Miller opened the first round on offense, stalking Pettis down and chopping him with multiple leg kicks. While he found early success on offense, however, he conceded the center of the cage to the former champion and gave him the room to work. That allowed Pettis to get comfortable throwing his signature kicks and, eventually, swing the momentum (and the score cards) with a vicious combination.
The second started with Miller looking to take the lead once again, but a head kick landed for Pettis, splitting Miller wide open. Though Miller powered through the shot to get a takedown, Pettis flashed his underrated grappling skills to escape, take dominant position and once again secure 10 points with the judges.
Whether he was unnerved by Pettis' crafty ground skills or exhausted from two tough rounds, Miller took a more stand-up-focused approach in the third. That, however, is not wise against a man once regarded as one of the deadliest strikers in MMA. Miller plodded around the cage while Pettis stalked forward, peppered him with strikes and outmuscled him in the clinch at every engagement.
That head kick though 👀 @ShowtimePettis #UFC213 https://t.co/LYtgmiIc1E2017-7-9 03:05:46
The result was a clean, unanimous 30-27 decision win for Showtime.
This was a much-needed win for Pettis. After dropping the UFC lightweight title to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015, Pettis' career basically imploded as he dropped two more fights to Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza. While a win over Charles Oliveira gave him a surprise title opportunity in December, the result was a vicious beating from Max Holloway.
Patrick Wyman @Patrick_Wyman
Pettis could've found a way to lose that fight, but he looked great. Nice performance. #UFC2132017-7-9 03:03:14
Beating Miller doesn't erase that ugly 1-4 run, but it does help him to regain his footing, at least momentarily. Despite coming off a tough loss of his own, Miller is a respected veteran with recent wins over Joe Lauzon and Thiago Alves. Pettis taking a clean victory puts him in a position to return to the lightweight top-10 and potentially rebuild his contender status.
Pettis isn't "back" quite yet, but this is the performance he needed to regain his confidence and reestablish himself with fans. Another win like that and it might just be enough for him to return to the title picture in the wide-open lightweight division.