MMA Review: #578: UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis

-What is it with Canada and cursed UFC cards? This one joined UFC 131, 149, 161 and 186 on the list as not only did WME fail to secure Georges St-Pierre for his comeback fight, but the card also lost the main event of Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson. Sure, the card looked full of fun-sounding action fights, but no offense to either man, Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis as a main event is a bit of a step down from what we could’ve got, even with an odd Interim title on the line.

UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis

12/10/16
Toronto, Ontario

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Welterweight Fight: Emil Meek vs Jordan Mein

Looking like he stepped straight off the set of the Vikings show on the History Channel, Norwegian fighter Meek had punched his ticket to the UFC with a violent TKO win over Rousimar Palhares earlier in 2016, although his debut had been delayed somewhat due to some sort of odd issue with USADA (I’m guessing getting permission to use some sort of meds). Mein meanwhile hadn’t fought since early 2015 after retiring – no word on exactly why he was coming back but he was always an exciting fighter so I was happy to see him again. Couldn’t pick him here though with that sort of layoff as judging on his videos and the Palhares win, Meek was an excellent fighter and more to the point a possible star too due to his look and charisma.

We get underway and they trade low kicks before Meek glances on a high kick. Solid leg kick from Mein counters a quick flurry, but Meek comes back with one of his own. Takedown from Mein and he lands in Meek’s guard, but the Norwegian quickly escapes to his feet. They exchange some more strikes and Meek is really swinging. Pair of hard leg kicks land for Meek but Mein takes him down. Guillotine attempt from Meek but Mein gets to side mount and so Meek lets him to go avoid the Von Flue choke. Good knees to the body from Mein and he spins into north/south, but Meek reverses to his feet. Big right hand connects for Meek and he opens up with a flurry, but Mein seems okay and he fires back before looking for the takedown again. Good job of defending from Meek and he exits with a knee and then lands another flurry. Body kick from Meek and he continues to swing, but Mein catches him with a combination too. Overhand right from Mein connects and Meek grins at him. This is a pretty wild round. They exchange some more kicks before Mein ducks under a right hand and hits another takedown. Reversal from Meek and he gets on top for a second but then Mein reverses that and gets him down, causing Meek to visibly wince. Looks like he might’ve hurt his ribs. Mein gets the back with no hooks before they stand, and it looks like Meek is okay. Big combination from Mein has Meek stunned, but the Norwegian connects on a big one-two as Mein tries to swarm him and he stumbles back! Flying knee misses for Meek and Mein laughs as he eats another combo before Meek clinches and forces him into the fence. Round ends as Meek breaks the clinch with a knee and a couple of low kicks. Super-close round but I’d probably go 10-9 for Mein.

Second round begins and Meek comes out swinging, backing Mein up with a flurry. He doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of that rib injury now. Strong leg kick lands for Mein but he seems a bit tired and Meek picks at him with some more punches. Big combination connects for the Norwegian. Takedown attempt follows and he slams Mein down into half-guard. Decent punches get through for Meek and Mein looks pretty passive from the bottom. Looks like he’s working for a possible arm triangle too. The pace has totally slowed down now, I guess unsurprisingly after such a wild first round. Meek continues to work though and keeps looking for the arm triangle, but he can’t get it fully locked in despite passing into mount. Finally he gets out to the side and the arm triangle looks locked, but Mein escapes and so Meek flurries on him with right hands. One minute to go in the round and I’m thinking Mein must be gassed as he’s doing so little from the bottom. More hard strikes get through for Meek and he ends the round working from inside the closed guard of Mein. Clearly 10-9 for Meek as Mein basically did nothing.

Third round and Meek backs Mein up again with some strikes including a really sharp leg kick. Mein just looks passive and I don’t get why. He does land with a good body kick but Meek continues to back him up. Nice combo from the Norwegian leads into another leg kick. Combination fires back for Mein and ends in an uppercut, but he eats another combo from Meek before Meek shoots for the takedown. Mein blocks it but he ends up pushed into the fence, and when he lands a right Meek comes back with a hard flurry and another takedown to half-guard. Crowd don’t seem happy with this now as I guess the first round spoiled them. Mein works back to full guard, but he’s still not doing enough from his back. Hard body shots connect for Meek as the announcers discuss whether Mein really wants to be in there. More ground-and-pound from Meek and he’s not coming close to a finish or anything but this is clearly going to be his fight barring a Hail Mary from Mein. Some really good shots get through for Meek and with seconds to go, Mein goes for an armbar, but Meek stands and slams his way free. Kimura attempt ends the round for Mein. Got to be 29-28 for Meek really I’d say.

