This Saturday at UFC 206, Max Holloway takes on Anthony Pettis in a bout that had been scheduled for the UFC featherweight interim title. Pettis missing weight has scuppered those plans, and it looks like Holloway will win the title if he is victorious on Saturday, whilst Pettis will not. Holloway is currently riding a 9-fight winning streak, which is a tie for the 6th longest streak in UFC history, whilst Pettis is a former UFC champion at lightweight and just a couple of years ago was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Until last week, this event was set to be headlined by a rematch between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson for the UFC light heavyweight title. A late injury to Cormier has seen Holloway and Pettis, originally booked for the night’s co-main event, bumped up to main event status.
This shift has also seen their bout switch from 3 rounds to 5 and prompted the UFC to strip Conor McGregor of his featherweight title, promote then-interim champion José Aldo to undisputed champion and offer a new interim title to the winner of Holloway-Pettis. Pettis missing weight renders him ineligible for a title so, according to Dana White, we will see an interim title fight where only Holloway can actually win the title.
The move to strip McGregor may have been coming in the near future regardless, but it does look a bit of a mess at featherweight at the moment. Many would argue that’s due to McGregor’s inactivity at featherweight, but the UFC’s haste in creating an interim featherweight title earlier this year at UFC 200 didn’t help matters either.
One way or another, necessary or not, we have half an interim title on the line on Saturday. Let’s take a look at the recent form of the two fighters headlining UFC 206:
For Holloway, these 3 results are just the tip of the iceberg. Only Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre, Demetrious Johnson and Royce Gracie can boast longer winning streaks in the UFC’s 23-year history. It’s already the longest winning run in UFC featherweight history, ahead of Conor McGregor, Dennis Bermudez and José Aldo, all tied at 7 (though none of those three winning streaks are still active).
As for Pettis, this window doesn’t reflect the greatest period in his career. Although 1-0 at featherweight, he’s 1-3 in his last four bouts, rebounding from three consecutive defeats to Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza with a victory over Charles Oliveira in August. Pettis’ form before this spell was simply extraordinary. He had won 5 on the bounce, winning the UFC title and picking up victories over five real UFC veterans in Jeremy Stephens, Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez, finishing 4 of these 5 bouts.
Both men come out 2 for 2 in their respective bouts with shared opponents Charles Oliveira and Jeremy Stephens, each picking up a finish over Oliveira. This one’s a tie.
The Dwyer Score
Each event I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It’s a simple way of assigning a numeric value to the momentum of any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak. A fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score. A fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. No Contests, Draws or bouts with other promotions reset your streak to 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card (only counting UFC fights) you get a total which gives you an idea of the combined momentum of fighters heading into a specific event.
For some context, here is a table which shows some of the highest-scoring events of all time. If my scoring system is accurate, this list should contain some of the most highly-anticipated shows in UFC history.
This event’s score isn’t quite high enough to be included in the table above. The score for UFC 206 comes in at +23. It’s considerably above the average score for all events in 2016 (+13.2), though marginally beneath the average score for strictly PPV cards (+24.5). This score of +23 ranks UFC 206 joint sixth (level with UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor II) of this year’s 12 PPV events.
Below is a graph which shows the average Dwyer Scores in 2016 and how they stack up against UFC 206:
So far we’ve focused purely on the main event, but of course the entire card contributes to the Dwyer Score and there’s plenty to be excited about throughout the card.
Donald Cerrone looks to go level with Georges St. Pierre on 19 career UFC victories whilst improving to 4-0 as a welterweight. His opponent, Matt Brown, is widely regarded as one of the most exciting fighters to watch at welterweight, and the two men have claimed 18 performance of the night bonuses between them.
Tim Kennedy takes on former welterweight Kelvin Gastelum in a bout featuring two men who were expecting to compete at UFC 205 but were forced out due to last-minute complications. Gastelum’s last fight was a victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 200, whilst Kennedy hasn’t competed since a controversial 2014 loss to Yoel Romero.
Doo Ho Choi faces the sternest test in a promising career (he’s won by first-round TKO/KO in his first 3 UFC bouts) in a man 8 years his senior, Cub Swanson. A victory here for ‘The Korean Superboy’ could see him matched up with a top-5 opponent at featherweight.
We’ve also got the return of Jordan Mein, the debut of Palhares-conqueror Emil Meek, two streaking light heavyweights in Nikita Krylov and Misha Cirkunov as well as fan-favourite Lando Vannata, to name but a few.
This is an extremely exciting card with a lot to offer for both hard-core and casual fans. Granted, a Cormier-Johnson headliner would have been the cherry on top, but looking at the above line up, I’m certainly not complaining. And we may see a new champion crowned… well, sort of.