For the first time in over three years, the Octagon will return to Toronto, home to several of the most memorable moments in the history of the light heavyweight division. UFC 206 was also intended to showcase what was once the promotion’s premier division, but an injury to light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier forced his rematch with Anthony Johnson from the card. In its place, the featherweight co-main event between Max Holloway — and his nine-fight winning streak — and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis was elevated to the main event. Concurrently, Conor McGregor was stripped of his featherweight bout, interim champion Jose Aldo was promoted to champion, and this bout was declared an interim title bout. Holloway had seemingly cemented himself as No. 1 contender at featherweight, but even with the uncertainty in the title picture, he probably could not have predicted that this fight with Pettis could earn him his first UFC gold. Pettis dropped to featherweight after three straight losses at lightweight (including dropping his belt), and was given this opportunity on the strength of his previous resume, as he has just a single fight at 145, albeit an exciting and successful one against Charles Oliveira. The card still boasts several high-quality action fights in addition to the featherweight title bout despite losing its original main event. The seemingly can’t-miss bout between Donald Cerrone and Matt Brown moves into the co-main event slot. Cerrone has looked like a new man since moving up to 170, scoring stoppage victories over Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, and most impressively, Rick Story. Brown, on the other hand, has seen his fortunes take a downturn that has his previous seven-fight win streak a distant memory. He has lost four of his past five bouts, being stopped in his last two. While these two seem to be heading in opposite directions, there will be no complaints about matchmaking like this. In addition to Holloway, another 25-year-old featherweight phenom hopes to make his mark on the main card of UFC 206. Doo Ho Choi has been perfect in the Octagon thus far, needing just 4:33 to score a hat trick of knockouts to get everyone’s attention. His reward is a massive jump in competition and potential to break into the 145-pound title picture against Cub Swanson. After losses to Frankie Edgar and Holloway, many had written off Swanson as done, but he has remained among the Top 10 at 145 with wins over Hacran Dias and Tatsuya Kawajiri. Stopping Choi’s momentum would earn Swanson another shot at a top fighter. The Pay-Per-View portion of the card is rounded out by a middleweight clash between the returning Tim Kennedy and forced-to-middleweight Kelvin Gastelum, plus another returning fighter, Jordan Mein, will also take on the debuting Emil Weber Meek. After missing weight once again, Gastelum was told by the UFC he would only receive fights at 185 for the second time in his young career. Kennedy has been out of action for more than two years while Mein’s retirement lasted just under two years before returing to the cage. The odds for all of the main card bouts (with the exception of Mein/Meek) were opened this past weekend, and today MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas finalized the lines for the entire UFC 206 card at 5Dimes Sportsbook. The preliminary card features a light heavyweight showdown between two of the brighter prospects in the division: Nikita Krylov and Misha Cirkunov. The rest of the prelims all take place at 155 or below, and include a matchup of Top 15 flyweights Zach Makovsky and Dustin Ortiz. Canadian fighters are in each of the first five bouts of the evening as well to potentially get the crowd into things early. Keep reading for the opening odds and thoughts on each of the bouts: ——————– UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis DECEMBER 10, 2016 Air Canada Centre | Toronto, Ontario, Canada MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: I hope the time off allowed Mein to recuperate from the blistering pace he fought early in his career. Because once he steps in the cage with Emil Weber Meek, there will be violence. Meek is ultra aggressive, and while that has led to him getting stopped on a couple of occasions in his career, it has produced exciting victories more often than not. Mein is the more technically-skilled fighter, and I think he’s seasoned enough that he doesn’t come out too rusty (a horrible thing against Meek), but I simply can’t bet it based on the chaos Meek causes. Krylov has shown massive improvement in all areas since coming into the UFC, and that has earned him a five-fight winning streak. The quality of that opposition is highly questionable however, and I still can’t get Krylov being helplessly Von Flue choked by Ovince St. Preux out of my mind. Where that can become especially relevant is against an extremely powerful and technical grappler like Cirkunov. This is the first time since OSP that Krylov has faced someone who can consistently control where his fight takes place, and until I see Krylov stop that I’ll take a shot on an underdog who seems capable of outgrappling him. Dober relying so heavily on his kicking game in the striking is going to come back to haunt him in this fight. If he sticks to using his hands, he can land on Aubin-Mercier and probably be in a good position to defend most of the Canadian’s takedown attempts. As OAM slows, Dober can open up a bit more and perhaps steal a decision. If he unloads with his normal kicks, however, I see him getting tripped to the mat early and often, where OAM will keep him under constant pressure and perhaps even work his way to the back for his patented rear-naked choke. I think old habits die hard for Dober, and he takes the L here, even though that one adjustment gives him a real chance. With the dual cards this week, I haven’t had a chance to break down Viviane Pereira, but as a rule of thumb: UFC debut + First fight outside of Brazil for a Brazilian = Underwhelming performance. Two years after his bout against Renan Barao, Gagnon returns to the Octagon, and I can’t help but feel he returns to a Fight of the Night contender. Gagnon is incredibly aggressive, and is his opponent in Lopez. Both fade a bit in later rounds, but they still retain their danger on offense and toughness under fire. Each is at their best on the mat, but they are also solid defensive wrestlers willing to throw hands when necessary. I really like this matchup, am torn on a pick (the layoff worries me for Gagnon, and cardio does the same for Lopez), but will keep my eye on the FOTN prop for this one. It could easily be overshadowed if either of the top fights turns into a back-and-forth war, but I anticipate each of those being a bit too one-sided for FOTN consideration while this could offer a price in excess of +1000. For as good as Tony Ferguson is as a fighter, he has terrible defensive striking extremely often. Makdessi won’t be as easy a target for Vannata. I think that could result in a relatively ineffectual opening round on both sides, but once Makdessi gets the hang of Vannata’s movement, I think he dials in and is able to score the cleaner shots for a decision victory. The Canadian judges might not hurt here either. Khabilov continues to be overrated, Saggo continues to be underrated, and I expect this fight to reflect that. While Khabilov will likely end up a sizable favorite, I think the fight is very competitive, with Khabilov pulling out a decision mostly in part to Saggo’s commitment to takedown defense simply not being where it needs to be. Saggo can do a bit more damage on the feet, and is good enough on the ground to negate Khabilov’s offense, but top position will save the Dagestani fighter for the fourth straight fight. Makovsky is a slightly cleaner striker than Dustin Ortiz, especially with his straight left hand, but I suspect that Ortiz being a higher volume striker, solid wrestler and outstanding scrambler will make this an extremely competitive bout. If either fighter is +150 or higher, I think the line is out of whack, and I expect Ortiz more likely to reach that number, so I may end up with a small bet on him.