Indeed it’s 29-28 all round for Emil Meek. This was basically a tale of two fights – the first round where Mein came out all guns blazing as did Meek and we got a real firefight, and then the second and third where Mein just did nothing and allowed Meek to take over thoroughly and work him over for the victory. I mean, the fight was good – first round was great in fact – and it was an excellent debut for Meek, but I’m just not sure what happened to Mein. I’m thinking he just totally gassed out due to the layoff. Wouldn’t surprise me if he went back into retirement in fact which would be disappointing. As for Meek, with Alexander Gustafsson a big question mark right now due to his dodgy back and Gunnar Nelson being so stoic, I could easily see him taking over as the top Scandinavian star for the UFC, that is if WME still want to break into that area. Although even if they don’t, I could still see him becoming a star – he’s charismatic, talks well, fights in an exciting style and looks like a legit Viking! What’s not to love?

Middleweight Fight: Tim Kennedy vs Kevin Gastelum

Kennedy had initially been pegged to return from his massive layoff (September 2014 and that wild Yoel Romero fight was his last appearance) at UFC 205 against Rashad Evans, but the fight ended up scrapped due to some sort of medical issue with Rashad, and when it was re-booked for this card the same issue (no idea what it is!) reared its head and caused the former champ to be removed, and so Gastelum – who also slipped off the UFC 205 card due to missing weight – stepped in. Hard fight to pick really as Kennedy looked a lot bigger and was clearly in the upper echelon of the top ten prior to his layoff, but obviously he’d been out for ages and also had a ton of things hanging over him like the whole MMAAA formation as well as this being his final contracted fight. I was leaning towards Kennedy just due to his size advantage, but it wasn’t exactly a locked-in pick.

Round One begins and Kennedy throws a couple of low kicks and circles on the outside as Gastelum pushes forward. Kennedy does indeed look a lot bigger than the TUF winner. Takedown attempt is blocked by Kelvin but he takes some more glancing kicks. Low kick comes back for Gastelum but Kennedy catches him with an overhand right and then drives him into the fence. Kennedy manages to take the back standing and he lands a knee to the body before dragging him down. Gastelum pops back to his feet, but Kennedy stays on him with the rear waistlock and lands some more knees. Takedown follows again and he looks to slap the hooks in, but Gastelum scrambles. Kennedy avoids that and takes the back again with one hook this time, then slaps the second one in. Kelvin shakes the second hook off, but Kennedy seems clamped onto his back. Gastelum gets up and takes another knee to the thigh, before Kennedy muscles him along the fence and lands more knees. Really hard knees connect for Kennedy and Gastelum looks stuck in this spot. He does look pretty chilled though to be fair. 1:30 to go and Kelvin spins free and now he pushes forward, landing a combo that has Kennedy on the run. He fires back with a body kick and then clinches again, but Kelvin breaks off and tags him with some more punches. Kennedy looks tired to me. Another clinch is shrugged off and Gastelum tags him with another combo. Clinch again from Kennedy but Gastelum breaks off and continues to stalk forward. Couple of body kicks from Kennedy but Gastelum walks through them to land some more punches. Big combo has Kennedy stunned right at the end of the round. I’d go 10-9 Gastelum there actually despite Kennedy’s fast start, as he had him in real trouble at the end of the round.

Round Two and Kelvin opens with a hard body kick. He’s really pushing the pace now. Kennedy manages to grab him for a clinch despite taking a couple of punches, and he drops for a takedown but Gastelum defends with a front headlock before spinning to take Kennedy’s back. Gastelum forces him down to all fours and controls him with no hooks, but Kennedy reverses and uses a single leg attempt to get his own rear waistlock. Kennedy clings onto him and looks for the hooks, but Gastelum manages to spin free and he opens up with another combination. Left hook catches Kennedy coming forward and forces him to get right on the retreat. Front kick to the body from Kelvin and he looks supremely confident now. Another clinch attempt fails for Kennedy and he eats another combo. He’s exhausted. Beautiful right uppercut connects for Gastelum but Kennedy manages to shoot in and get him down. Kelvin reverses though and winds up on top. That was awesome. He pins Kennedy into the fence and then lands a hard knee as they stand. Kennedy is just lumbering forward now looking for the clinch, but he keeps on taking strikes. He looks completely out gas. Big left hand lands for Gastelum. Uppercut into another left follows and Kennedy is really getting hurt now. More combinations land for Kelvin as the round ends. 10-9 Gastelum and Kennedy is in deep trouble.

