Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight ninjas Anthony Pettis and Stephen Thompson threw down last night (March 23, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 148 inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
It’s been an entertaining few years from Pettis, but he’s wound up on the wrong side of some losses that have largely eliminated him from title contention at his home weight class of 155 pounds. Rather than start over at Lightweight, “Showtime” called for an entertaining match up at 170 pounds, looking to find out for himself whether the grass was greener at Welterweight. His debut would not be easy though, as “Wonderboy” was a certified contender. In truth, Thompson has not definitively lost in years — the man could very easily have won the title in his rematch with Tyron Woodley. Things didn’t quite work out that way though, leaving Thompson in need of a win to get him back in the mix.
Pettis looked to pressure “Wonderboy” early, backing his foe up behind a high guard. Both men were looking to kick: Thompson flung up an early high kick early and stabbed at the mid-section with side kicks, whereas Pettis looked to slam round kicks to the body and leg depending on Thompson’s stance.
In the first half of the round, Pettis seemed to land the harder kicks between the two, doing well to block his foe’s kicks. As a result, “Wonderboy” grew more active with his hands, darting in-and-out with fast combinations. Nothing incredibly dramatic landed, but Pettis still walked back to his corner with a bloody nose.
Thompson took some hard kicks but won the first round.
Both men doubled down on their strategies in the second. Thompson continued to show off his speed, shooting jabs into Pettis’ face and landing quick kicks as Pettis advanced. None of those strikes deterred Pettis though, who continued to stalk forward and throw the leg kick at every opportunity. Most notably, Pettis was chopping across Thompson’s waist, aiming at the back leg.
In addition to the jab, Thompson’s lead leg grew more effective. The side kick landed to the chest more often, allowing Thompson to begin hooking off to the face as well. A good deal of leg kicks aside, but the fight seemed to be going well for Thompson, who was landing at a higher rate and doing a lot of damage to Pettis’ face.
It ended in an instant (watch highlights here).
As Thompson pushed forward behind his side kick, Pettis parried it a bit past him and got Thompson out of position. The Karateka was still reasonably far back from Pettis, so “Showtime” jumped in the air with something of a Superman Punch/jumping hook hybrid, catching Thompson full on the chin.
Like last weekend’s Welterweight knockout, the defeated fighter was instantly unconscious but ate a few more shots on the way down.
This is a fascinating knockout and great performance from Pettis. Perhaps the most interesting part of the finish was just how opportunistic it was: Pettis had not previously shown a strategy of passing the side kick by and countering with his hands. That’s always the risk of side kicks, but Pettis immediately capitalized on a very slight opening in the biggest way possible.
It had nothing directly to do with his overall game plan of dedicated leg chopping, but I expect Duke Roufus had Pettis drilling for this scenario quite a bit anyway.
What does a massive Welterweight knockout mean for Anthony Pettis? Let’s be honest here, this win may make him a Top 5-ranked contender, but is Pettis going to fare well against an even bigger class of pressure wrestler like Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington? Probably not. Let’s avoid that by matching Pettis with a Welterweight contender unlikely to grind on him — someone like Santiago Ponzinibbio or Jorge Masvidal.
Thompson looked pretty sharp last night. His kicks and jabs were ridiculously quick, and though his legs showed some bruising, he did not yet seem to be suffering any consequences from the low kicks. Prior to the right hand knockout, very few of Pettis’ punches were landing at all.
It’s unfortunate that despite his mostly strong showing, this loss is likely the nail in Thompson’s coffin as a contender. The 36-year-old striker is very deep into his combat sports career, meaning he’s unlikely to grow dramatically from here. He’s no longer just a win or two away from the title, as a long win streak is mandatory to recover from losing three of four.
Last night, Anthony Pettis rallied in the second round to end his opponent’s night early. Who should Pettis face next?
For complete UFC Fight Night 148 results and play-by-play, click HERE!