October 18, 2016

UFC 206: Without GSP, the Card Doesn’t Look Great, But Adding These Fights Could Make It Much Better

By Adam Martin

Last week, the UFC announced the first batch of bouts on the UFC 206 card, but made careful mention not to stamp the main event crown on the UFC light heavyweight title rematch between champion Daniel Cormier and challenger Anthony Johnson. That’s because there was still the lingering hope that UFC 206, which takes place December 10 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, would be headlined by the return of Canadian superstar Georges St-Pierre, with the rumor making the rounds in recent weeks of a superfight pitting GSP against Anderson Silva.
That’s a big fight, and many fans started getting excited at the idea of that fight headlining UFC 206, but UFC President Dana White shot down those rumors, saying that GSP is not fighting in Toronto. And earlier this week, GSP announced that he was a free agent. So for right now, at least, Cormier vs. Johnson 2 is the official main event of the card.

Along with Cormier vs. Johnson, other fights announced for UFC 206 include: Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi, Nikita Krylov vs. Misha Cirkunov, Landon Vannata vs. John Makdessi, Li Jingliang vs. Chad Laprise, Rustam Khabilov vs. Jason Saggo, Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Drew Dober, Zach Makovsky vs. John Moraga, and Valerie Letourneau vs. Poliana Botelho.

There are definitely some intriguing fights in that bunch, and we have to keep in mind the card isn’t complete yet, but at this point in time, this looks to be a pretty weak pay-per-view, especially when you compare it to the PPV before it, UFC 205. Obviously UFC 206 was never going to be as stacked as UFC 205 is, since that’s the first legalized UFC event held in New York City, but still, MMA fans in Toronto are going online making their voices heard that they feel shafted, and looking at the card, you can see why. At this point in time, it looks much more like a Fox card than a PPV card, yet the tickets are PPV prices.

With nine fights announced, it’s likely the UFC will add three or four more fights to the card to make it better. With so many high-profile fighters booked for upcoming cards, especially the New York card, it’s slim pickings, but here are some ideas to make UFC 206 look like a suitable pay-per-view. Keep in mind that if GSP does come back somehow, then his return obviously makes it must-watch. But if St-Pierre and White are serious in their statements about GSP's UFC future, there are some matchups that I believe could fatten up this fight card.

The first fight I’d book is Silva vs. Gegard Mousasi, who called out “The Spider” following his knockout win over Vitor Belfort at UFC 204. To be honest, Silva vs. Mousasi wasn’t a fight I had on my radar, but I really like the matchup. First off, I like how Mousasi asked for the fight in his post-fight interview. I think oftentimes fighters are given the opportunity to call someone out and rarely do, so I believe Mousasi should be rewarded with this matchup because he actually had the smarts to do it. Silva and Mousasi are both ranked in the top 10 at 185 lbs, and although Silva is on the downside of his career, he still has big power and represents an exciting opponent for Mousasi, who as of late has looked like a real title contender. Mousasi took no damage against Belfort, and Silva, as we know, has no problems stepping up on short notice to save a show, so even though this card is less than two months away, if the contracts are sent out now it gives both fighters nearly a full training camp to prepare for what would be a very fun fight, and a suitable co-main event, all things considered.

Also on the main card, I’d book the return of Canadian slugger Steve Bosse against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Bosse is coming off of a huge win over Sean O’Connell in a “Fight of the Year” candidate back at UFC Ottawa earlier in the summer and deserves a prime-time slot on this Toronto card in front of the Canadian fight fans. Rua, a legend of the sport, is coming off of a surprise upset win over Corey Anderson, and although Bosse is a step down in competition for Rua, it’s an exciting fight for the fans. And stylistically it's a great fight for Shogun, as it’s a striker vs. striker battle. I’m not sure what Rua’s motivation to fight is, but I know as a fan this is a fight that I want to see badly, and it would have a good chance at winning “Fight of the Night.”

I would also book Elias Theodorou, the TUF Nations winner, against Andrew Sanchez, who just won TUF 24, a booking that has been rumored, but for whatever reason hasn’t been officially announced yet. Both Theodorou and Sanchez are promising prospects in the middleweight division and this would be a fun scrap to determine which one will move up the 185-pound ladder and who needs more work to reach the next level. Both Theodorou and Sanchez have a good social media following, and this fight seems like the perfect Fight Pass main event for this card.

And finally, the return of Mitch Gagnon, an Ontario product, makes sense. Gagnon, who is 4-2 in the UFC, hasn’t fought in nearly two years since getting finished by Renan Barao, but he should be ready to return to the Octagon soon, and when he does, a fight against a guy like Michinori Tanaka would be a fun grappling contest and perfect filler for the preliminary card.

With those four fights I suggested, UFC 206 would have a total of 13 fights. I would organize the card like this:

Main card (PPV)

* Cormier vs. Johnson
* Mousasi vs. Silva
* Bosse vs. Shogun
* Krylov vs. Cirkunov
* Swanson vs. Choi

Preliminary Card (FS1)

* Vannata vs. Makdessi
* Laprise vs. Jingliang
* Aubin-Mercier vs. Dober
* Letourneau vs. Botelho

Preliminary Card (Fight Pass)

* Theodorou vs. Sanchez
* Khabilov vs. Saggo
* Makovsky vs. Moraga
* Gagnon vs. Tanaka

Sure, that’s certainly not the best PPV lineup ever assembled, but it’s above average, for sure, and with such slim pickings due to the UFC stacking UFC 205 and leaving the rest of the fight cards fighting for scraps, this is as good of a card as Toronto fight fans can reasonably expect at this point of time. One wildcard that should be mentioned is UFC Interim Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, who is meeting with White this week in an effort to sort out their differences; if he can reach a deal with the UFC, perhaps he could fight Max Holloway or Anthony Pettis at this event, but at this point of time, I'm treating Aldo like a retired fighter. It’s unfortunate the UFC couldn’t reach a deal with GSP, as his return would have really catapulted this card’s lineup, but we have to make do, and the card with these added fights looks like a pretty decent event to me, one that should satisfy fans attending the event in person and/or ordering on PPV.

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