On Saturday night, the UFC touched down in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the first time since September of 2013. It did so with UFC 206, a 12-fight card headlined by an almost interim title fight between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis, and featuring names like Donald Cerrone, Matt Brown, Cub Swanson, Doo Ho Choi, Tim Kennedy and Kelvin Gastelum.
Though the card was pummelled by everything from fighter withdrawals to multiple weigh-in misses, it ultimately delivered as an unforgettable one, highlighted by several incredible knockouts, and most memorably of all, a legitimate fight of the year contender.
The Main Card:
Holloway TKOs Pettis to Win Interim Featherweight Title
Originally, the main event of UFC 206 was expected to pit light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. When Cormier withdrew from this fight with an injury, however, main event honors instead went to a featherweight bout between Anthony Pettis and Max Holloway. Until Pettis failed to make weight, this bout was supposed to be an interim title fight. Because of Pettis' weigh in miss, however, only Holloway was eligible to win interim gold. And win it he did.
For nearly three full rounds, Holloway confounded Pettis with his rangy striking attack. Though Pettis' failure to get his own game going can surely be attributed to the broken hand he sustained in the first round, Holloway was clearly the sharper man in the cage. Late in the third round, the Hawaiian put a stamp on things, hurting Holloway with a series of kicks to the body, before pouring on the punches for the TKO win.
In victory, Holloway becomes the UFC interim featherweight champion, and sets up a title unifier with undisputed champ Jose Aldo. He's now 17-3 overall. Pettis, meanwhile, falls to a tough 1-4 in his last 5. Now 19-6 overall, he assured post-fight that his days at featherweight are done, and that he plans to move back to the lightweight division where he once wore gold.
Cowboy Snuffs Brown with Third Round Head-Kick
Originally, Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone was supposed to take on a welterweight Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 205. When Gastelum failed to make weight for the bout, however, it was cancelled, and Cowboy was rescheduled for a UFC 206 bout with the ever-dangerous Matt Brown.
Though Brown was able to rock Cowboy on several occasions, he ultimately fell victim to one of Cowboy's finest weapons: the head kick. After landing with this attack four times in the first two rounds, Cowboy zapped Brown with it a fifth time early in the third, and that was all she wrote. Brown was down.
In victory, Cowboy moves to a fantastic 4-0 since moving to the welterweight division, having defeated Alex Oliveira, Pat Côté and Rick Story in his three most recent bouts. The former lightweight title challenger is now 32-7 overall. Brown, meanwhile, experiences his second-straight knockout loss. He's now 20-16 in sum.
Swanson Edges the Korean Super Boy in Possible Best Fight Ever
In advance of UFC 206, Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi's featherweight showdown looked like a strong contender for Fight of the Night honors. It exceeded those expectations, and delivered as a Fight of the Year, if not Fight of the Century contender.
For three, hectic rounds, the crafty American veteran and torpedo-fisted South Korean prospect pelted each other with heavy artillery, each putting the other on roller skates on more than one occasion. In the end however, it was Swanson who landed the more effective combos—including one unforgettable, late third round button-masher straight out of a Tekken video game. He was awarded a unanimous decision win as a result, though there was truly no loser in this fight.
With this result, Swanson is now on a three-fight streak, having defeated Hacran Dias and Tatsuya Kawajiri in his two most recent fights. He's now 24-7 overall. Choi, meanwhile, now sits at 14-2. Despite his coming up short, the Korean's future looks as bright as ever.
Gastelum Mauls Kennedy to Third-Round Win
Originally, Tim Kennedy and Kelvin Gastelum were both supposed to fight at November's UFC 205—though not against each other. Kennedy was expected to welcome Rashad Evans to the middleweight division, but this bout was cancelled when Evans was pulled from the card. Gastelum, meanwhile, was intended to fight Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at welterweight, but failed to make weight for the bout. So, roughly one month later, they were paired together at middleweight on the main card of UFC 206.
Though Kennedy started strong, rag-dolling Gastelum on the mat, Gastelum slowly began to pick his foe apart on the feet. Once he found his groove, it was all downhill for Kennedy. As the third round wore down, Gastelum put a stamp on things with a blistering two-punch combo. A few follow-up ground strikes later, and he was being peeled off his foe by the referee.
In victory, Gastelum moves to 13-2 overall. Though he looked fantastic at middleweight, he assured that he had every intention to return to the welterweight division for his next fight. Kennedy, meanwhile, falls onto a two-fight skid with the loss. He's now 18-6 overall.
Meek Outguns Mein for Successful UFC Debut
The first bout of the main card saw Norwegian welterweight Emil "Valhalla" Meek—a man famous for knocking out Rousimar Palhares—make his long-awaited UFC debut against Canada's Jordan Mein, who was returning from a short-lived retirement.
