The main event of UFC 206 may be tarnished by the fact that former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis missed weight by three pounds, yet the match up between he and Max Holloway is still intriguing. But it does but a big asterisk on the event as a whole. The UFC promoting the match to an interim title fight certainly lent more gravity to the situation, but it also forced them to unceremoniously strip Conor McGregor of his title only to have the UFC 206 title fight fall apart. If Holloway wins he still gets the belt. If Anthony Pettis wins he gets his show and win money minus twenty percent. Nevertheless, the fight itself is what counts and breaking it down is still the goal.
Max Holloway has emerged as one of the most dangerous strikers in the featherweight division, but striking isn’t the only thing he does well. He also has good timing on his takedowns and some solid grappling skills that has seen him tap out Cub Swanson with a suffocating guillotine choke. On the feet Holloway is able to fight in both stances, but not in the way of most other strikers of his ilk. Instead of switching stance at distance, Holloway is able to switch stances in the middle of striking combinations which open up new angles to exploit on his opponent. It’s the kind of skill that he’ll want to utilize in this match up, all the while forcing Pettis’ back against the fence. Both men are of similar height and reach, but Pettis is a fighter who likes to have space behind him in order to throw his offense effectively. Holloway has to do everything in his power to take away that option and by doing so can pick Pettis apart along the fence.
On the flip side of the table, Anthony Pettis is going to want to control the center of the cage for the duration of the fight. He has a dynamic kicking game that can be frustrated when he’s moving backwards. Holding the center of the cage will give him more offensive options and ensure that he has room to bail on certain techniques if he’s out of position. Rather than focusing on a flashy approach, Pettis is going to want to play counter fighter in this match up, but not by simply sitting back and waiting for Holloway to lead. Instead he’ll want to initiate the striking exchanges, pull back, then reenter with sharp counters, something that his taekwondo background is sure to have taught him. Like Doo Ho Choi who appears earlier on the card, Pettis is a wizard at picking up on his opponents mistakes except that he answers back with kicks rather than punches. Pettis can’t let Holloway get comfortable and find too much of a rhythm or risk getting potentially out struck by Holloway’s superior striking game.
This fight is sure to be fun while it lasts. While Pettis is certainly far from being washed up, the betting lines may have it right when it comes to this match up. Look for Max Holloway to out strike the former lightweight champion en route to a decision victory.
Will Holloway become interim featherweight champion or will Pettis redeem himself?