Anthony Pettis is making up for lost time.
Three months after his impressive submission win over top contender Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181 last December 6, UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis returns to the Octagon to headline UFC 185 this Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Pettis will put his strap on the line against the streaking Rafael Dos Anjos who owns three consecutive and impressive wins over a nine month period.
The quick turnaround is seen as Pettis’ way of making up for lost time after he missed 16 months of action following his 1st round 2013 Submission of the Year win over former champion Benson Henderson during their title match ( and rematch) at UFC 164 last August 2013. He was scheduled to defend his belt against Josh Thompson in December that year but Pettis pulled out of the event one month prior to the fight, citing a knee injury.
Pettis was also involved in a “Super Fight” talk against featherweight champion Jose Aldo, but that never materialized and Pettis was later booked to coach opposite Melendez at TUF 20 with the two fighting each other at the finale as with the tradition of the reality show where coaches fought in the final event.
Begging For a Title Shot
Dos Anjos ended 2014 as the #1 ranked contender after going 3-1 during the year and ending it with three impressive wins over Jason High, Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. He started 2014 on the wrong foot when he lost via unanimous decision to the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov in April 2014. However, he rose in the rankings with a second round knockout of Jason High and then his controversial first round stoppage of the former champion Benson Henderson. After beating Henderson, Dos Anjos was “begging” UFC Dana White for a title shot against Pettis. But since Pettis was scheduled to fight Melendez, the UFC gave him bad boy Nate Diaz instead. Dos Anjos punished Diaz for three rounds and won via unanimous decision to earn the #1 contender position.
Dos Anjos has been in the UFC since 2008 but has never fought for the title. He’s always been known as a good contender but he never became elite until he polished his striking skill under the tutelage of famed trainer Rafael Cordiero. Now a complete fighter, Dos Anjos believes he has what it takes to reach the summit of the lightweight division and topple Pettis.
Who Takes This?
With his striking game improved, Dos Anjos has seen a career resurgence much like what Fabricio Werdum has done in the heavyweight division. Dos Anjos has always been a special physical specimen who has elite athleticism but Cordiero’s given him that devastating punch-kick combo that punishes the opponent from head to the legs. His right hand packs a mean punch that can knock out anybody in this weight class (Just ask Bendo). Dos Anjos is also an outstanding wrestler who can shoot a good double. This Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has a heavy base and owns nice passes. He also has a powerful ground and pound game.
Unfortunately for Dos Anjos, he is fighting a once in a lifetime talent in Pettis. If Dos Anjos’ athleticism is elite, Pettis’ is out of this world. He is a marvel to watch with dynamic moves we’ve never seen before. Pettis’ killer instinct is unrivaled. He uses the entire octagon as his stage to slowly devour his prey. It’s hard to say whether Pettis is a better striker than a submission artist because he excels in both. He is smart and cunning but it isn’t all about skill for this champion. He also packs a lot of power in both his punches and kicks. If there is ever a weakness that Dos Anjos can take advantage of, it’s Pettis’ defense.
More than head movements and blocking shots, Pettis’ defense is more of movement and maintaining distance. It will be interesting if Dos Anjos sees this though. Overall, Pettis is the solid favorite at -430 while Dos Anjos is a +345 underdog. It will be an interesting fight on the feet though with Dos Anjos’ improvement. Experts are picking Pettis to win by late knockout as Dos Anjos tends to overuse his durability to walk through his opponents’ shots in order to impose his will and game. That has worked against other opponents. But not against Anthony Pettis.