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UFC 206 predictions: 'Holloway vs Pettis' Fight Pass 'Prelims' undercard preview, Pt. 1

More Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) action is coming to Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 10, 2016) when UFC 206: “Holloway vs. Pettis” storms Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. MMAmania.com's Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 206 "Prelims" party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

War!

Two of the most elite lower-weight strikers in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will duke it out for an interim Featherweight interim title this Saturday evening (Dec. 10, 2016) when Max Holloway (No. 2) puts his nine-fight win streak on the line against Anthony Pettis (No. 5). The 145-pound studs will headline UFC 206, which will air live on pay-per-view (PPV) from Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada, after the original main event between Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson was scratched because of injury.

The PPV main card will also feature Donald Cerrone vs. Matt Brown in a terrific Welterweight showdown, as well as Doo Ho Choi stepping up against Cub Swanson and Tim Kennedy’s Octagon return opposite Kelvin Gastelum.

UFC 206 features seven "Prelims" undercard matches that will set the PPV stage, three on Fight Pass and four on FOX Sports 1. Let’s see what we’ve got to look forward to in the former:

155 lbs.: Lando Vannata vs. John Makdessi

Few gave Lando Vannata (8-1) any shot when he stepped up on short notice to face Tony Ferguson, least of all the oddsmakers who made him a +475 underdog. To everyone’s surprise, "Groovy" gave "El Cucuy" the fight of his life and --despite ultimately losing via submission -- hurt him worse than anyone before in UFC to date.

He has submitted four professional opponents and knocked out another three.

John Makdessi (14-5), stepping into the Octagon for the thirteenth time this weekend, continues to find himself in controversial decisions. He suffered a questionable split decision loss to Yancy Medeiros in Dec. 2014 and, most recently, scraped past The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Mehdi Baghdad in July.

Nine of his wins, including two of his last three, have come by form of knockout.

Even being careful not to overvalue Vannata’s performance against Ferguson, it’s hard not to pick him here. Makdessi continues to lack urgency in his striking despite it biting him in the rear multiple times. Against Vannata, whose slick head movement precludes serious damage and whose quality boxing can inflict the same in return, that’s just not an issue he can afford to have.

Vannata ought to have the wrestling edge and I just don’t have any faith that Makdessi will throw enough to keep him honest. Vannata uses volume and pressure to take a striking-heavy decision.

Prediction: Vannata via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Jason Saggo

Once on the cusp of Lightweight contendership, Rustam Khabilov (20-3) has had to claw his way back up after consecutive losses to Benson Henderson and Adriano Martins. He has spent 2016 overpowering his fellow grapplers, defeating Norman Parke, Chris Wade and Leandro Silva by decision.

He will give up three inches of height to the 5’11" Jason Saggo (12-2).

Saggo ran roughshod over Josh Shockley in his Octagon debut before losing a split decision to Paul Felder his next time out. Missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL, he returned to the cage in March and picked up wins over Justin Salas and Leandro Silva.

Eight of his 11 finishes have come by submission, seven by form of choke.

I’m not exactly sure why they keep putting Khabilov against grapplers whom he can beat but not look good against. Aside from being more active in his pursuit of submissions and ground-and-pound, Saggo really presents no issues that Khabilov didn’t already overcome in his last three fights. My major hope is that Khabilov can regain some of the confidence in his striking he had before the Henderson loss.

Even if he remains tentative, however, his wrestling is more than enough to carry him to another victory.

Prediction: Khabilov via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Zach Makovsky vs. Dustin Ortiz

Once Bellator MMA’s Bantamweight champion, Zach Makovsky (19-7) made the drop to 125 pounds and quickly won four straight, including two in UFC. He is 1-3 since, defeating Tim Elliott but losing decisions to division standouts Jussier "Formiga", John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez.

He is an inch shorter than Dustin Ortiz (15-6) at 5’4."

Ortiz opened his UFC career 3-1, defeating top prospects Ray Borg and Justin Scoggins in the process. He is likewise on a 1-3 stretch at the moment, including losses to the aforementioned "Formiga" and Benavidez.

He replaces the injured John Moraga on one month’s notice.

Both of these guys are significantly better than their UFC records suggest. Indeed, the opponents I mentioned above are all Top 5-ranked talent at Flyweight and the worst ZUFFA loss between them is probably Ortiz’s questionable decision loss to John Moraga, who is himself a former title challenger.

The key factor that has me picking Makovsky is the fact that Wilson Reis gave Ortiz the exact kind of scramble-heavy battle he thrives in and dominated him anyway. Makovsky’s issues stem from his lack of stopping power on the feet --against someone who will engage him on the mat, his technical prowess shines. Expect a fun, competitive ground battle that sees Makovsky take enough dominant positions to earn the win.

Prediction: Makovsky via unanimous decision

Be sure to check back tomorrow night, Maniacs, as we preview and predict what's in store for UFC 206 on FOX Sports 1, which will feature a meaningful 205-pound clash and a battle between 155-pound fighters looking to crack the Top 15, among others.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 206 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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