Sergio Pettis defeated Will Campuzano at UFC 167 by unanimous decision, and the performance helped put where he stands in the bantamweight division into perspective.
Pettis entered with a perfect 9-0 record and a lot of hype. Had he gone out and blown through Campuzano, there might have been talk of title contention, but that is not where Pettis is at right now.
He is only 20 years old. He is growing as a fighter and still maturing as a man. There is no need for the UFC to throw him into the deep end of the pool. The promotion can use his performance at UFC 167 as a building block for where he is in the division.
The UFC has a history of slow-building young prospects. The most shining example is Jon Jones. Is Pettis a clear-cut future champion like Jones was? No, but he shows incredible upside as a competitor. And the UFC can facilitate his growth by finding lower-ranked bantamweights to be his 2014 opponents.
The matchmakers can find one-dimensional fighters for Pettis to test his abilities against. It will help him develop his skills but still be the favored fighter. Eventually, if he keeps on winning, he can move into a more marquee bout.
Pettis showed well-rounded skills at UFC 167: a strong striking attack, good grappling skills and solid overall defense.
If the UFC tossed him to the wolves of the division, it would only hamper his growth. The elite of the division would be favored over him, and there is no need to jeopardize his promising future now.
He is a marketable athlete. The UFC will see the value in him, but more importantly, it will see the long-term value in him. That is the key.
With a slow build up the ranks, he can be molded into a star of the division. He will have to do his part by winning, but the UFC can help him along the way.
Pettis, the UFC and the fans will all be winners if that happens.