The infamous Showtime kick remains one of the most highlighted displays in combat history. The flashy mixed martial artist behind the kick has once climbed the hill that is the lightweight division, but has since seemingly fallen off of it. It was nearly three years ago when Anthony Pettis made quick work of Ben Henderson at UFC 164 to earn the UFC lightweight title. Despite the huge victory, Pettis’ flaws were present.
Pressure has the tendency of busting pipes and in the fight game, when used correctly, pressure can break a fighter’s spirit. Pettis’ infamous kicks have played a significant role in his success, however when given little to no space, it becomes nearly impossible to throw them effectively. The loss of his kicks leaves Pettis reliant on his other weapons, such as his striking. Although Pettis does possess solid boxing, his lack of power in his punches is why his opponents have been comfortable in bum rushing the former champion.
Pettis’ footwork appears depleted in moments of being pressured as he has no other choice but to back into the fence. While the fence allows Pettis to prevent the takedown for the time being, it also presents a battle of physical strength. Unfortunately for Pettis, physical strength isn’t one of his notable attributes, which is probably why he has decided to drop down a weight class.
Pettis’ wrestling has long been one of his flaws, but his outstanding Jiu-Jitsu has been an impressive answer to his problem. In fact, eight of his eight wins have come via submission. Unfortunately, the evolution of MMA combined with Pettis’ lack of improvement is what led to his three fight losing streak and it shouldn’t be too surprising.
Pettis’ inactivity has managed to mask his weaknesses along with the quick finishes he was able to pull off against the likes of Henderson, Cerrone, and Melendez. There was not much to see because he was so impressive, however his lack of octagon control and high volume striking was seen as things he could probably improve over time. His problem in both areas would eventually fail him in each of his last three bouts as each one of his opponents did not respect the aura that once followed Pettis into the octagon.
Rafael dos Anjos not only specializes in applying pressure, but also in using quick and powerful variety of strikes against his opposition. The wrestling of dos Anjos is also top notch, which only made matters worse for Showtime. Pettis’ Jiu-Jitsu was also nullified by the longtime Jiu-Jitsu black belt.
Pettis’ next fight would come against the durable Eddie Alvarez and ended in a very close decision loss. Despite being able to outland Alvarez and cause visible damage from boxing range, Alvarez managed to infiltrate Pettis’ comfort zone and put him against the cage. The battle of physical strength went to Alvarez as he landed six takedowns, which in the end was the deciding factor.
Like Pettis, Edson Barboza has been known for possessing some of the most lethal kicks in MMA, but unlike Pettis, Barboza has adapted into an aggressor as opposed to solely being a counter striker. Another problem that Barboza posed was his speed and output. Like dos Anjos, Barboza was quicker to the punch and made sure to leave his mark on Pettis throughout their exchanges. Pettis’ lack of output only worsened the beating as he had no answer over the course of fifteen minutes and instead developed purple welts on his lead leg for his troubles.
While it’s encouraging to see Pettis make attempts to improve his game by linking up with Greg Jackson and Izzy Martinez, so far we have seen more of the same from the former WEC champion. As he is set to make his featherweight debut at UFC on Fox this August, it should be known that his opponent, Charles Olivera is no walk in the park.