Anthony Pettis got back in the win column with a unanimous-decision win over Donald Cerrone to close out the prelim portion of UFC 249 from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
The two turned back the clock in an exciting three-round affair, but it was Pettis who held the consistent advantage in earning the nod from all three judges.
Both action fighters went to work in the first round. Pettis showcased some sharp counter-punching while Cowboy landed some kicks to the body. The stand-up action was highlighted by Pettis when his jump kick found a home but it led to a takedown from Cerrone where Cowboy scored some points on the ground.
Pettis would carry the striking advantage into the second round. The pace picked up a bit as Showtime started to open up with his counter-striking in response to Cerrone's exchanges. But it was just a precursor for what would be a fun third round.
With just five minutes left Cerrone and Pettis showed off why they have been fan favorites for years. Cerrone landed a massive head kick but came back swinging and had Cerrone rocked in part because of an eye poke.
The win gets Pettis back to winning after suffering back-to-back losses to Nate Diaz and Carlos Diego Ferreira. The 33-year-old has bounced around from lightweight to welterweight multiple times to try to rejuvenate his career, but neither weight class has stuck. Even with the win, Showtime is just 3-3 since 2018.
This opportunity was an unexpected one. With just a little more than two weeks to prepare as the fight was scheduled on short notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pettis had little time to prepare. His coach, Duke Roufus, believes the shortened camp and modifications actually helped his fighter.
"He came in with an idea of how he wanted to train for this fight, and he brought it to my attention and he communicated very well," Roufus said, per Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting. "We've gone with some older methods and preparation for the fight that has produced way better results than we have for some of our last fights. He's just had an amazing time preparing for this fight."
The bout not only gets Pettis another shot to get back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014 but gives him bragging rights over Cerrone. This is his second time beating Cowboy. The two fought in 2013, and Pettis' TKO victory set him up to win the lightweight championship over Benson Henderson in his next fight.
Given Pettis' record in later years, it isn't likely we see him fighting at a championship level again. But this was a memorable win for him given the circumstances against a familiar foil.