Anthony Pettis wandered into oncoming traffic and has the tread marks to prove it.
Max Holloway ran over “Showtime” in the UFC 206 headliner on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, as he stopped the Milwaukee native with third-round punches to capture the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title. Finished for the first time in his 25-fight career, Pettis succumbed to blows 4:50 into Round 3.
Everything went according to plan for Holloway. The 25-year-old Hawaiian withstood Pettis’ expected onslaught of kicks, countered beautifully throughout and pieced together damaging multi-punch combinations to the body and head. Holloway outstruck the former lightweight champion in every round, increasing his output as time wore on. According to FightMetric data, he landed 23 of his 58 strikes in the first round, 29 of 66 in the second and 46 of 88 in the third, where he blew away Pettis with a body kick and follow-up punches on the fence.
In wake of UFC 206 “Holloway vs. Pettis,” here are five matches that ought to be made (online betting):
Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo: Holloway has rattled off 10 consecutive victories, establishing himself as one of the sport’s elite fighters at 145 pounds. The Gracie Technics rep has shown rapid improvement in all phases during his current tear -- a trend that figures to continue for the foreseeable future. With Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens and Charles Oliveira in his rearview mirror, Holloway has set his sights on a unification bout with Aldo for the undisputed featherweight championship. Aldo last competed at UFC 200 on July 9, when he was awarded a unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal: Cerrone continued to shine as a welterweight and remained unbeaten at 170 pounds, as he cut down Matt Brown with a third-round head kick in their co-main event. “Cowboy” weathered a second-round knockdown to record his 19th win inside the Octagon, tying him with Georges St. Pierre for second on the UFC’s all-time list. While Cerrone has always been open to a return to the 155-pound weight class, his move to welterweight has proven fruitful: He has finished Brown, Rick Story, Patrick Cote and Alex Oliveira. Masvidal last appeared at “The Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale on Dec. 3, when he walked away with a bizarre technical knockout victory over Jake Ellenberger.
Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Bermudez-Chan Sung Jung winner: In what was easily one of the most memorable fights of 2016, Swanson emerged victorious against South Korean prospect Doo Ho Choi. The Jackson-Wink MMA mainstay hit Choi with every weapon in his arsenal across three unforgettable rounds, netting a unanimous decision. Swanson, 33, has rebounded from back-to-back submission losses to Edgar and Holloway with consecutive victories over Choi, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Hacran Dias. He remains a factor at 145 pounds. Bermudez and Jung will square off in a UFC Fight Night headliner on Feb. 4 in Houston.
Misha Cirkunov vs. Corey Anderson: Cirkunov improved to 4-0 in the UFC and cleared his latest hurdle in the light heavyweight division, as he submitted Nikita Krylov with a first-round guillotine choke in the featured UFC 206 prelim. The Canada-based Latvian dazed Krylov with a clubbing left hand before catching the guillotine and forcing the tapout. Cirkunov has won eight fights in a row, all of them finishes, and surfaced as a real threat at 205 pounds. Anderson routed Sean O’Connell at UFC Fight Night 102 on Dec. 9, disposing of the Jeremy Horn protégé with second-round punches at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner has won four of his last five fights, a contentious split decision loss to Mauricio Rua his only misstep.
Anthony Pettis vs. Ross Pearson: Once on his way to becoming an all-time great, Pettis instead finds his career in limbo after the loss to Holloway. The longtime Duke Roufus understudy conceded he could not successfully make 145 pounds and plans to return to the lightweight division he once ruled. However, he will do so having gone 1-4 across his past five outings. Pettis turns 30 in January, and there are legitimate questions about how he fits into the UFC’s plans moving forward. Pearson last fought at UFC Fight Night 99 on Nov. 19, when he wound up on the wrong side of a split decision against Stevie Ray.