This weekend the UFC are in Nashville. In the main event, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis moves up a weight division to fight the kickboxer, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Can Anthony’s move to Welterweight rejuvenate his career? Or will the bigger Thompson overbear and impose his will?
How does Showtime currently fare?
This is definitely a strange move for Pettis. I was in attendance for his fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 229. Anthony had to retire from the fight after round two, but he was really giving it to Tony. Pettis had Ferguson in trouble and a move to Welterweight just seems a bit hasty. He proved he can hang with the best in the division. Despite Tony’s recent problems, you can make a case that Ferguson is the second best fighter at Lightweight behind Khabib.
Over the last few years Anthony has bounced around what will now be three different weight divisions come Saturday. At the weigh-ins today, Anthony looked undersized compared to Wonderboy. However, unlike Stephen, Anthony isn’t a one trick pony.
Pettis has a great stand up game and his polished, flashy striking is capable of producing exciting finishes. If the pair engage in grappling, Pettis is equally as flashy with his submissions. As Anthony is the smaller man in this fight, a key to victory for Showtime could be to take the fight to the ground. Thompson will do everything in his power to avoid this. Due to this being an uncomfortable area for Wonderboy, Pettis could shine and get the submission.
What will Wonderboy look to achieve?
For the seasoned MMA fan you know as well as I do what to do expect. Stephen Thompson excels in the striking realm. He is a king of range and will look to move in and out to out strike his opponent. This ability will be even stronger against a smaller adversary like Anthony.
In recent fights Thompson has been hesitant to engage. He’s crafty and will look to effectively run away from his opponent. This is by no means meant to disrespect Thompson at all. It’s quite clever and effective.
With a new champion at Welterweight in Kamaru Usman, this now makes Stephen a relevant contender again. With Jorge Masvidal’s stock rising up after his victory over Darren Till in London, Wonderboy will need to impress. Whilst Anthony is a great striker, we’ve seen him get out struck before by the likes of Edson Barboza. Technically Stephen is the much better striker and if he can keep Anthony at range and pick him apart, Wonderboy could get a TKO finish.
Anthony has been finished by TKO in two of his last five fights. Thompson hasn’t had a knockout finish since 2016. But, I think this is the perfect time for Thompson to get a TKO finish once again. Thompson could certainly prove that he’s the better striker on Saturday and will wear Pettis down for a finish in the later rounds. Unfortunately, Pettis may realise that he is just too small for this division.
Prediction: Thompson by TKO.
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