Presented by UFC 241 on ESPN+
The fact that Anthony “Showtime” Pettis enters the UFC 241 co-main event against Nate Diaz as the B-Side is all the evidence you need to understand how absolutely huge this fight is.
To put things into perspective, Pettis is a former UFC and WEC champion, one of the most innovative strikers in MMA, and oh yeah, he’s main evented five UFC cards, including three Pay Per Views, and taken home eight fight-night bonuses for his crafty submissions and sublime knockouts. Quite frankly, “Showtime” is a legit mixed martial arts superstar — the dude even had his own Wheaties box back in 2014 — and his fight against Diaz on the UFC 241 Pay Per View main card on ESPN+ is bound to be the subject of plenty of watercooler talk come Monday.
The skinny on Pettis is that he entered the UFC in 2011 on the heels of his signature Showtime Kick, a fancy high-flying move that involves leaping off the Octagon and roundhouse kicking another dude in the face. He was destined to do big things, even had a guaranteed title shot if he wanted it, but Pettis chose to remain active and quickly lost his UFC debut.
Wrestling was his weakness, or so the scouting report said, but after taking some early lumps in the Octagon, Pettis improved his defensive wrestling enough to start knocking fools out with head and liver kicks. And with his highlight reel growing with every fight, he earned his first UFC title shot in 2013, needing all of the four-and-a-half minutes to snatch Benson Henderson’s arm and hyperextend the elbow.
Really it was three nasty kicks to the body that Pettis reeled off just before the submission that showed how well-rounded his game was. And like that, the UFC had a new handsome face for their promotional posters, hair always perfectly lined up.
Pettis continued to be one of the faces of the UFC for another year when he defended his title and coached a season of The Ultimate Fighter, but almost as quickly as his meteoric star shot into the solar system, Pettis soon faded from the limelight. Again, wrestling was his downfall.
The truth is, since 2015, Anthony Pettis is actually a 4-6 fighter in the UFC, but if you look at the names he’s lost to: Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson; all but one has held some incarnation of a UFC title. Seriously, there is absolutely no shame in dropping those fights, especially considering his bout against Ferguson on the UFC 229: McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov mega card topped many ‘2018 Fight of the Year’ lists.
With Pettis, there’s rarely a boring fight, and considering that his chances at regaining the lightweight title are rather slim, he made the ballsy choice to move up to welterweight in 2019. Many felt he was too small for the division, that his height and reach would be an issue. There were also many who didn’t understand why the UFC would book Pettis against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson earlier this year for the main event in Nashville.
Leave it to Pettis to prove all the skeptics wrong …
Losing the first two rounds against a much bigger and rangier Thompson, Pettis delivered one of his all-time highlights in his welterweight debut, again leaping off the cage, although this time he used a devastating hook to knock Thompson dead cold. Stiff, in fact.
It was a major reminder that Anthony “Showtime” Pettis is still a great fighter and deserving of big fights. His UFC 241 PPV co-main event against Nate Diaz is exactly the type of fight that will get fans, and casual onlookers, to tune into ESPN+ on August 17.
Adding a new wrinkle to Pettis’ preparation for Diaz is that this is basically the first time we’ll see Pettis in a “bad blood” match.
For Diaz, the idea of disliking his opponent is basically a given, but Pettis has never really had major heat with any of his adversaries. There was a brief moment, after his UFC 181 title defense against Gilbert Melendez that Pettis started a verbal feud a young and rather unknown Khabib Nurmagomedov, but that rivalry went nowhere. So, it will be interesting to see how an angry Anthony Pettis decides to approach this fight against Diaz.
From a technical standpoint, this is honestly one of the most intriguing MMA matchups in a long time because, well, Pettis and Diaz can both really do it all.
Recording finishes in 82-percent of his MMA wins, Pettis is primarily known for his wild Taekwondo kicks, but his submission game is vastly underrated. In fact, during his UFC career, Pettis has submitted more opponents than he’s knocked out, recording an armbar, a triangle, and a pair of guillotine chokes, one of which came against the UFC’s all-time leading submission artist, Charles Oliveira.
And just behind Oliveira on the UFC all-time list is Nate Diaz, although it appears as though the UFC has included a trio of tapouts he forced when he won season five of The Ultimate Fighter, along with a submission he recorded in the WEC. Eh, semantics …
Diaz, a finisher in 84-percent of his wins, has a rather deceiving submission game, mostly because he uses his boxing to set up submissions. He beats guys up so bad that they’re basically begging to go to the mat, very much like Conor McGregor did the first time he faced Diaz back in March 2016.
This fight is basically the perfect storm: big-name fighter vs. big name fighter and finisher vs. finisher. Oh, and the “bad blood” angle just puts it over the top.
So stop what you’re doing and set a reminder on your smartphone to order the UFC 241 Pay Per View main card on ESPN+. It’s the only way to see Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and Nate Diaz go at it.
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic (Main Event)
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz (Co-Main Event)
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa
Gabriel Benitez vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch
UFC 241 Prelims*
Raphael Assuncao vs. Cory Sandhagen
Drakkar Klose vs. Christos Giagos
Manny Bermudez vs. Casey Kenney
Devonte Smith vs. John Makdessi
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Brandon Davis
Sabina Mazo vs. Shana Dobson
Hannah Cifers vs. Jodie Esquibel
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