It came to the surprise of many when Anthony “Showtime” Pettis announced that he was again jumping up another weight class to take on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC Nashville. Pettis is heading into this contest as a considerable underdog, listed at a +290 according to oddsmakers—understandably so.
To say that Pettis is searching for consistency would be an understatement. He has lost six of his past nine contests and has floated between different weight classes. He is a far from the form that saw him turn in highlight after highlight-reel finish. Just how dynamic was Pettis? Simply search him on YouTube and be prepared for your jaw to hit the ground. It was uncanny how good he was. He wasn’t just flash but he had plenty of substance as well. He was dominant, going 5-1 in the UFC’s lethal lightweight division after moving over from the WEC where he lifted the belt from Ben Henderson.
In 2015, Pettis stood across the octagon from Rafael Dos Anjos. Things were never the same after that contest. Dos Anjos not only beat Pettis but outclassed him. It wasn’t just that Dos Anjos beat him or even the fact that he dominated him and took his belt, it was something far worse that occurred. Dos Anjos showed the blueprint to defeat Pettis. Grab him, take him down and making it a grinding ugly affair.
Eddie Alvarez came along after and did the same thing Dos Anjos had done. Make it another ugly fight that resulted in back to back losses for Pettis. The former Lightweight champion clearly had issues with wrestlers but if you gave him room, nobody could compete with him on the feet.
At least that was the thought until Edson Barboza destroyed him in a striking contest. That was three straight losses for “Showtime.” A drop down in weight which resulted in one win and one loss made him move back up to the Lightweight division. The results have been mediocre at best. Pettis is 2-2 in his last four fights and is now taking on Stephen Thompson in a whole new weight class.
Thompson has just one win in his past four fights but looks can be deceiving. His 2016 title challenge of former champion Tyron Woodley ended in a draw. Even Dana White thought Thompson won that fight. The immediate rematch was another close call but Thompson came out on the short end of that call. In his last contest against Darren Till he once again came up short in a contest many thought he did enough to earn the victory.
This is a big fight for both men. If Thompson goes on to lose to a smaller man then his title aspirations will take a hard hit. Pettis believe it or not has plenty to lose as well as another loss albeit from another weight class will be his seventh in his past ten fights.
Thompson has the advantage just about everywhere. He is essentially a bigger and better version of Pettis. So “Showtime” should be the underdog going into this fight. Does that mean he’s being overlooked? Absolutely not.
This won’t be a fun night for Pettis.