Round Three and Gastelum literally runs out of his corner and tags Kennedy with a combo. Kennedy drops for a takedown but Gastelum reverses and pops back up, landing a clean combination again as Kennedy tries and fails to fire back. Head kick glances for Gastelum and then he tags Kennedy with another hard combo. Stiff right hand lands for Kelvin and Kennedy almost staggers into Big John McCarthy who ought to consider stopping this. Gastelum is just teeing off here. More combinations land including a hard right hook to the body. Stiff jab connects for Gastelum and he easily dodges Kennedy’s laboured counters. Big left hook from Kelvin. Kennedy is about as gassed as you can get in the UFC. Beautiful jab connects cleanly for Kelvin. Wheel kick misses by a mile for Kennedy and Kelvin shrugs off a clinch attempt easily. Kennedy’s face is a mess. Another combo backs him up but he shoots again only for Gastelum to stuff it. Uppercut into a left hook into a brilliant combo put Kennedy down face-first, and this time all he can do is cover up until McCarthy comes in to rescue him. Fantastic stuff from Gastelum.

That was a tremendous performance from Kelvin in a pretty good fight, and despite saying post-fight that he wants to have another crack at 170lbs, I actually think he’s better off staying at 185lbs where he’s slightly smaller, but a bit quicker and more agile than his opponents. I mean, he still has his excellent wrestling base to back him up but he clearly has more gas in his tank and more pop in his punches at this weight and it’s not like he’s ever really struggled there – in fact his only UFC losses (Tyron Woodley and Neil Magny) both came at 170lbs! This was perhaps a career-best showing from him. As for Kennedy, he did well early but seemed to empty his gas tank trying to grapple with Kelvin and once he got hit in the first round he didn’t really seem in the fight. At 37 years old and at the end of his current deal, I don’t see him back in the UFC cage any time soon so I expect he’ll either migrate to Bellator, or maybe even retire to focus on his efforts to unionise UFC fighters. Hopefully he sees sense and ditches Bjorn Rebney if that’s what he wants to do.

Featherweight Fight: Doo Ho Choi vs Cub Swanson

This one was set up when Choi politely called out Swanson following his July win over Thiago Tavares, and it was really good matchmaking as the Korean Superboy had destroyed everyone he’d faced in his UFC career thus far, and Swanson – while still firmly entrenched in the top ten – seemed like a fair test for him as he’d been looking slightly past his best despite pulling out two wins in 2016. Despite Cub’s massive advantage in experience I’ve seen Choi as a future title contender for ages now (since he KO’d Mitsuhiro Ishida in Japan a few years back actually) and took the Korean to switch Cub’s lights out.

Fight begins and the crowd are into this one as a big deal somehow which is great. Right hand connects for Choi to counter a low kick. Cub’s showing a lot of movement early on as Choi looks like he just wants to push straight ahead. Takedown attempt from Swanson is blocked and Choi lands with some knees to the body and then a couple more to the head from the front facelock. They break off and both men glance with jumping kicks. Nice right hand from Choi and he’s really pushing the action. Double jab sets up an overhand right from Cub. Jab answers for Choi. Wild overhand right connects for Cub but Choi eats it up and fires back with a jab. Combination lands for Cub and he swings a wheel kick and then they trade off into the clinch with both men landing. Both guys are really swinging now. Big right hand lands for Cub. Combo from Choi sets up a front headlock and now the crowd are chanting for the Korean. Dude seems really over with this crowd. He moves Swanson into the fence in the clinch, but Cub comes back with a hard knee to the body. Cub switches him around and forces him into the fence, but Choi shrugs him off and they break. Overhand right into a leg kick lands for Cub. Stiff jab from Choi snaps his head back in reply. Nice right hand to the body follows and he backs Cub up with a combo. Body kick forces him back a bit though. Punches land for both men in an exchange and Cub tries a few wild kicks that come up short. Takedown attempt from Swanson with seconds to go but he can’t get Choi down and that’s the round. Great stuff. 10-9 Choi for landing the better strikes, just about.

