Max Holloway did what Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza could not: He finished Anthony Pettis.
Holloway buried Pettis with a volley of third-round punches, as he captured the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title in the UFC 206 (online betting) headliner on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Pettis (19-6, 6-5 UFC) wilted 4:50 into Round 3, as he was stopped for the first time in his 25-fight career.
Not much went right for “Showtime.” Holloway started piecing together punches in the first round and left him with significant damage to his right eye. More of the same followed in Round 2, where the Hawaiian sat down Pettis with a right hand, countered beautifully and worked over his body with punches. Making matters worse for the Milwaukee native, he retreated to his corner having suffered an apparent hand injury.
Holloway (17-3, 13-3 UFC) took down the Roufusport star twice in the third before authoring the stoppage. The 25-year-old lit up Pettis with a body kick, backed him to the fence and unleashed with punches to the head and body that doubled over the former lightweight champion and forced referee Yves Lavigne to step in.
Cerrone Head Kick KOs Brown
Donald Cerrone knocked out Elevation Fight Team rep Matt Brown with a third-round head kick in their welterweight co-main event. Brown (20-16, 13-10 UFC) met his end 34 seconds into Round 3, as he suffered his third straight defeat.
Cerrone (32-7, 19-4 UFC) overcame some adversity to get his hand raised: He escaped a triangle choke in the first round and ate a crushing overhand right in the second that briefly sat him down. However, he hammered away at Brown with a steady diet of kicks to the legs, body and head, leaving him with cuts near both eyes. The two rivals embraced in a show of respect at the start of Round 3. Moments later, Cerrone drilled “The Ultimate Fighter 7” alum with a counter right hook and caught him ducking. The sickening thud of shin meeting jaw came next, as Brown hit the deck unconscious.
Cerrone’s 19 victories inside the Octagon tie him with Georges St. Pierre for second on the UFC’s all-time list. He trails only reigning middleweight champion Michael Bisping (20).
Swanson Outlasts Choi in ‘Fight of the Year’ Contender
Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay Cub Swanson won a firefight for the ages, as he outlasted Doo Ho Choi to a unanimous decision in a remarkable three-round featherweight attraction. All three cageside judges scored it for Swanson (24-7, 9-3 UFC): 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Choi (14-2, 3-1 UFC) found success in the first round with standing knee strikes from the front headlock position, precision jabs and stabbing straight right hands to the body. A brawl developed in the middle frame, giving way to perhaps the most memorable five minutes of 2016. Both men were hurt during wild exchanges. Swanson executed a takedown and mounted briefly before returning to his feet, where he landed everything from a spinning backfist and a cartwheel kick to sweeping hooks with both hands. Still, Choi refused to go away.
Swanson was in trouble early in Round 3 but regained momentum with a head-and-arm throw. They spent the final minute firing power punches at one another. His 13-fight winning streak nearing its end, Choi collapsed in the waning seconds and absorbed heavy ground-and-pound until the horn sounded, the crowd roaring its approval.
Gastelum Shreds Kennedy, Forces Late Stoppage
“The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner Kelvin Gastelum put away Tim Kennedy with punches in the third round of their featured battle at 170 pounds. Gastelum (13-2, 8-2 UFC) brought it to a close 2:45 into Round 3, as he won for the third time in four appearances.
Kennedy (18-6, 3-2 UFC) could not keep up with a younger, quicker opponent. Gastelum shrugged off his clinches and damaged his right eye with a series of clean, straight lefts in the first round. Kennedy’s situation did not improve as the minutes ticked away. Gastelum picked him apart with punching combinations and bled his gas tank with a relentless pace. He stunned Kennedy with a thudding jab early in the third round, backed him to the fence and cut loose with punches. A straight left sent Kennedy to the mat on all fours, and Gastelum pounced for the finish.
Meek Downs Returning Mein
Former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder Emil Weber Meek made a successful organizational debut, as he claimed a unanimous decision over Jordan Mein in a three-round welterweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Meek (9-2-1, 1-0 UFC).
Fighting for the first time since Jan. 31, 2015, Mein (29-11, 3-3 UFC) started strong but tailed off dramatically in the second and third rounds. Meek struck for takedowns in both rounds and neutralized the Canadian striker from top position. Mein offered little in the way of resistance from his back and seemed resigned to his situation.
Meek, 28, has won four fights in a row.