UFC Fight Night Report: Anthony Pettis knocks out Stephen Thompson

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2019/03/23/ufc-fight-night-report-anthony-pettis-knocks-out-stephen-thompson/

The UFC’s welterweight division is loaded with contenders, storylines, and fights to make. Saturday night saw the addition of a former lightweight champion to that depth with Anthony Pettis scoring a sensational knockout victory over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

The former 155-pound champion, who miraculously attempted a campaign at featherweight once upon a time, seems to have found a weight class that will eliminate the stress of the weight cut on his performance. While clearly outsized by Thompson, Pettis displayed an aggressive game plan of leg kicks and pressure even though dropping the first round to the former title challenger.

With a win over the #3 ranked Thompson, Pettis is going to make an immediate splash rather than biding his time at the new weight. It’s an interesting dynamic as Pettis joins Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley, both men with ties to Rofusport, among the division’s elite. It is reminiscent of the dilemma AKA had a decade ago when Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, and Mike Swick occupied slots at welterweight but would never fight each other.

For Pettis, there is no shortage of fights as he noted he would like a rematch with Rafael dos Anjos, the man who dethroned Pettis of his lightweight gold in 2015. From a stylistic standpoint, Pettis being matched with the likes of Darren Till, Santiago Ponzinibbio, and Robbie Lawler would all be intriguing. The key will be if Pettis skyrockets in the rankings from this Thompson victory and where he views the most value from fighting those candidates.

At 32, there is a lot left for Pettis, who has been written off several times in his career and continues to reinvent himself and time will tell if the larger weight class agrees with Pettis. On night one, he leaves with a highlight-reel knockout and a victory over a solid contender.

*Jordan Espinosa def. Eric Shelton by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Chris Gutierrez def. Ryan MacDonald by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Randa Markos def. Angela Hill by armbar at 4:24 of Round 1
*Jennifer Maia def. Alexis Davis by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Marlon Vera def. Frankie Saenz by TKO at 1:25 of Round 1
*Bryce Mitchell def. Bobby Moffett by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Maycee Barber def. JJ Aldrich by TKO at 3:01 of Round 2
*Luis Pena def. Steven Peterson by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Jussier Formiga def. Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*John Makdessi def. Jesus Pinedo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Curtis Blaydes def. Justin Willis by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-27)
*Anthony Pettis def. Stephen Thompson by knockout at 4:55 of Round 2

Jordan Espinosa def. Eric Shelton by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) – Flyweight

Espinosa was making his promotional following two wins on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. I thought it was a close fight and I had it even going into the final round. Espinosa landed a head kick but followed it with an eye poke. Shelton moved forward throughout the round, but Espinosa was active with his jab. Espinosa improved to 14-5 with the victory.

Chris Gutierrez def. Ryan MacDonald by unanimous decision (30-27 all) – Bantamweight

Gutierrez was the clear winner of the fight and each round. He feinted a lot in the first round and established his kicking game. MacDonald was cut on his head and bled throughout the fight from the wound and took an elbow to it in the second round. Gutierrez slowed a bit in the third round, although still won it and went for an armbar and guillotine attempt in the closing seconds. This was Gutierrez’s first UFC win after losing his debut last November.

Randa Markos def. Angela Hill by armbar at 4:24 of Round 1 – Strawweight

These two were part of Season 20 of the Ultimate Fighter in 2014.

Markos and Hill had a big striking exchange immediately. This led to a clinch and Markos took her down into side control. Markos maneuvered to her back and extended her leg over to set up for the armbar. Hill defended but Markos had tremendous control and eventually locked on the submission for the victory. This was Markos’ first win in over a year following a loss to Nina Ansaroff and a majority draw last September against Marina Rodriguez. Markos wants to fight on the card in Ottawa on May 4th.