Both men come out swinging to begin the second round and Swanson’s suddenly really pushing forward with a bunch of crazy kicks. Combos from both men and Choi clinches after eating some punches. Knees to the body land for Cub before Choi breaks off. Left hand connects for Choi and he follows with a crisp combination, but Swanson fires back with a leg kick and then OPENS UP and Choi is hurt! Swanson closes in on him but Choi counters with a HAYMAKER RIGHT and now Cub’s in trouble! Both men fire off with wild shots and then Cub comes in with a HUGE COMBO only for Choi to hurt him again! Big combinations land for Choi as he’s looking for the finish and he digs shots to the body too, but Cub fires right back and they end up in a clinch. Takedown from Choi but Cub reverses and he’s got full mount! Choi gives his back and then rolls back over into half-guard and the crowd are going INSANE. Few kicks from the bottom glance for Choi before Swanson drops into the guard and then decides to let him up, much to the delight of the crowd. Left jab lands for Choi. Wild uppercut misses and Cub connects on a pair of huge hooks before landing a CARTWHEEL KICK! He follows that by LOOKING AWAY AND LANDING A JAB which is just fucking awesome. Nice right hand connects for Cub. Stiff jab sets up a right for Choi and it’s becoming hard to keep up with this. Big combination connects for Cub and Choi looks badly hurt now but somehow he keeps walking through it. Spinning backfist sets up a BRUTAL FLURRY for Cub but holy shit does Choi have a chin of granite. Crowd are deafening now. Seconds to go and they clinch briefly before breaking off, and Choi advances with a jab and a big knee, and we end the round with another trade. That was one of the best rounds I’ve ever seen in MMA. 10-9 Swanson.

Final round and if they can keep this pace up it’s probably Fight of the Year. Somehow despite landing so many bombs in the 2nd Cub actually looks worse for wear. Big left hand from Cub connects right away and he follows with a right hand into an elbow (!). Choi comes swinging right back and then rocks him with an overhand right before Cub fires back with another combo. They don’t seem to have slowed down at all somehow. Takedown attempt is blocked by Choi and he cracks Cub with a right hand before Cub clinches and forces him backwards. Big combo breaks for Choi and he drags Swanson to the ground for a moment with a rear waistlock and tries to slap the hooks in. Reversal from Cub puts him on top in guard and they scramble but Cub remains on top, moving into half-guard now. Choi manages to elevate him using his legs and kicks him away, and then uses an ankle pick to stand. Cub tags him with a HUGE COMBO though and just OPENS UP looking for the finish before pulling out a fucking HEADLOCK TAKEOVER! Choi reverses up to his feet and Cub grabs a front headlock before Choi escapes .Two minutes to go and a right into an uppercut land for Choi. Cub is just swinging for the bleachers now. Both men look wobbly and exhausted. Big punches connect for Cub and Choi looks like he’s struggling. He swings right back though and somehow gets the rear waistlock again. Cub decides to roll through and they pop back up before breaking. We’ve got one minute left. They clinch again and continue to exchange before Choi breaks and lands an overhand right. Big combo from Choi but Cub fires back with a left hook. Seconds to go and Cub stuns him with a right hand into a superman punch into a HUGE FLURRY and Choi is all over the place! Cartwheel kick lands CLEANLY for Swanson and a SPINNING ELBOW PUTS CHOI DOWN, but he survives before the buzzer. 29-28 Swanson and that right there is the Fight of the Year.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Cub Swanson. Post-fight he says that Choi’s call-out of him actually made him question himself and thus drove him to work even harder in training, And thankfully they give Choi some mic time as well and somehow he gets a bigger pop than Swanson! And through his translator he says he was preparing for the winning interview and now that he knows what losing feels like, he’s NEVER GOING TO LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN. Probably a star-making performance from both guys on the mic as well as the fight actually, especially Choi who even in losing just seems like one of those guys that fans gravitate to. This was just an awesome fight and for me it shades Lawler/Condit and McGregor/Diaz just because it was literally non-stop-action for fifteen minutes, and while those fights were possibly more dramatic due to the stakes and star power, I think this was the better fight overall. The best way to describe it for me would be a less sloppy version of the legendary Korean Zombie vs. Leonard Garcia match in the WEC a few years ago. Basically if you missed this you need to check it out now.

