A good grappler, but not the best in the game. Mitch Gagnon is so slick with submissions and will be the heavy favorite in this match to get finish the fight before it gets to see the judges’ scorecards. Lopez has some good striking and submissions, but I don’t think he is likely to upset Gagnon here.

Prediction: Mitch Gagnon via Submission Round 1

(#9) Valerie Letourneau (8-5) vs. Viviane Pereira (11-0) – Women’s Strawweight Bout

Valerie Letourneau has lost to only high end fighters in her career to names like Claudia Gadelha and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. The record could be deceiving, but her losses are to legit powerhouses of fighters. Viviane Pereira has beaten no recognizable names however and although 11-0 is impressive no matter what the opposition may be, she may have trouble fighting someone who has only fought world class competition. Pereira could come out looking like an animal, but the much more likely scenario is that Letourneau controls the bout with her striking prowess and controls a fairly easy decision.

Prediction: Valerie Letourneau via Unanimous Decision

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2) vs. Drew Dober (17-7, 1NC) – Lightweight Bout:

Both Oliver Aubin-Mercier and Drew Dober are difficult to finish opponents who love to grind it out. Aubin-Mercier really needs to get a submission to win, otherwise he can have a rough time and fatigue as shown in his loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira. Drew Dober has had mixed results over the years, but has always been able to hang anywhere, on the feet, ground or clinch. Aubin-Mercier may be the stronger fighter and very well could tie up Dober and keep him down, but Dober may surprise him with his gritty fighting style. Watch for a back and forth fight with Dober coming out in a close decision.

Prediction: Drew Dober via Split Decision

(#8) Nikita Krylov (21-4) vs. (#13) Misha Cirkunov (12-2) – Light Heavyweight Bout

The final preliminary bout features a dangerous fighter in Nikita Krylov taking on the also dangerous and yet to be established fighter in Misha Cirkunov. Ever since his light heavyweight debut, Krylov hasn’t lost in his new weight class. Finishing five opponents straight has shown Krystal to be one of the scariest fighters in the division and his skill set is rounding out to be one of the more complete ones around. Aisha Circumvent has proven to be a strong fighter who has finished all three UFC bouts thus far. This is a big step up for Circumvent and it may be too much too soon for him as Krystal is just getting better at age 24. Look for a really entertaining bout that will likely see Circumvent being submitted.

Prediction: Nikita Krystal via Submission Round 2

PPV Main Card

Jordan Mein (29-10) vs. Emil Weber Meek (8-2, 1NC) – Welterweight Bout

Expect absolute fireworks in the PPV card opener between two explosive welterweights. Jordan Mein announced his retirement after the TKO loss to Thiago Alves, but has since had a change of heart with a one year layoff taking the place of it instead. Since the age of 11 Mein has been taking part in combat sports. UFC results have been mixed so for him going just 3-2 over the course of almost four years with the promotion. A good overall game and strong athleticism have followed Mein throughout his career, but he has appeared to be losing his ability to stay standing after taking some hard shots. Emil Weber Meek is making his UFC debut on the heels of a brutal finish of ex-UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares earlier this year. Meek likes to keep the bout at kickboxing range where I’m sure Mein will be happy to oblige. The bout should be very exciting and could really go either way as both fighters have shown the ability to be stopped by strikes.

Prediction: Emil Weber Meek via TKO Round 2

(#10) Tim Kennedy (18-5) vs. (#8 WW) Kelvin Gastelum (13-2) – Middleweight Bout

Kelvin Gastelum is back to what should be his only weight class moving forward when he takes on the returning Tim Kennedy. Kennedy has taken two years off from the fight game after a sketchy loss to Yoel Romero. A high level wrestler with good striking and BJJ, Kennedy had every chance to come back and take another fight and could’ve probably had a title shot by now. Gastelum has really wasted his time thus far in the UFC by missing weight 3 times since winning his season of TUF. The two wins Gastelum had at middleweight were against Nate Marquardt and Uriah Hall so it is strange that he insists on dropping down in weight even further when he has had some good success at 185 lbs. Wrestling is easily Gastelum’s go to for fights, but he can also grapple and is getting better as a striker as well.