Jennifer Maia def. Alexis Davis by unanimous decision (29-28 all) – Flyweight

Maia won the first round through her boxing skill and connected with a big combination of punches. In the second, Davis swept the leg for a takedown and mounted Maia, who recovered half-guard but stayed on the bottom for the round and ate several short elbows. The third round was close, Maia landed a lot of strikes at a distance while Davis quietly piled up leg kicks. I had it 29-28 for Maia.

Maia improves to 16-4-1 and this was her first UFC win after getting a tough opponent in Liz Carmouche last July and going the distance in a decision loss. Maia has a good resume that includes wins over Jessica Andrade, Zoila Frausto, Vanessa Porto, and Roxanne Modafferi.

Marlon Vera def. Frankie Saenz by TKO at 1:25 of Round 1 – Featherweight

Vera used a leg kick and then caught him with a left jab that dropped Saenz. Vera followed with shots to the head and finished him, one of the shots hit Saenz in the back of the head. It was Vera’s third consecutive win following victories over Wuliji Buren and Guido Cannetti last year.

Bryce Mitchell def. Bobby Moffett by unanimous decision (29-28 all) – Featherweight

This was a great fight. Mitchell won the first and third rounds and essentially, won the fight in the final minute. In the first, he dropped Moffett with a left hand and nearly had him with a triangle armbar. Moffett came back in the second with a pair of takedowns and a D’arce attempt. It appeared Moffett was on his way to victory securing several takedowns in the third round when Mitchell escaped and took Moffett’s back. He flattened Moffett and applied a rear-naked choke, but Moffett escaped, the positional control and submission attempt were enough to swing the round and win the fight for Mitchell.

Mitchell earned his second win in the UFC coming off Season 27 of TUF. He also demanded camo shorts from Reebok after the fight.

Maycee Barber def. JJ Aldrich by TKO at 3:01 of Round 2 – Flyweight

Aldrich won the first round and provided problems for Barber to overcome. Aldrich rocked Barber and twice Barber went down to the canvas. In the second, it was Barber who was able to stun Aldrich and then connected with a knee and stopped Aldrich with strikes.

Luis Pena def. Steven Peterson by unanimous decision (30-27 all) – Catchweight

Pena is enormous for the weight class, so much so that he missed weight at 148.5 pounds.

Peterson was the better wrestler and scored two takedowns in the second round. But it was Pena with the better striking and overcame the wrestling to win the round with his strikes. He had a strong finish to Round 2. In the third, Pena hit an uppercut and high kick. He got to Peterson’s back on the mat and ended with a left head kick.

Pena apologized for the missing weight in his post-fight interview.

Jussier Formiga def. Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) – Flyweight

If people had a clearer idea of flyweight’s future, this would be a more important fight as it’s among the top contenders within the division.

Formiga dictated his style of a fight with the takedowns making the difference. He got one late in the first and mounted Figueiredo. In the second, he took Figueiredo down again and was controlling him throughout the round when Figueiredo cut him open with a right elbow off his back but wasn’t enough to steal the round. The third round started with Figueiredo standing but was eventually taken and could never change the tone of the fight to his advantage. I scored it 30-27 for Formiga.

He said Henry Cejudo is running from him. Formiga has won three straight and it must be frustrating for him and Joseph Benavidez as the division awaits an answer on its fate.

John Makdessi def. Jesus Pinedo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) – Lightweight

It wasn’t an entertaining fight for the Nashville crowd, who booed it consistently. Makdessi out struck Pineda in each round and tore apart Pinedo’s lead leg with kicks while also relying on sidekicks to the body and closing the distance to enter. Pinedo wanted a brawl and let it go in the second, landing a head kick in the process. Pinedo had his best round in the third but was still a Makdessi round on my card due to the more effective striking. It was Makdessi’s third consecutive win after victories over Abel Trujillo and Ross Pearson. Pinedo is only 22-years old and has a lot of promise with a fight against someone like Makdessi a solid learning experience.

Curtis Blaydes def. Justin Willis by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-25) – Heavyweight

This was utter domination from Blaydes. I scored the fight 30-25 for him with 10-8s in Round 1 and 2.

