Anthony Pettis flattened Stephen Thompson in the UFC Fight Night 148 headliner on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee, as an Ultimate Fighting Championship event saw a longtime lightweight knock out a former welterweight title challenger for the second time in as many weeks.
Pettis entered the bout desperate for a victory, having won just three of his previous nine fights. After being bloodied up by the karateka for the better part of 10 minutes, the former lightweight champion threw a Superman punch that left Thompson on the canvas in an unconscious heap.
“My cue for the hook punch was when he turned his right leg back,” Pettis said at a post-fight media scrum. “You can’t take a hook from there. I knew it was either that round or the next round I was going to catch him with some hooks. When he showed it, I went for it and got it again.”
Since losing his lightweight title to Rafael dos Anjos in March 2015, Pettis has rarely looked like the fighter who once appeared destined to be remembered as an all-time great. The Milwaukee native moved down to featherweight in an attempt to recapture some of his magic but struggled with the weight cut and returned to 155 pounds. After rejoining the lightweight division, Pettis alternated wins and losses over four bouts before testing his luck as a welterweight.
“I felt amazing,” Pettis said. “My punching power is a lot stronger. When he threw his first kick, I knew. I said, ‘That is all the welterweights have.’ It didn’t feel much different, honestly. It’s not that big of a deal to go up 15 pounds.”
The loss pushes Thompson to the bottom of a crowded welterweight pecking order. “Wonderboy” has only mustered one win across his last five contests.
“Crap happens, you know?” Thompson said during a Facebook live video he shot while receiving treatment at a local hospital. “It happens, especially when you’re in this sport long enough. After 80 fights, I’ve never been KO’d. This time, [it was] by a small guy. I can’t believe he got me with the Superman punch. Golly, Superman off the cage. It was so ninja I didn’t even see it coming.”
The knockout put Pettis in an exclusive group of fighters -- Kenny Florian and Conor McGregor are the others -- who have posted at least one UFC win as a featherweight, lightweight and welterweight. After McGregor was informed of the news by ESPN’s Greg Rosenstein, he tweeted his congratulations to Pettis and followed it with, “Now, who f------ wants it.” Pettis was asked about a possible showdown with the former two-division UFC champion and conceded he was interested. The Roufusport product understands a fight with McGregor would likely result in the largest payday of his career.
“Conor McGregor put a tweet out,” Pettis said. “That’s a fun fight. He’s another guy that I love his style. If he wants to do it, let’s do it. I’m not afraid to fight anybody.”
Pettis also discussed the possibility of facing the winner of the dos Anjos-Kevin Lee welterweight main event at UFC Fight Night 151 on May 18 or the winner of the Justin Gaethje-Edson Barboza lightweight headliner at UFC on ESPN 2 on March 30.
Not Here to Make Friends
In the buildup to the co-main event, Justin Willis appeared to be quite confident while taking every opportunity to trash talk opponent Curtis Blaydes. During the faceoffs after weigh-ins, Willis even took a chance to bark at the Elevation Fight Team rep’s father, saying he would not be able to save Blaydes during the fight. While Willis did all the talking before the fight, Blaydes got the last laugh.
Blaydes dominated “Big Pretty” by throwing the American Kickboxing Academy product around the cage, much like a dog would a chew toy. A national wrestling champion at the junior college level, he took down Willis seven times on his way to a lopsided unanimous decision. Blaydes now holds the all-time record for takedowns recorded among UFC heavyweights with 40. Afterward, he taunted Willis, calling him “fat” and “Big Titty.”
“He disrespected my father,” Blaydes said. “I was all good until then. When he disrespected my father, I held onto that.”
The defeat was Willis’ first in the UFC. He took a much different tone after the fight.
“This will be my last post until certain things are fixed with myself, and my team,” Willis shared on his Instagram. “I will remain humble as I am in victory and also in my very LAST defeat of my career. I will make 0 excuses but I must be honest with myself and my fans, I froze up! It will NEVER happen again.”
Heavyweight Tai Tuivasa has engaged in several heated exchanges with the Californian since Willis defeated his teammate and mentor, Mark Hunt, in December. He took to Twitter to rub the loss in Willis’ face: “@Bigpretty MMA looks like the big ball and @RazorBlaydes265 is Miley Cyrus. Good win. #wreckingball #bigtitty.”
In arguably the most intriguing matchup at UFC Fight Night 148, Jussier da Silva managed to pick up his fourth straight victory with a calculated performance against the previously undefeated Deiveson Figueiredo. During his post-fight interview, a fired-up “Formiga” accused flyweight champion Henry Cejudo of running from him instead of giving the Brazilian a title shot. The sentiment did not die at all during a post-fight media scrum.
“I’m the No. 1 [contender] in the division,” the American Top Team standout said. “I should be the next one to fight him. I don’t know how somebody that is behind me is going to fight him. It really doesn’t make any sense. It is my time. I have to fight Cejudo.”
Cejudo and da Silva battled back in November 2015, with “The Messenger” earning a split decision. It does not appear as though “Formiga” will get his desired rematch anytime soon, as UFC President Dana White revealed he had other ideas for both men.
“I now have a plan. I didn’t have a plan before, but I now have a plan,” White said in an interview on ESPN+. “It looks like we’re going to do the [Marlon] Moraes-Cejudo fight [for the vacant bantamweight championship]. They both want that fight really bad, [and it] seems like a good fight to make with the whole [T.J.] Dillashaw thing now; and then you do ‘Formiga’ versus [Joseph] Benavidez on the same card. [If] anything goes wrong, one of them can step up and take the fight, and then the winner of that fight is the guaranteed No. 1 contender for the next shot.”
‘The Future’ is Now
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Maycee Barber recorded her second UFC win with a come-from-behind technical knockout of J.J. Aldrich, as she pushed her unblemished record to 7-0. The outspoken rising star has charisma and killer instincts, drawing comparisons to former UFC women’s bantamweight champion and current World Wresting Entertainment superstar Ronda Rousey.
“In a way, I guess people could look at it like, ‘Oh, she is undefeated. She has the thing like Ronda did,” the 20-year-old said during a post-fight interview. “I’m a completely different person than Ronda. That’s no disrespect to her. She’s a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal fighter. She had an amazing career. I just feel like I want to take my career a little bit different. If I ever do get a loss … I’m going to continue to fight so I never get one, but if I do, I hope I can come back a little different than she did. We will see. I’m hoping to not take that loss.”