The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to the UFC Apex for one more show before a Memorial Day break, and frankly, UFC Fight Night 206 is not a particularly strong offering. At the very least, the Holly Holm-Ketlen Vieira main event does have some legitimate stakes in a wide-open women’s bantamweight division, though the bout itself does not figure to deliver from an action standpoint. Instead, the entertainment duties fall to the co-headliner: a welterweight clash between Santiago Ponzinibbio and Michel Pereira that should provide some violence. Beyond that, there are some interesting fighters on the bill—Chidi Njokuani enjoyed a strong promotional debut, while Polyana Viana and Tabatha Ricci are strawweight prospects with some potential—and while a breakout could certainly happen, there are no must-see attractions on which to put one’s finger.
Now to the UFC Fight Night 206 “Holm vs. Vieira” preview:
#2 WBW | Holly Holm (14-5, 7-5 UFC) vs. #5 WBW | Ketlen Vieira (12-2, 6-2 UFC)
ODDS: Holm (-240), Vieira (+195)
Julianna Pena’s win opened up the title picture at women’s bantamweight—unless Amanda Nunes wins the title right back—and as always, Holm is near the top of the division ready to take advantage. Now a boxing hall of famer since her last fight, a 2020 win over Irene Aldana, Holm’s legacy is secure thanks to her boxing accomplishments and one of the biggest moments in mixed martial arts history: her 2015 knockout of Ronda Rousey that derailed the former champion’s career. Holm has continued to ride that to a spot as one of the most well-known fighters in the UFC and a draw at times, but from an excitement standpoint, it has been difficult for her to recapture lightning in a bottle. Holm has settled into a neutralizing style that works as well as it does due to her strength and athleticism. She will occasionally throw enough power to put a scare into her opponent but mostly settles for a low-powered style that has increasingly relied on evasiveness rather than volume. Failing that, Holm has typically been able to bully opponents in the clinch and grind out ugly wins. In recent years, she has even added a wrestling game that particularly helped her in her victories over Aldana and Megan Anderson. Championship-level fighters have been able to break open the flaws in Holm’s game and beat her, but otherwise, she has been able to outclass the rest of her opponents and drag them into quicksand without much difficulty. Now 40 years old and over a year and a half removed from her last fight, Holm figures to slow down at some point, and Vieira undoubtedly hopes that point is now. Vieira was an undefeated prospect with a lot of questions upon hitting the UFC in 2016, as her style did not appear particularly impressive, but she quickly proved herself as a force to be reckoned with by winning her first four bouts inside the Octagon. During that time, it became apparent that the Brazilian had the ability to bully most of her opposition, and after grinding out a win over Cat Zingano in 2018, it looked like “Fenomeno” was set up well as a future title contender. Instead, Vieira’s career basically got derailed for two and a half years, as injuries kept her out of action save for one fight: a 2019 knockout loss to Aldana. After losing an ugly decision to Yana Kunitskaya in early 2021, it appeared like Vieira had fallen back to the bantamweight pack, but she was successfully able to dissuade Miesha Tate’s offense in a November main event spot, earning a win that has her back in the championship mix. Still, with that loss to Kunitskaya being relatively fresh, it appears unlikely that Vieira’s bullying ways will work against Holm, provided she can even track down the former champion, who figures to be able to outmaneuver the Brazilian’s plodding pressure without much difficulty. Again, Holm could suddenly look old at any moment, but outside of that concern, this appears to be easy work for the Albuquerque, New Mexico, native. The pick is Holm via decision.
jump to »
Holm vs. Vieira
Pereira vs. Ponzinibbio
Njokuani vs. Todorovic
Ricci vs. Viana
Park vs. Anders