Tim Caplan –News Editor
With the odds stacked against him, Anthony Pettis shocked the MMA world in typical “Showtime” fashion on Saturday when he Superman-punched his way to the top of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Welterweight (170 lbs) rankings with a prolific knockout of number three ranked Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the main event of the night. UFC Fight Night 148 took place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on March 23.
When Pettis lost his lightweight (155 lbs) world title in March 2015 to Raphael Dos Anjos at UFC 185, he looked like a defeated man. It has been a long road back to contendership for Pettis, trading wins and losses throughout the past four years at three different weight classes, compiling a 3-6 record including three bad technical knockout (TKO) losses to Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and most recently Tony Ferguson in a fight of the year candidate in which he broke his hand. Pettis was a +305 underdog going into fight night, and many in the MMA community believed there was no chance Pettis would be in the UFC after this fight, much less win by stoppage.
“Wonderboy” is a two-time title challenger at welterweight, and has adapted his traditional karate style to develop an MMA record of 14-3, with wins over Rory Macdonald, former champion Johny Hendricks, and Jorge Masvidal.
Pettis entered his first fight at welterweight the much smaller competitor. Throughout the first round the two exchanged flashy strikes, with Pettis landing his patented boy kicks and Thompson his signature spinning heel kick, as well as several straight crosses, which bloodied up Pettis’ face toward the end of the first five minutes.
Pettis plotted on Thompson, landing rear leg kicks, slowing his movement, and with just five seconds to go in the second round landed a superman punch that sent “Wonderboy” to the floor, and was knocked unconscious with two follow-up punches on the ground before referee Herb Dean separated the two.
In his post fight scrum Pettis explained his strategy, “If he was going southpaw we wanted him to turn so he couldn’t take the hook… once he did that, it was my que to go for the hooks… once he took that stance, boom, overhand right.”
The rest of the night was largely uneventful, with four of the six fights on the main card going to decision. Number one flyweight (125 lbs) contender Jussier Formiga won unanimously over Deivison Figueiredo and will most likely face champion Henry Cejudo in a rematch for the world title next. Fourth ranked heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes also gained a division victory over Justin Willis.
The next UFC main event will feature a lightweight matchup between elite strikers Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethe. It will take place next Saturday, March 30, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.