Blaydes took him down and repeatedly slammed him back down on the mat while delivering knees in the one-sided round. It continued in the second where Blaydes rocked Willis with a right hand and then got a big takedown. In total, Blaydes had seven takedowns in the fight. In the third round, Blaydes was a bit more conservative for the first half and then got a big takedown in the center. He was in side control and controlled Willis for the duration.

Blaydes looked phenomenal and a contender at heavyweight. It was funny because Daniel Cormier interviewed him after the fight and asked who he wanted next and Blaydes probably wanted to say “you”, but he listed off Junior dos Santos, Derrick Lewis, and Stipe Miocic as options.

Anthony Pettis def. Stephen Thompson by KO at 4:55 of Round 2 – Welterweight

The fight started with each throwing a lot of kicks. Thompson connected with the body and hit a spin kick to the head and had the edge in the round. In the second, Thompson was looking great with body and leg strikes. Thompson started using his jab as Pettis threw leg kicks. Thompson used a sidekick to send Pettis against the cage, he bounced off and landed a beautiful superman punch that knocked Thompson down and he was finished with two follow up shots for the knockout.

This was enormous for Pettis winning in his welterweight debut and said he would like to stay around at the new weight as the cut was killing him at lightweight. It’s another name added to the deep welterweight ranks.

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Beautiful Superman punch by Pettis. Roman would be proud. :fist_right:

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Definitely a roller coaster of a card tonight. Some really exciting performances, along with some very underwhelming ones.

  • What an amazing win for Anthony Pettis. The trend of the smaller man moving up and having success continues. He was the first fighter to really utilize leg kicks against wonderboy since Matt Brown, and you could see it’s effects. That being said, Anthony Pettis is still the same fighter. When he gets pressured, he collapses. There’s no reason to assume RDA wouldn’t dismantle him again, and even an aging Robbie Lawler would be a tough fight for him. I’d like to see him fight Masvidal.
  • Blaydes was dominant. He’s yet to lose to anyone not named Francis Ngannou. Still has some holes on the feet, and could use some work before he steps in there with Stipe Miocic for example.
  • Formiga vs Benavidez next? If flyweights sticking around but Henry is fighting at 135 next that’s the only fight that makes sense I suppose.

Next weekend is Barboza/Gaethje. The fight that has carried me through the past few months. I am so excited for that I can’t even put it into words. Can’t wait.

I have so much love in my heart for Anthony Pettis. He was a blast in the WEC. Could have waited around for a title shot upon coming to the UFC and decided to take on a horrendous stylistic matchup in Guida and then eventually worked his way back to that title beating Bendo and defending against Gil. So really, really glad to see him get some high level success again.

Blaydes looked good. Would love to see him get that Stipe fight. I’d also be very interested in a hypothetical Cain fight down the road if Cain’s gonna be fighting again. Just given what seems to be UFC’s heavyweight timeline, he’s at least 12 months out from a potential title fight and he’s got Ngannou in front of him as well.

The less said about that Makdessi/Pinedo fight the better.

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yeah, win or lose Anthony Pettis is always in good fights, and its nice to see him get that big win that kind of eluded him since he lost the title.

If Volkov beats Overeem, I like the idea of Blaydes/Volkov, I feel like Blaydes striking still needs a bit of work before he steps in there with a guy like Stipe or Cain who can potentially negate his wrestling, especially Stipe. Do Ngannou/JDS, Blaydes/Volkov and Cain/Reem. I don’t think Stipe or DC are taking a fight for the time being.

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That’s a good call, actually. I’d be down for a Volkov fight.

That’s really the hard part of heavyweight though… and kind of light heavyweight these days. A pretty good prospect could go on a little run and then all of a sudden fight himself way over his head in terms of who they get matched with vs where they’re at in their evolution as a fighter.

Gotta think they’re going to look to do a Pettis/Masvidal fight, right? Both guys should get big welterweight fights after their Ws but it’s not like either guy was rolling to the point they should get a title fight/contenders fight just yet.