-AWESOME VIDEO PACKAGE alert as we get a plug for the upcoming Nunes vs. Rousey show and maybe it’s just me but even with Edmond alongside her Rousey just comes off as the biggest babyface in MMA history trying to reclaim her title and I’ll go on record right now as saying she’ll do it, she’s going to throw Nunes on her head and armbar her and everything will be right again.

Welterweight Fight: Donald Cerrone vs Matt Brown

Normally I’d be feeling bad for the two guys having to follow that last fight but on paper if anyone could do it, it was these two! Cerrone was initially pegged to fight Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 205 before Kelvin’s weight issues and so instead they matched him with fellow action fighter Brown in a quick turnaround here. Although Brown was coming off a pair of losses to Demian Maia and Jake Ellenberger, it didn’t feel like he’d gone past his prime or anything and so this fight looked like GUARANTEED VIOLENCE. My pick was Cerrone as he’d looked better than ever in 2016 thus far, but Brown is the type of fighter who could never be counted out.

Round One begins and Brown backs Cerrone up early on, before stuffing a takedown and landing a knee to the body. Wild trade sees Cerrone connect on a combination. Body kick follows for Cowboy. Brown keeps pushing forward but he takes a head kick that stuns him and Cowboy swarms, but Brown manages to survive and he fires back with a combo of his own. Left hook from Brown but Cerrone fires back with a leg kick. One-two lands for Brown. Brown’s really walking him down here. Solid punches land for both men. Exchange continues and both men are landing. Big head kick lands for Cowboy but Brown keeps a good poker face and manages to disguise being stunned. Trio of stiff jabs land for Cerrone but he walks into a right hook. Wild flurry from Brown set up by a left to the body. Head kick from Brown but he slips to his back, only to go right into a triangle! It looks like it might be sunk, but Cerrone manages to hold out and pulls free when Brown tries to switch to an armbar. Looks like Brown’s all busted up. Back to their feet and both guys continue to exchange. This is pretty awesome. Uppercut lands for Brown from close range but Cerrone breaks off .Left head kick from Cerrone and they continue to trade off. Superman punch into a takedown from Brown and that’s the round. Great round; 10-9 Cerrone but it was close.

Round Two and Brown pushes forward, but Cerrone shrugs off a clinch with a one-two. Left hook lands for Cowboy in a brief exchange. Takedown attempt follows but Brown stuffs it. Big head kick glances for Cerrone. Clinch from Brown and he lands with a knee to the body but Cerrone breaks off. Good counter right from Brown after taking a front kick to the body. Combination follows for the Immortal. Nice jab from Brown snaps Cerrone’s head back but he comes back with one of his own. Head kick is blocked by Brown and he fires back with a BIG RIGHT HOOK THAT DROPS COWBOY! Cowboy pops back up but he’s hurt and Brown opens up with a BIG FLURRY, but Cerrone manages to survive! Takedown is stuffed by Brown but he eats an elbow on the way out. Combination answers for Brown. This is living up to all the hype so far. Big head kick hurts Brown and he goes down, but somehow pops back up into the clinch. Huge elbow connects for Brown but Cerrone catches him with some jabs and then backs him up with a combo. Gotta love these guys. Head kick glances for Brown now. Combo from Cerrone and Brown’s face is a MESS, cut up badly. Big head kick lands for Cerrone but Brown takes it well. These guys are just trading off now. One minute to go in the round and Cerrone keeps the pressure on, really backing Brown up. Pair of slashing elbows glance for Brown. Round ends with Cerrone landing the better shots while avoiding Brown’s counters. 10-9 Cerrone in another tremendous round.

Round Three and Cerrone is actually LAUGHING IN HIS CORNER between rounds. That’s awesome. Crowd are still as loud as they were during Choi/Swanson and apparently the bad blood is now settled as they start the round with a BRO HUG. Combo from Brown sets up a takedown, but Cerrone pops right back up to his feet and lands with a left hand. Good leg kick connects for Cowboy. Big flurry from Brown but Cowboy hurts him with a counter right hand. Combo from Brown but he walks into a HUGE LEFT HEAD KICK THAT KILLS HIM DEAD!~! Brown goes down STIFF LIKE A CORPSE, first time he’s been KO’d cleanly in his career. WOW.

