Critics were quick to write off Sergio Pettis as a bust after surprising losses to Alex Caceres and Ryan Benoit. Perhaps they should reconsider their position, if they have not done so already.
Pettis continued to build momentum in the Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight division, as he took a unanimous decision from Brandon Moreno in the UFC Fight Night 114 “Pettis vs. Moreno” main event on Saturday at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. The Roufusport standout swept the scorecards with 49-46, 48-46 and 48-46 marks from the judges and has now equaled the UFC win total (seven) of older brother Anthony Pettis.
Met with early adversity, Pettis wandered into serious danger in the first round. There, Moreno executed a takedown and advanced to the back, where he pestered the Milwaukee native with punches while hunting a rear-naked choke. Pettis withstood his advances and spent the next four-plus rounds focused on staying upright and flashing his superior standup skills.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Pettis vs. Moreno,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Sergio Pettis vs. Henry Cejudo-Wilson Reis winner: While there will be the temptation to rush Pettis into a title fight with the winner of the forthcoming Demetrious Johnson-Ray Borg showdown, he stands to benefit from further seasoning. Still just 23 years of age, the Duke Roufus protégé has shown marked improvements over his last two appearances and figures to maintain his upward trajectory as he pushes into his prime. Like many other contenders before him, Pettis would likely be a prohibitive underdog against the magnificent Johnson, a man currently without peer at 125 pounds. Cejudo and Reis will square off at UFC 215 on Sept. 9.
Alexa Grasso vs. Cortney Casey: Grasso’s transition to the UFC has not gone as swimmingly as many had hoped, but the 23-year-old Lobo Gym cornerstone has nevertheless managed to win two of her first three fights. In her latest appearance, she outpointed Randa Markos across three rounds, claimed a split decision in the co-main event and rebounded from her Feb. 4 defeat to the resurgent Felice Herrig. Grasso outlanded Markos by a 121-71 margin in total strikes, per FightMetric, doing the majority of her good work in the first and third rounds. Casey, 30, last competed at UFC 211 in May, when she was awarded a three-round unanimous decision over former World Series of Fighting champion Jessica Aguilar.
Niko Price vs. Alex Oliveira: Making a strong case to move up in the welterweight pecking order, the unbeaten Price laid waste to Alan Jouban in less than two minutes to improve to 10-0. The American Top Team rep chopped down Jouban with a counter right hand and mopped up what was left with follow-up punches, prompting the stoppage 1:44 into Round 1. Price has delivered nine of his 10 victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission and sport’s eight first-round finishes on his resume. Oliveira has rattled off back-to-back wins, including a scintillating one-punch knockout against Ryan LaFlare at UFC on Fox 25 in July.
Sam Alvey vs. Tim Boetsch: The masses were not entertained, but Alvey did enough to get past former UFC champion Rashad Evans and pocket a split decision on the main card. “Smilin’ Sam” has compiled a 5-1 record across his last six appearances, a decision loss to Thales Leites on April 22 his only misstep. Wins over Evans, Nate Marquardt, Alex Nicholson, Kevin Casey and Eric Spicely have strengthened his position at 185 pounds and provided him with plenty of job security. Boetsch last competed at UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25, when he took out four-time NCAA All-American Johny Hendricks with a head kick and follow-up punches in Oklahoma City.
Dustin Ortiz vs. Ben Nguyen: No one did more to improve their stock than Ortiz, who authored the quickest finish in the history of the UFC flyweight division. The often-overlooked Franklin, Tennessee, native needed a mere 15 seconds to dispatch Team Alpha Male’s Hector Sandoval with punches on the undercard. Ortiz now owns a 6-5 mark in the UFC, though it must be noted that those five defeats have come against Moreno, Reis, Jussier da Silva, Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. Nguyen opened some eyes at UFC Fight Night 110 on June 11, when he submitted Tim Elliott with a rear-naked choke in just 49 seconds and won for the 11th time in 12 bouts.