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Yeah I think It’s a bigger problem at Light Heavyweight, which kind of has the same problem Flyweight had with Demetrious Johnson, where it isn’t the strongest division, and the best fighter in the world is their champion. A win against who at light heavyweight can prepare you for Jon Jones? Gustafsson? That’s about it, and I don’t see anyone in that Division except Jones beating him. It will bulk up a bit when Rockhold, Weidman and Romero inevitably move up.

Pettis/Masvidal is exactly where I’d go. Big wins, KO of the year contenders and they did it within 7 days of eachother. Masvidal tends to fight to his opponents level, so its a fight that makes sense for Pettis, unlike RDA or Robbie Lawler for example, who are coming off losses and would probably dismantle showtime with early aggression and pressure fighting, with limitless gas tanks.

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I’m really interested in the Smith/Gus fight that got booked. I became a big fan of Smith’s through his 205 run and doubly so now that he didn’t take the easy and legitimate DQ path that was offered to him in that Jones fight.

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Yeah the fight makes sense, considering they are both coming off losses to the champ, but I’m not sure how much Smith will have for Gustafsson, unless Gus’s best days are long behind him. Wins over Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua in 2018 just aren’t enough to convince me he’s an elite fighter. I mean, in that same year he lost two rounds to Hector Lombard(!), and got absolutely destroyed by current LHW contender Thiago Santos.

I’m admittedly higher on Smith than most. I’ll agree about the Evans W, but I think the Shogun win is still a good win. Not great, but good. OSP aside, Shogun has really only lost to the best of the best. And the Oezdemir win was a very good one.

Don’t get me wrong. Don’t mean to over-inflate the dude’s tires here and your points are valid. But I’m excited to see how he does with Gus. Sometimes moving up in weight just agrees with a guy. I wanted Rockhold to do it forever, so it’s nice to see he finally is. I kinda have a sneaking suspicion Gus is a bit of a spent bullet but we’ll see…

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Yeah Gustafsson could very well be on the downswing at this point. He’s had so many injuries and he isn’t getting any younger.

As far as Smith, you’re right about the Shogun win. Despite him not being the fighter he used to be, he’s still ranked at the very least, and everybody who’s beaten him has either been champion, or fought for the title (Smith included now). As far as the Volkan win, I think Volkan is a good name to have on your resume, however I thought both mens performances were lacking. They both started to gas out after the first round, and the grappling was amateurish. I think that was more of a “state of the division” contenders fight lol.

Finally, I think the move up will do Rockhold well. I think the narrative about him being “weak chinned” is widely over exaggerated, and his issues lie more in the realm of boxing defense. He’s immediately the most accomplished and well rounded fighter in the division aside from Jones, and I would of liked to see him fight someone higher ranked then Jan, but like we’ve said, its not exactly the most talent stacked division.

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Man… I could not agree more about his issues not necessarily being his chin but his striking and really, boxing defense. He just continues to get hit with the same shots all the time. Frustrating as hell!

Jan’s a good introduction to the division for him. Supposing he gets by there, I’d love him vs the winner of Smith/Gus or against a Corey Anderson.

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What do you think about a Weidman/Rockhold rematch at 205? They were scheduled to fight at UFC 230 (at 185) before Rockhold got injured. Now that Luke is moving up to 205, and there is no route in sight that leads Weidman back into the title picture at 185, is that a logical direction?

I’m definitely open to it, but I can see a path for Weidman at 85 if Kelvin somehow manages to beat Adesanya and Bobby Knux. Especially with Weigman having that W over him.

I’d also think that their respective timelines at 205 could be off fora little bit.

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True enough. With Mousasi in Bellator, Rockhold at 205, and Jacare and Romero on the tail end of their careers, it may actually not be long before no one active in the division holds a win over Weidman.

But with 15-20 ranked middleweight talent like Santos and Smith moving up and becoming the top two contenders, it’s difficult to understand why massive middleweights like Weidman don’t take the same path.