Anthony Pettis: The Most Exciting Fighter in MMA

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Anthony Pettis: The Most Exciting Fighter in MMA
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After making his bones with the "Showtime Kick," Anthony Pettis solidified himself as one of the MMA's most captivating fighters by KO'ing both Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone in devastating fashion.

Pettis took it a step further and made his claim as the sport's most exhilarating fighter last month, shocking Benson Henderson with an armbar to take his lightweight belt in a rematch at UFC 164.

While some foresaw "Showtime" securing another decision over "Bendo," few predicted he would score a finish, especially a first-round submission on the ever-durable former champ.

But even with his vivacious win over Bendo, and with lopsided victories over Lauzon and Cerrone, does Pettis genuinely embody excitement more than guys like Carlos Condit, Jon Jones or Anderson Silva? And if he doesn't, is it only due to the notion that Showtime tends to shy away from flashy wrestling techniques like slams and trips?

During a post-fight press scrum at UFC 164, company president Dana White compared his newest 155-pound linchpin to Henderson, who defended his belt three times.

We were just talking a couple days ago about Ben Henderson breaking the record for most title defenses, and if you look at the fights that Ben Henderson's had, [he's] squeaked out some decisions over guys and [the fights were] very close, and this and that. And then the way that Pettis went in and handled business tonight. He looks like, by far, the baddest, nastiest, 155-pounder on Earth, easily.

Pettis didn't just snatch another title belt from his nemesis, he handed Henderson just his third career loss and his second career submission setback, doing so with bravado and relative ease.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Before his rematch with Bendo, Showtime made short work of Lauzon and Cerrone in back-to-back scraps.

Pettis nearly beheaded the streaking Lauzon with a head kick from hell at UFC 144. He then demoralized "Cowboy" with kicks to the body and follow-up punches at UFC on Fox 6.

For his efforts, Pettis garnered bonuses in his last three outings, grabbing "Knockout of the Night" honors against Lauzon and Cerrone and pocketing a "Submission of the Night" bonus against Bendo.

Pettis surrendered a combined eight takedowns in his first two UFC fights, but somewhere in between a decision loss to Clay Guida and his win over Lauzon, the Milwaukee native fell into a groove.

Showtime hasn't surrendered a takedown since his win over Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136. In the three fights since, Pettis has outstruck his opponents, 36-15, spending a brief but exciting 8:37 in the Octagon.

Fans obviously shouldn't expect to see Pettis knock out an opponent with a slam like Jones potentially could. However, aside from Jones' superior wrestling chops, Showtime can match "Bones," Condit and Silva in every other department, at least in terms of consistently delivering explosive offensive techniques with bad intentions.

Most already considered Pettis a vicious knockout artist with great dexterity in his standup game before UFC 164. Once he forced Bendo to verbally tap, however, the masses finally recognized Showtime as one of the most well-rounded and dynamic offensive fighters in the game. 

After all, aside from hardcore fans, few can recollect Showtime's back-to-back triangle-choke wins over Alex Karalexis and Shane Roller in the WEC.

"I think that everybody who thought Pettis would win tonight, didn't think he'd win by submission. That's for damn sure," White said.

The brilliance Pettis has flashed in his last three bouts should serve as a precursor for electrifying maneuvers that the 26-year-old will surely attempt to unveil in the future.

Fans can see the continued maturation of the sport's most explosive offensive force when Showtime tangles with the ever-resilient Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 9 in December.

If Pettis can finish Thomson, who's only been stopped once in his 12-year career—a highlight-reel KO against Yves Edwards at UFC 49—he'll unofficially, but undeniably, become the sport's most rousing talent.

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