The Ultimate Fighting Championship was in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday for the first time in nearly two years, with the event headlined by a scrap between former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and perennial welterweight contender Stephen Thompson.
While many people gave “Showtime” credit for moving up to 170 pounds to challenge “Wonderboy” at UFC Fight Night 148, few predicted his scoring an upset in his welterweight debut. Indeed, 20 of Sherdog’s 21 staff members picked against him, the conventional wisdom being that Thompson would be too big, too strong and too durable for the Milwaukee native. Pettis evidently did not get the memo, as he earned a spectacular Superman punch knockout in the second round, conceivably vaulting himself into the Top 5 at welterweight.
As usual, The Vanquished focuses on the main card losers, weighing in on their performances and assessing who they should be matched with next.
Stephen Thompson vs. Robbie Lawler: Heading into the main event, Thompson was the biggest betting favorite on the card, with many predicting he would breeze past Pettis before mounting another title campaign against newly installed champion Kamaru Usman. While “Wonderboy” found early success in controlling Pettis at range and bloodying him up with straight punches, “Showtime” only needed one opportunity to reverse the momentum, ending Thompson’s night and catapulting the karateka into uncharted territory with two consecutive losses. Thompson has only secured a victory in one of the last five bouts, and at 36 years old, it is possible that his days as a title contender are behind him. As for who he should fight next, a bout with a former champion in Lawler is a fun stylistic matchup and one in which Thompson has recently expressed interest. “Ruthless” last fought at UFC 235 on March 2, when he suffered a controversial submission loss to Ben Askren.
Justin Willis vs. Ben Rothwell: Willis had an opportunity to emerge as a heavyweight contender in the co-headliner, as he put his undefeated UFC record on the line against Top 5-ranked Curtis Blaydes. Though “Big Pretty” talked a big game in the buildup and taunted Blaydes for his lack of charisma and “boring” fighting style, he offered little when the two met in the cage and was thoroughly dominated over the course of three rounds. Blaydes managed to take down Willis at will and even scored a knockdown early in the second round, winning a lopsided unanimous decision and likely putting himself within striking distance of a heavyweight title shot. Willis on the other hand will need to do some rebuilding, and a bout opposite Rothwell, who returned from a two-year United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension at UFC Fight Night 147, makes sense.
Jesus Pinedo vs. Rafael Fiziev: Pinedo’s stock took considerable damage, with the Peruvian losing three tedious rounds to veteran John Makdessi in their lightweight feature. Throughout the match, Pinedo seemed unwilling to engage, and a hostile crowd rained boos on the two lightweights at multiple junctures. At 22 years old, Pinedo has plenty of time to right the ship, but given the UFC’s entertainment-centric approach to its product, he will likely find himself on the prelims for the foreseeable future. A bout with Fiziev, who was signed by the UFC earlier this year but has yet to be booked for his debut, would be a good start.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Ray Borg-Kyler Phillips winner: Figueiredo lost his undefeated record, conceding a gutsy unanimous decision to fellow Brazilian Jussier da Silva, who is expected to rematch Joseph Benavidez in a title eliminator. At 31 years old and in a relatively thin division, Figueiredo’s misstep is unlikely to cost him too dearly if he can get back in the win column in his next outing. He should next face off with the winner of Borg-Phillips, scheduled for March 30 in Philadelphia.
Steven Peterson vs. Bobby Moffett: Peterson found himself in an unenviable position, facing off against Luis Pena after “Violent Bob Ross” blew the featherweight limit by over two pounds at weigh-ins. Pena ultimately got the nod from the judges after a back-and-forth fight, but given he that he was fighting at a deficit, Peterson should not be penalized too harshly. A matchup with Moffett -- he earned “Fight of the Night” honors in a decision loss to Bryce Mitchell on the undercard -- sounds appealing.
J.J. Aldrich vs. Nadia Kassem: Aldrich’s three-fight winning streak was snapped, as her return to the flyweight division was spoiled by 20-year old Maycee Barber. “The Future” looked to be behind on the scorecards after one round but found a target for her elbows and punches midway through the second and pulled out a technical knockout victory. What’s next for Aldrich? A matchup with Kassem, who lost to Montana De La Rosa in her native Australia at UFC 234, would make for entertaining viewing.