Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis earned his first Octagon victory in more than a year and a half on Saturday, but it didn’t come easily.
Making his 145-pound debut, Pettis fended off numerous rear-naked choke attempts with Charles Oliveira — a Top 10 featherweight — attached to his back in the UFC on Fox 21 co-main event at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Pettis hurt his Brazilian foe with a body kick and nearly finished the fight with follow-up ground-and-pound in the first stanza, but Oliveira survived to put “Showtime” in danger on multiple occasions after that.
Pettis ultimately turned the tables on Oliveira in round three, when he escaped his adversary’s back control and rolled into full guard. He eventually ensnared “Do Bronx” in a guillotine choke following a scramble and forced the tapout 1:49 into the period.
“Charles is a super tough guy,” Pettis said. “I hit him with some big stuff in the first round and he was able to recover. I knew he would continue to try and take my back so I just needed to be calm and then reverse whenever the opportunity presented itself.”
The victory was much needed for Pettis, who dropped the lightweight crown in a lopsided loss to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185 and then followed that defeat with consecutive setbacks against Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza.
“I had to do some soul searching,” he admitted.
At least for now, the Roufusport standout plans on sticking around at 145 pounds, although he acknowledges some adjustments must be made during the weight-cutting process.
“Because this was my first cut to 145 pounds, there are some things I’ll change for next time but overall I was extremely happy with how I performed,” he said.
With one significant victory already under his belt, Pettis has big plans for his future in the featherweight division. It’s part of why he requested Oliveira for his 145-pound debut.
“I wanted a challenge and when I dropped down to featherweight, I told them I want the best,” Pettis said. “I’m looking to become a two division champion.”
How long that takes remains uncertain, especially because prior to facing Oliveira, Pettis wasn’t even sure he would be able to stick at 145 pounds. Now it will be a little bit easier to plot a path to championship gold.
“I didn’t know if I could make the weight to be honest. Now we made the weight, I’ll map it out,” he said. “It just feels good to be back in the win column.”