Absolutely vicious finish for Cowboy – his best head kick since the one he landed on Adriano Martins, incredibly topping the crazy combo he landed on Rick Story to become his best UFC finish in my opinion. Just unbelievable stuff. The fight lived up to all the hype too as even in losing, Brown brought an absolutely hellacious fight and Cowboy being Cowboy obliged entirely. Brown’s now 1-5 in his last six but if they cut him they’re INSANE because he remains MATT FUCKING BROWN and he’s still awesome. Post-fight Cerrone asks for a fight on the upcoming Denver card in January (!) which is insane, but that’s Cowboy for you. This wasn’t quite as good as Choi/Swanson but it wasn’t far off and I’d put it as a definite FOTYC.

UFC Interim Featherweight Title: Max Holloway vs Anthony Pettis

When this match was announced for this show originally it was seen as a pretty strong semi-main to Cormier vs. Johnson with the winner likely getting the next FW title shot, although whether that was against Conor McGregor or Jose Aldo was up in the air. When the show lost its main event though, things got weird. Firstly, rather than just run with a non-title main event (or indeed, do what they did with the original UFC 182 and turn the show into a Fight Night) the powers-that-be decided to make this into a title fight for the ‘Interim Featherweight Title’, despite that still technically being held by Jose Aldo! That all changed when Conor McGregor was stripped, or apparently ‘relinquished’ the full title, meaning Aldo’s interim title was upgraded to the real thing. Which, when you think about it, still doesn’t provide a concrete reason for this being for an interim title given Aldo’s not injured or suspended or anything. Realistically WME were just desperate for a title fight on this card and wham, there you go. To be fair Holloway – with his NINE FIGHT win streak – had earned a title shot anyway I guess. Pettis really hadn’t but that was by the by, especially when he missed weight spectacularly (148lbs) which meant he couldn’t win the title anyway! So we ended up with basically a half-title fight. Bizarre indeed. As for a pick, the smart money was clearly on Holloway but for some reason I had a feeling Showtime would pull it out and throw everything into flux again. It is 2016 after all.

Fight begins and Pettis misses on a jumping kick. Both men throw out some early strikes without really landing significantly, and then Pettis lands a low kick into a glancing jump kick. Decent left hook to the body from Pettis and he avoids a right hand counter. Body kick follows. Pair of right hands land to the body for Holloway. Exchange continues and a spinning back kick lands for Pettis to the body of Holloway. Clinch attempt is shrugged off by the Hawaiian though. Big head kick comes up short for Pettis but he catches Holloway coming in with a right hand. Exchange sees both men land punches before a big head kick misses for Pettis. Nice leg kick connects for Holloway and he follows with a quick combo. Stiff jab lands for Pettis. Crowd sound quite restless here but I guess they’ve been spoiled by the previous two fights. Exchange continues with a right hand from Pettis, and then a leg kick and a clean left hand for Holloway. Both men continue to land punches and Holloway sticks Pettis with a really nice right hand counter. Takedown attempt from Pettis is stuffed to end the round. Really tight round to score, but I felt like Holloway just about edged it.

Into the 2nd and Pettis is busted up around his right eye. Holloway opens up with a jab and then scores with a leg kick. Right hook misses for Pettis and Holloway counters with a NASTY RIGHT HAND that drops the former Lightweight champ, but he seems okay and he only takes a pair of kicks to the legs before springing back up. Looks like he got caught with his feet parallel maybe. Good leg kick from Holloway but Pettis comes back with a high kick. Counter right hand from Holloway as Pettis pressures him back. Nice right hand from Holloway sets up a clinch, but neither man can get anything done there and they separate. Cartwheel kick goes wrong for Pettis and he goes down, but springs up immediately. Pettis is walking him down now and he lands a couple of left hands, but walks into a clean combo with Holloway landing to the head and body. Sharp leg kick connects for Pettis. It looks like he’s struggling with the right eye though. Right hand lands cleanly for Holloway. Nice digging left hand to the body from Holloway and he stuffs a takedown and lands a couple of knees on his way out. Front kick connects for Pettis but he eats another left to the body. Exchange from the clinch sees Holloway flurry to the body. Sweet body kick connects for Pettis but he takes a right hand in the same exchange. Combo backs Showtime up a little. One minute to go in the round and a counter combo lands for the Hawaiian before Pettis shoves him into the fence. Holloway comes back with a knee to the body and seems happy to stay in the clinch, and Pettis still can’t get him to the ground despite really working for the takedown. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Holloway again and I’ve got him two rounds up.

