Whether one buys the premise of an interim featherweight title bout, it’s easy to see why Max Holloway is a big favorite against Anthony Pettis in the headline matchup for UFC 206 in Toronto on Saturday.
Having won nine fights in a row, Holloway is listed as the -190 betting favorite with Pettis at +165 for the co-main event at Air Canada Centre, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The interim belt was created after Conor McGregor moved up to win the lightweight strap at UFC 205.
Holloway is a much busier striker who prefers to attack, while Pettis picks his spots for counter-attacks. There is definitely potential for Pettis to win if he can slow the pace and get the match to the ground, although no one has done that against Holloway recently. It will also be interesting to see what form Pettis shows now that he has cut body mass to compete at featherweight (145-pound limit).
The match is scheduled for five rounds. The winner will likely advance directly to a title fight against champion Jose Aldo.
In the co-main event, welterweight Donald Cerrone is the main card’s heaviest favorite at -280 as he takes on veteran Matt Brown, who is listed at +220. Cerrone is looking for a fourth consecutive win since moving up to welterweight and it’s fair to take a pass on Brown, who has lost four of his last five bouts. If Brown prevails it would be the biggest upset, in terms of odds on the underdog, at a UFC event since UFC 200.
Featherweight Doo Ho Choi is a -210 favorite against Cub Swanson, who is listed +180. Swanson’s defense is top-notch but he is spotting some reach to Choi, who is also the more efficient of the two in the striking game. Choi defends well and, if anything, might be underpriced. The line could narrow closer to fight time, since Swanson has more name recognition among casual North American and European fight fans.
Coming out of nearly two-year hiatus, Jordan Mein is favored at -155 against +135 underdog Emil Meek. Meek, a Norwegian newcomer to UFC, is a powerful striker who has seven of his eight career wins by knockout. A loss here won’t hurt his prospects in the UFC, so essentially he has been handed a nothing-to-lose scenario which might foment trying to attack Mein and get him off-balance early. There is upset potential here.
Middleweights Tim Kennedy (-145) and Kelvin Gastelum (+125) have been matched after each was pulled out of UFC 205. The prices have been shifting toward equilibrium – Kennedy opened -222 with Gastelum at +175 – as oddsmakers try to balance out the enthusiasm for Gastelum. Gastelum is now likely a middleweight for good after failing to make the weight limit for UFC 205 and should be motivated, whereas it’s unclear what to expect out of the 37-year-old Kennedy, who last fought more than two years ago.
Underdogs have won 163 of 440 fights this year in the UFC, or 37 percent. That trend has been consistent from UFC 201 through UFC 205 with underdogs prevailing in 14 of 41 fights, or 34.1%.