This Saturday’s UFC 206 took a huge hit when headliner and light heavyweight champion pulled out of a scheduled title defense against Anthony Johnson. It stripped the card of a legitimate title fight, leaving the promotion in scramble mode to keep the event pay-per-view worthy.
The UFC 206 Solution?
Strip featherweight champion Conor McGregor of the featherweight title, promote Jose Aldo from interim to undisputed champion, and make the new headliner between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis an interim title bout. It sounds a bit like a ploy to keep a title fight on the UFC 206 fight card, and that’s because it totally is.
Don’t get me wrong: there are awesome fights on this card, but not being able to watch murderpuncher Anthony Johnson in action is a huge bummer. What we’re left with is a card that’s not quite good enough to be a pay-per-view card, but better than the next level down, a FOX network event.
Let’s break down the night’s biggest fights, and make a few predictions. All UFC odds courtesy of BookMaker.eu. As a reminder, Cherry Picks are a Big On Sports exclusive selection based on betting value.
Since UFC Fight Night 95, our Cherry Picks record is 15-5-1. Please note, not every prediction below is a Cherry Pick.
Anthony Pettis (+130) vs Max Holloway (-160)
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -235, under +190
Don’t Mess With “Blessed”
After three straight losses in the lightweight division, Anthony Pettis was able to stop the bleeding by moving down to featherweight and submitting Charles Oliveira in his 145-pound debut. Now, the former lightweight champ gets the privilege of facing the No. 1 contender and snagging an interim strap in just his second fight in the division.
On paper, this is a matchup between two electric, athletic strikers – and both Holloway and Pettis love to fire up the crowd with high-risk moves. But at 24 years old, Holloway is just beginning to scratch the surface of his massive potential. The Hawaiian has mastered the timing and distance to make
The Hawaiian has mastered the timing and distance to make best use of his lanky frame, and the fact that he is the only man beside Nate Diaz to go to the final bell with Conor McGregor speaks to his durability.
UFC Betting Values
The lightweight division seems to have figured Pettis out – he is extremely uncomfortable fighting under pressure and isn’t nearly as effective off his back foot.
At -160, Holloway to win offers solid value for your money. He’s a naturally aggressive fighter with the chin to take Pettis’ best shots and keep pressing. Pettis looked a bit shaky against Charles Oliveira in his featherweight debut and is taking a huge step up in competition.
Cherry Pick: Holloway to win at -160
Donald Cerrone (-275) vs Matt Brown (+230)
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -103, under -117
“Cowboy” Rides Again
I sure as hell didn’t expect former lightweight title challenger Cerrone to look this good against the bigger welterweight division. He’s passed two significant tests at 170 – a plus striker in Patrick Cote and bullying wrestler in Rick Story – with flying colors, carving each fighter up with smooth, slick technique.
Matt Brown poses a different sort of problem. “The Immortal” is a relentless pressure fighter who never stops coming forward while throwing almost every strike in the book. Because Cerrone doesn’t have the size to stifle Brown with wrestling, this is likely to turn into an all-out kickboxing war. That should suit fans just fine.
UFC Betting Values
Moving up in weight has gifted the Cowboy with a speed advantage and a larger gas tank. While Brown has great cardio as well, he is the distinctly slower fighter. If Cerrone keeps his back off the cage, he should be able to light Brown up.
Cerrone to win is a solid play, but the best value in these fight odds might be the over. Brown is extremely durable, even after just suffering the first knockout of his career against Jake Ellenberger.
Cherry Pick: Over at -103
Doo Ho Choi (-222) vs Cub Swanson (+188)
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -156, under +131
Here’s a fun fact: Choi has delivered first-round KOs in all three of his UFC appearances. The combined fight time of those bouts total less than five minutes. The South Korean has stupid knockout power in his right hand, and the UFC is recognizing they might have a native star to promote in its attempt to capture the lucrative Asian market.
Choi will get to test his power against No. 5 Cub Swanson, who is capable of forcing a grueling trench war against any opponent. The American is a huge step up in competition for Choi and the perfect litmus test to see where he stands in the division. And if Choi can breeze through Swanson like he’s done against everyone else? Instant contender status.
UFC Betting Values
Choi’s flashy knockout power is certainly tempting, but Swanson is easily the best fighter he’s faced to date. Still, Swanson prefers to box, and while he may be unorthodox, he is hittable. Choi’s explosive punching gives him no margin for error.
But at -222, Choi is fairly expensive and he is taking a huge step up in competition against a longtime contender. Swanson has an extremely unorthodox style that takes a while to time. This is probably going over the the 1.5 round mark.
Cherry Pick: over at -156
For more MMA betting news, check out Bellator 168 Odds: Fight Night in Florence.