Though Mein had his moments in this bout's action-packed first round, he faded in the second and third, where he was taken down and controlled at length by his debuting foe. By the time the fight had ended, Meek had wracked up more than 8 minutes of control time, and almost doubled his foe in terms of significant strikes—more than enough to warrant a unanimous decision win.
With the win, Meek moves to 9-2 overall. Mein, meanwhile, falls onto a two-fight streak, having lost his second most recent fight to Thiago Alves. He's now 29-11 in sum.
Cirkunov Locks up Guillotine in One
The UFC 206 undercard was wrapped up by a dynamite light heavyweight booking as Toronto's own Misha Cirkunov took on Ukraine's Nikita Krylov in a clash of dangerous prospects.
Despite Krylov's undeniable talent, Cirkunov made this one look easy, scoring with takedowns early before locking up a beautiful arm-in guillotine choke for the win. The Ukrainian tapped at the 4:38 mark of round one.
With the win, Cirkunov improves to 4-0 in the UFC's Octagon. In his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan, he took the opportunity to call for a bout with former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua—an opportunity he certainly deserves. He's now 13-2 overall. In defeat, Krylov has a streak of five-straight stoppage wins derailed. He's now 21-5 overall.
Aubin-Mercier Taps Dober in the Second
The penultimate bout of the undercard saw grappling whiz Olivier Aubin-Mercier take on Muay Thai specialist Drew Dober in a compelling lightweight style clash.
Though Aubin-Mercier was expected to be at a significant disadvantage on the feet, he was actually able to out-strike Dober in the first. Then, after being dropped by Dober early in the second, the Canadian was able drag his foe into a prolonged grappling exchange, where he eventually locked up a rear-naked choke for the win.
The win, which is Aubin Mercier's eighth by submission and seventh by rear-naked choke, moves him to 9-2 overall, and 5-2 in the UFC. Dober, meanwhile, returns to the loss column after consecutive wins over Scott Holtzman and Jason Gonzales. He's now 17-8 overall.
Pereira Edges Letourneau in Close Fight
The lone women's bout of the night occurred in the strawweight division, where former title challenger Valerie Letourneau, who missed weight for the bout, took on debuting Brazilian Viviane Pereira.
Though Letourneau handily won the first round, she faded in the second and third, and paid for her inactivity in those rounds when the judges awarded her debuting a foe a split decision win.
In victory, Pereira elevates her record to a flawless 12-0. Letourneau, meanwhile, falls onto a tough, three-fight skid, having lost her last two bouts to Joanne Calderwood and reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She's now 8-6 overall.
Lopez Ousts Gagnon with Unanimous Win
The first bout of the the Fox Sports prelims occurred in the bantamweight division, where Canada's Mitch Gagnon returned from more than 700 days on the shelf to take on Matthew Lopez.
Though Gagnon nearly stopped Lopez on strikes in the first round, he was then out-grappled in rounds two and three, which resulted in a fairly clear-cut unanimous win for Lopez.
The win, which is Lopez's first in the UFC, moves him to 9-1 overall. Gagnon, meanwhile, falls onto a two-fight skid, having lost his last fight to former bantamweight champ Renan Barão. He's now 12-4 overall.
Vannata Blasts Makdessi with First Round Spin Kick
The Fight Pass Prelims were wrapped up by an intriguing collision of lightweight strikers, as Lando Vannata took on Canada's John Makdessi.
This one was over in a blink, as Vannata smashed his veteran foe with a beautifully timed spinning kick to the jaw. Just 1:40 into the first round, Makdessi was coming to under the Jumbotron.
In victory, Vannata returns to the win column, after coming up short in his short-notice UFC debut against Tony Ferguson. He's now 9-1 overall, while Makdessi falls to 14-6 overall.
Rustam Khabilov Outwrestles Saggo to Unanimous Decision
The second bout of the night occurred in the lightweight division, where Canada's Jason Saggo took on Dagestan's Rustam Khabilov. The two fighters looked to extend their win-streaks to two and three respectively.
Unfortunately for Saggo and his Canadian fans in attendance, this one was all Khabilov, who earned a sound unanimous decision win with takedowns in every round and plenty of control time.
With the win, Khabilov builds on the momentum of defeats of Norman Parke, Chris Wade, and Leandro Silva. He's now 21-3. Saggo, on the other hand, returns to the loss column with a new record of 12-3.
Ortiz Scores Career-Best Win Over Makovsky
The first fight of the night saw middling flyweight Dustin Ortiz pick up the best win of his career over long-time top-10 staple Zach Makovsky. He did so with a hard-fought split decision win, which he earned with a solid wrestling attack and ever improving stand-up arsenal.
With this win, Ortiz rebounds from back-to-back losses to Wilson Reis and Jussier "Formiga" da Silva. He's now 16-6 overall. Makovsky, meanwhile, is 19-8 overall.