Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will invade Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., TONIGHT (Sat., March 23, 2019) to stage UFC Fight Night 148, which features a Welterweight showdown between Stephen Thompson and Anthony Pettis, streaming live on ESPN+ (free trial here). In the co-main event, Curtis Blaydes will face Justin Willis in a meaningful Heavyweight showdown, which could see the victor catapult himself into a world title fight for the first time.
Anthony Pettis was once the face of UFC’s Lightweight division, poised for superstardom thanks to his unique striking skills, looks and charisma that went for days. Those traits — and more — put Pettis under the spotlight, even earning him a spot on a Wheaties box. After coughing up his strap, “Showtime” made his way down to Featherweight, where he eventually lost out on winning the interim title after coming up short against Max Holloway (see it again here).
Pettis will now look for greener pastures at Welterweight. Ready to give him a nice and warm welcome is none other than former two-time title contender, Stephen Thompson. After starting off his UFC career at 8-1 — earning him his first-ever shot at a world title in mixed martial arts (MMA) — “Wonderboy” has gone 1-2-1 in his last four outings. Still, two of those fights were championship bouts, while his other loss came to Darren Till. That said, Thompson is still a very legit threat to anyone in the division.
Onto the fight itself ... This match up has all the makings of an epic stand up war. Thompson’s karate background is well-publicized, as he’s put on striking clinics in all (or most of) his outings (such as this one). Same for Pettis, who has long been known as one of the most talented and creative strikers the sport. Going into the fight, Thompson will be the bigger man, though Pettis is adamant he isn’t coming in small and will surprise “Wonderboy” with his strength. Not to mention, “Showtime” vows to attack Pettis with a striking attack not yet seen.
Curtis Blaydes’ title hopes went up in smoke after he was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in less than one minute in Nov. 2018. Now, he’ll look to get back into the mix by trying to hand Justin Willis his first defeat inside the Octagon.
Winning his first four bouts with UFC, including a big win over Mark Hunt in his last outing, Willis is hoping five straight victories will put him in the championship conversation. That said, as long as Daniel Cormier — who trains with Willis — is division champion, Justin will likely have to keep busy somewhere else. Especially since it seems “DC” isn’t out to retire as soon as he would’ve liked.
Again, another card on consecutive weeks that will lead many fight fans wanting more starpower at the events. It’s a hard thing to accomplish given UFC’s hectic schedule.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Nasrat Hagparasat and Chris Gruetzemacher — two of the hardest names to spell in MMA — were both bounced out of the fight with injuries. Nasrat was booked to face John Makdessi, while Gruetzemacher was all set to tango against Jesus Pinedo. Since all men compete at Lightweight, it was easy to just book Makdessi against Pinedo. It’d be great if it worked out that way every time out.
Aside from the aforementioned Nasrat and Gruetzemacher, no other fighters were forced out of the even because of injuries. Luis Pena, however, missed the Featherweight mark and will be docked 20 percent of his purse for the infraction.
Ryan MacDonald, 26, will look to make his splash in his Octagon debut against Chris Gutierrez. MacDonald owns a mint 10-0 mark and has bounced around from one regional promotion to another. Now, he will look to set roots inside the Octagon to become a permanent fixture in the Bantamweight division, which could be a bit more crowded in the coming months. Gutierrez, meanwhile, will look to bounce back after suffering a submission loss in his own UFC debut in Nov. 2018.
After four straight wins, Jordan Espinoza got the call up to the big leagues to face Erik Shelton in Flyweight action, signaling that the promotion — at least for now — isn’t done with business at 125 pounds. Jordan punched his ticket to the big show by scoring a last-second knockout win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWTNCS).
To get a more detailed look at the “New Blood” click here.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The underbelly of the event will feature a 145-pound match up between Bryce Mitchel and Bobby Moffett. Bryce — an up-and-coming star in MMA — is undefeated at 10-0, 1-0 UFC, winning his Octagon debut last July by defeating Tyler Diamond. His return to action was halted after he was involved in a gruesome and freak accident, which saw his testicles get spun up in a power drill.
Now that he and his boys are healed up and ready to go, he will look to keep his run going against Moffett, who is currently riding a four-fight win streak. After taking out long-time UFC veteran Chas Skelly in his previous outing, Moffett looks to keep it going by derailing the “Thug Nasty“ train.
Also, Frankie Saenz will battle Marlon Vera in a highly-intriguing 135-pound showdown. After suffering three straight defeats, Frankie turned it around and has won his last two, most recently defeating Henry Briones. Vera has also won his last two, and looks to inch himself closer to the spotlight with a win over Saenz. Both of these men carry with them well-rounded skills, so we should be in for a great scrap.
Further on down the line, Randa Markos and Angela Hill will collide on women’s Strawweight action. Markos was rumored to be facing Mackenzie Dern at this event, but the jiu-jitsu specialist was forced out because of her pregnancy. Now, Markos, who is 1-1-1 in her last three fights, will look to get back into the winner’s circle against Hill, who is just 1-2 in her last three fights.
To learn more about the UFC Fight Night 148 “Prelims” click here and here.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Look, it won’t be a do-or-die situation for Thompson, but he is only 1-2-1 in his last four fights, and losing to a a man who usually competes in lower divisions won’t be a good look. Not that it’s any shame in losing to Pettis, but “Wonderboy” should have most of the advantages when it comes to size and strength.
If Thompson wants to remain a major player at 170 pounds, he needs to take out “Showtime” in impressive fashion. A loss here send him tumbling down further, and climbing back up to a title shot will be that much tougher seeing as how the division is as stacked as its ever been.
Interest Level: 6/10
By now, most of you have gotten to the ESPN+ streaming app. If not, then you better do it (right here), as it seems to be one of the biggest resources to watch UFC fights these days. Pettis has the chance to win a fight in his third division, a tremendous feat, especially if he does it against Thompson. Willis is adamant he can put “asses in seats” if UFC gives him the chance, so now it will be time to put up or shut up against Blaydes. If he can slice up “Razor” for a win, Willis can look forward to bigger and better match ups. I’m really digging this fight, personally.
We also have Maycee Barber making her return to action after making a splash in her Octagon debut against Hanna Ciphers. Barber has been talking the talk, and then some, since coming into the Octagon, making the bold statement that she will be bigger than both Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. You can’t knock the confidence, but that was also once said of Cynthia Calvillo ... and she went tumbling down fast after a few setbacks. That said, if Barber (6-0. 1-0 UFC) can keep racking up the wins, then maybe UFC’s hype machine can start getting behind her, which is needed if you want to reach “Rowdy” and “Notorious” levels. Just don’t expect J.J. Aldrich to roll over for anyone.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Fight Night 148 (ESPN+ 6) Main Event:
170 lbs.: Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis
UFC Fight Night 148 (ESPN+ 6) Main Card (8 p.m. ET)
265 lbs.: Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis
155 lbs.: John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo
125 lbs.: Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Jussier Formiga
145 lbs.: Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson
125 lbs.: J.J. Aldrich vs. Maycee Barber
UFC Fight Night 148 (ESPN+ 6) Prelims (5 p.m. ET)
145 lbs.: Bryce Mitchell vs. Bobby Moffett
135 lbs.: Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera
125 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Jennifer Maia
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Randa Markos
135 lbs.: Chris Gutierrez vs. Ryan MacDonald
125 lbs.: Jordan Espinosa vs. Eric Shelton
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.