Once one of the sport’s ascendant superstars, Anthony Pettis’ journey through mixed martial arts now resembles more of a rollercoaster ride.
The longtime Duke Roufus disciple made his professional debut on his 20th birthday in 2007, sharpened his skills while weaving through MMA’s minor leagues and later captured titles in World Extreme Cagefighting and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. However, after starting his career 18-2, Pettis has lost eight times over his last 12 appearances, his shortcomings becoming increasingly apparent. The 33-year-old Milwaukee native will try to snap a two-fight losing streak at UFC 249 on Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. Awaiting Pettis: a rematch with Donald Cerrone—a man against whom he scored a body kick knockout a little more than seven years ago.
As Pettis puts the finishing touches on a coronavirus-modified training camp, a look at some of the rivalries that brought him to worldwide relevance and acclaim:
A rapid succession of crackling body kicks from Pettis seemed to unnerve the champion. (Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)
Pettis became the sixth lightweight titleholder in Ultimate Fighting Championship history when he submitted Henderson with a slick first-round armbar in the UFC 164 main event on Aug. 31, 2013 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. “Smooth” verbally surrendered 4:31 into Round 1, his reign atop the 155-pound weight class over after 552 days. Henderson had designs on avenging his first loss to the Roufusport mainstay—a bitter unanimous decision defeat under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner in December 2010 that featured the famed “Showtime” kick. Pettis had other ideas. Henderson tried to wear down the challenger in the clinch and was effective doing so for a time. However, a rapid succession of crackling body kicks from Pettis seemed to unnerve the champion. Henderson later assumed top position after an attempted hand-plant kick from his chief rival and settled in the Milwaukee native’s guard. Moments later, his arm was trapped hopelessly in Pettis’ clutches, his grip on the UFC lightweight crown lost.
Pettis did not flinch and responded to the adversity in spectacular fashion. (Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)
Not even a Cesar Gracie-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was safe from Pettis’ potent submission skills. “Showtime” tapped Melendez with a second-round guillotine choke to retain the undisputed lightweight championship in the UFC 181 co-headliner on Dec. 6, 2014 in Las Vegas. A former Strikeforce and WEC titleholder who had never before been finished, Melendez conceded defeat 1:53 into Round 2 before a stunned crowd of 9,617 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. “El Nino” enjoyed early success with repeated clinches, close-quarters punching bursts and one completed takedown. Pettis did not flinch and responded to the adversity in spectacular fashion. The gifted champion cracked Melendez with a short right hook in the second round and slowly started to establish his foothold in the match. Later, he countered a takedown attempt by snatching and sitting down on the guillotine. Pettis then rolled into a mounted position, forcing the tapout from the notoriously durable Santa Ana, California native.
Dos Anjos pitched a shutout, winning all five rounds on all three scorecards. (Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)
Dos Anjos with immaculate precision executed the game plan designed by Kings MMA impresario Rafael Cordeiro, as he captured the lightweight championship with a unanimous decision over Pettis in the UFC 185 main event on March 14, 2015 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Brazilian pitched a shutout, winning all five rounds on all three scorecards. Pettis spun his wheels from the start and never recovered. Dos Anjos sent one left hand after another crashing into his face, secured nine takedowns and essentially manhandled the Roufusport lynchpin across their 25-minute encounter. He outlanded Pettis in significant strikes, 90-54, and total strikes, 144-96, passed guard five times and moved to the Milwaukee native’s back in three of the five rounds.