If Kennedy hadn’t taken off for two years, I’d go with him as the favorite. Kennedy’s skills are very high level and he is a durable fighter who could make a run for the belt.  Since Kennedy is taking a short notice bout with a younger opponent who has been fairly active since he has left I can’t in good faith choose him to win. Gastelum should be able to control the fight wherever it goes and make a splash in the middleweight rankings.

Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum via Unanimous Decision

(#4) Cub Swanson (23-7) vs. (#11) Dooho Choi (14-1) – Featherweight Bout

My most anticipated fight of Saturday’s main card is when established veteran and contender Cub Swanson takes on the terrifying prospect of Dooho Choi. Maybe terrifying isn’t the best word to describe Choi for he is quite a humble man, but his power and technical striking leaves him to earn that description. Choi has an 8 fight knockout streak going with the last three of those inside the octagon. Choi’s wrestling defense was tried against Thiago Tavares where he was taken down early, but he stayed composed and got up fairly easily and the first exchange he got to throw knocked Tavares out cold.

Cub Swanson’s losses throughout his career have only come to the biggest of names, Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. Those losses have left Swanson just outside of title contention for his UFC career. BJJ, judo and continuously evolved striking have kept Swanson competitive at the highest level of the game. This fight comes down to if Choi can keep it standing, which judging by his last fight should be possible. Striking will be both men landing hard shots, but it appears that the power of Choi is something to behold. Choi should have a fair chance to break into the top five at featherweight here and I’d say he will fight for a title fight in the next year or so.

Prediction: Dooho Choi via TKO Round 2

(#5) Donald Cerrone (31-7, 1NC) vs. (#14) Matt Brown (22-15) – Welterweight Bout

Looking like a potential challenger for the welterweight championship, Donald Cerrone has gone 3-0 with finishes over hard to finish fighters. Cerrone has always been a wizard on the feet with his long range, but moving up in weight has seemingly made him faster, stronger and more durable as a fighter. Matt Brown has turned into a much better fighter than he was years ago, but still shouldn’t be called an elite one. Matt Brown’s favorite thing to do is strike, but he can’t do that easily against an opponent like Cerrone. Brown may have some success, but I could see him being finished fairly easily on the feet, or if he gets dropped Cerrone will grab a submission with ease as well. No matter what, Brown is most likely going to be in for a rough night.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone via Submission Round 1

(#2) Max Holloway (16-3) vs. (#5) Anthony Pettis (19-5) – Featherweight Interim Championship Main Event (5 Rounds):

The new main event on Saturday will be for the interim featherweight championship in a really fun fight between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis. The reason this fight is now an interim title fight is because McGregor was officially stripped of his championship and Jose Aldo is once again the current UFC featherweight champion. The winner of this match gets their first crack at Jose Aldo as long as he decides to fight again. Holloway and Pettis is some excellent match making with Holloway riding a nine fight win streak and Pettis looking like his old self with the drop in weight classes.

Max Holloway continuously improved his all around game while beating his opponents. At only the age of 25, Holloway has now beaten Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Ricard Lamas. While everything he does has gotten substantially better since his UFC debut, the striking of Holloway has become some of the best inside the featherweight division. His transitions and combinations are so fluid and really are a sight of beauty. If the fight goes to the ground he isn’t a slouch, but it may be the area he needs the most work on to really round out his game.

Anthony Pettis looked to be unstoppable at one point in time, then he appeared to be almost on his way out of the UFC after three consecutive losses. His taekwondo and submission skills are some of the best in the world, but where he is easily the weakest is when he is wrestled or clinched against the cage. Holloway and Pettis will most likely have a fascinating battle where they exchange back and forth multiple times. I don’t know if anyone will be finished, but five rounds is a long time and anything can happen in the wonderful world of mixed martial arts. If Pettis is truly comfortable in his new weight class his second time out, he may just pull it off. The safer bet is to go with the man who has proven himself time and time again now and that would be Max Holloway. 

Prediction: Max Holloway via Unanimous Decision

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIEW FOR UFC FIGHT NIGHT 201 THIS FRIDAY NIGHT: UFC Fight Night 102 PRIMER: Ecochard’s Preview & Predictions including Lewis vs. Abdurakhimov, Ngannou vs. Hamilton

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