Anthony "Showtime" Pettis put himself back in the spotlight with a stunning second-round knockout win over Stephen Thompson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 148 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday.
Pettis looked more aggressive in his debut as a welterweight. He opened up the first round in attack mode, looking to close the distance with Thompson and landing some of his boxing as a result. However, Thompson's ability to counter while moving out of the way appeared to give him a slight early edge.
That edge would be wiped out in an instant, though. Backed against the fence, Pettis finally timed up a Thompson kick and launched a superman punch that floored the former welterweight title challenger.
The win reinvigorates a career in Pettis that seemed to be going off the rails. The former lightweight champion decided to become a welterweight after mixed results as a featherweight.
The loss now puts some pressure on Thompson. The karate practitioner is just 1-3 in his last four fights since fighting Tyron Woodley to a draw in November 2016.
The Nashville crowd saw a decision-heavy card play out before the welterweight main event. Curtis Blaydes and Jussier Formiga highlighted the card with impressive performances that should affect title pictures, while Maycee Barber also made a name for herself.
- Anthony Pettis def. Stephen Thompson via KO (Rd. 2, 4:55)
- Curtis Blaydes def. Justin Willis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-25)
- John Makdessi def. Jesus Pinedo via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)
- Jussier Formiga def. Deiveson Figueiredo via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)
- Luis Pena def. Steven Peterson via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Maycee Barber def. JJ Aldrich via TKO (Rd. 2, 3:01)
- Bryce Mitchell def. Bobby Moffett via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Marlon Vera def. Frankie Saenz via TKO (Rd. 1, 1:25)
- Jennifer Maia def. Alexis Davis via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
- Randa Markos def. Angela Hill via armbar submission (Rd. 1, 4:24)
- Chris Gutierrez def. Ryan MacDonald via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
- Jordan Espinosa def. Eric Shelton via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2)
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis
Curtis "Razor" Blaydes is on a whole different level than Justin Willis.
That's the takeaway after Blaydes thoroughly dominated the No. 10-ranked heavyweight. Willis was hoping to prove that he belongs with the upper echelon of the heavyweight division and instead was given a wrestling clinic.
Blaydes scored a nice suplex to go with a near full five minutes of control on the ground in the opening frame:
He proved he isn't just a wrestler either with a straight right that bewildered Willis in the second round:
The third round felt like a mere formality, as Blaydes put on the finishing touches to an absolute mauling.
The loss is the first for Willis in the UFC. Big Pretty was coming off the biggest win of his career with a decision over Mark Hunt, but it's clear that his wrestling isn't on par with someone like Blaydes.
This was a strong bounce-back performance for Razor after his second loss to Francis Ngannou his last time out.
John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo
Neither John Makdessi nor Jesus Pinedo was given much time to come up with a game plan for his opponent, and it showed in an unremarkable lightweight affair.
The pairing of the two was announced 10 days before Saturday night. The two barely threw or landed any strikes in the first round as they felt each other out. Unfortunately, that "feeling out" process continued to carry into the second round until the two let their hands go briefly.
In the end, it was probably Makdessi's leg kicks that swayed the fight in his favor. It was a learning experience for the 22-year-old Pinedo and an unimpressive win for the 33-year-old Makdessi.
Neither of these fighters' stocks went up very much after this one.
Jussier Formiga vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
In a battle between Deiveson Figueiredo's power and Jussier Formiga's smothering grappling game, it was Formiga who came out ahead in a decision win.
The No. 1-ranked flyweight was able to neutralize Figueiredo for the majority of the fight, controlling where it took place and consistently transitioning to dominant positions.
Figueiredo was active from the bottom. He opened up a nasty cut above Formiga's eye in the second round, but it wasn't enough to sway the judges to give him the round.
If the flyweight division continues to exist, then this was a big fight. Formiga made himself the clear-cut fighter to take on champion Henry Cejudo. However, the division's future is still in questions, according to E. Spencer Kyte of Sporting News.
The loss marks the first time Figueiredo hasn't had his hand raised in his professional career.
Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson
"Violent Bob Ross" Luis Pena didn't paint a masterpiece against Steven Peterson, but he did put Peterson in his own little world via unanimous decision.
Pena missed weight in his first foray into the featherweight division, but he did showcase a diverse set of skills in earning the nod over Peterson. The 25-year-old utilized his massive length advantage over his opponent to sweep him to dominant positions on the ground, land elbows from the clinch and win most of the striking exchanges.
Peterson demonstrated incredible durability and toughness but was unable to ever put Pena in danger.
With Peterson losing half of his last six fights heading into this bout, this felt like an opportunity for Pena to show off, and he mostly delivered. The inability to finish was mostly due to Peterson's toughness. It will be interesting to see if the 6'3" Pena looks to continue to cut all the way down to 145 or if he goes back up to lightweight.
Maycee Barber vs. JJ Aldrich
"The Future" looked bright, as 20-year-old prospect Maycee Barber moved to 7-0 in her career with a second-round TKO win over JJ Aldrich to kick off the main card.
Barber—making her second appearance in the Octagon—showed some weaknesses. She was tagged by a straight left in the first that wobbled her and put the fight in doubt for a second. She definitely has things to work on, but she also showed off the power that has led to four straight TKO finishes for her.
The women's 115-pound division is in need of recognizable faces, and Barber has the potential to become one. It isn't often that a fighter as young as she is can make mid-fight adjustments as she did in this one.
Her striking defense was rough early on, but the ability to adjust and still get the finish shows a fight IQ that will serve her well as her career progresses. This was a fight that was important in her development as a fighter.