Crowd are booing slightly coming into the third which is insane really given that this has been an excellent fight so far, just not as good as Choi/Swanson or Cerrone/Brown. Pettis also tells his corner that his right hand is broken. He lands with a strong body kick and a leg kick to open the round, but Holloway is backing him up a bit more now with his combinations. Front kick to the body lands for Pettis for force Max back, but the Hawaiian comes back with a solid left hand. Good exchange sees both men land with punches. Head kick glances for Pettis. Clean right hand from Holloway but he follows with a knee to the groin that has Pettis audibly crying out in pain. Ref Yves Lavigne calls time but doesn’t deduct a point and they restart quickly. Body kick from Pettis but Holloway fires off a right hand into a left high kick and then pressures Pettis back with a combo. Clinch from Pettis but Holloway forces him back into the fence and lands a knee and an elbow to break. Another good combo lands for Holloway and then he sweeps Showtime’s legs from under him and trips him down. Pettis comes back to his feet but he’s moving noticeably slower now. Clinch from Holloway and he lands a hard knee to the body. Pettis moves him into the fence, but he still can’t get Max down and the Hawaiian lands a short elbow to the head. Boos are really audible now. They break off and both men miss with shots before Holloway lands with a left hand counter. Combination follows for Holloway. Nice body shots from Holloway but Pettis comes back with a body kick of his own. Trio of stiff jabs from Pettis land but Holloway comes back with a combo and a big body kick. Exchange continues and Holloway hits another leg trip and this time he follows Showtime down into side mount. Pettis tries an odd armbar so Holloway stands back up, and from there he lands a NASTY spin kick to the body, David Loiseau style. Big right hand follows as does a body kick and Pettis is hurt. Another body kick and a right hand from Holloway have Pettis doubling over, and Holloway SWARMS HIM with a big combo until he just wilts under the pressure and Yves Lavigne has to step in. First time anyone’s ever finished Anthony Pettis, wow.

Post-fight Holloway calls out ‘Jose Waldo’ to unify the titles in Brooklyn in February, but it looks now like that fight will probably go down in March instead. Doesn’t matter really as when it DOES go down it’ll be pretty fucking awesome for sure. Aldo has been a tremendous fighter over the years but I’m going to be picking Holloway when it comes to it – I just think Max is on a tear right now and he’s improving all the time, and I wonder if Aldo’s heart is in the fight any more after all of his issues with the UFC. I actually think Holloway can become a star too with his straight-talking style and exciting fights. This one wasn’t as good as the previous two fights on this card but it was still pretty great with a really amazing finish – nobody had ever stopped Pettis before, even RDA who put a tremendous beating on him, so that’s a massive feather in Holloway’s cap for sure. It looked like a pretty even fight until midway through the second round when it felt like Holloway settled into his rhythm while Pettis appeared to gas out, probably from the bad weight cut. As for Pettis I wonder if he might be genuinely done at this point – he just doesn’t look like the same guy he was from 2010 to 2014 and while there’s a lot of USADA whispers going around, personally I just think that the beatdown RDA put on him took years off his career and he’s never been right since. At any rate this was a fine way to cap off a hell of a show in the end.

-Highlight reel ends our night and now it’s the countdown to Ronda, baby!

Final Thoughts….

This was quite clearly one of the best UFC PPVs of 2016, as what it lacked in name value it more than made up with in amazing fights. Choi/Swanson was clearly the best but Cerrone/Brown wasn’t far behind and then the other three fights were all great in their own right too, with a career-best performance from Gastelum, Holloway becoming the first fighter to stop Pettis and a fun opener between Meek and Mein. I’ve still got UFC 202 at the top of my list but this one isn’t far behind, along with UFC 199 and 204. Thumbs way up.

Best Fight: Choi vs. Swanson
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com