UFC Nashville’s headliner will see Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis make his UFC welterweight debut against the striking great, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Anthony Pettis left the T-Mobile Arena on October 6 of last year in on the back of one of the finest fights of the year. He came away in defeat, of course, to the unstoppable force that is Tony Ferguson but all in all, he did a good job in reminding the world exactly how game he remains.
The unmissable style of Pettis’ peak years causes many people to rush into saying he is ‘rejuvenated’ or ‘reborn’ out of a nostalgic excitement. In truth, Showtime’s approach in there has been pretty much the same since day one and when he comes up against a fighter who can exploit his weaknesses – he just doesn’t look like himself.
In the UFC Nashville headliner he will take on top welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in a divisional move that no doubt came as a surprise to most.
Less than two-and-a-half years ago, Pettis fought for the interim-featherweight title against the still-reigning champion of the division Max Holloway. He, of course, missed weight for that fight, something that brought his ill-advised time at 145lbs to an end.
Stephen Thompson is in something of a state of limbo within the welterweight division’s title-picture having failed to defeat the former champ Tyron Woodley twice before losing out on the scorecards to Darren Till in something of a gun-shy performance.
And to be honest, that has been the main problem with Wonderboy since he got in and around that title-picture.
His original run to his eventual title shot saw him defeat the likes of Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger showcased a far more offensively-minded fighter, one that was able to exploit his opponents’ momentum – something that usually resulted in scintillating knockouts.
However, as he grew into his prime, fighters began to figure out how to limit his offense, something that saw his fights with Rory MacDonald, Tyron Woodley, and Darren Till turn into staring contests.
Anthony Pettis will likely not give him such respect.
This fight is one that includes two guys who are at pivotal points in their UFC careers.
Both need to show up here and make a point.
Both will likely be locked out of title-contention if they lose.
The very fact that Pettis decided to move to welterweight is astounding and in a matchup with Wonderboy, the range and distance-control will likely be his undoing.
We’ve seen Thompson recover from hard-hitting (and comparatively massive) power-punchers like Woodley and Till in the past.
Unless Pettis springs something completely unorthodox on Thompson, I honestly can’t see him getting the finish. Submissions may work yes, but Thompson is too crafty to get dragged into Showtime’s guard.
Overall, I can’t see a path to victory for Anthony Pettis here.
He’s incredibly tough and dynamic and I would imagine that this fight will be a lot more entertaining than most do but Thompson’s agility and management of range should win it out for him here.
Prediction: Stephen Thompson via third-round TKO.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena