Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 148

By Brian Knapp Mar 23, 2019

Anthony Pettis evidently still has a few highlights to throw on the reel.

“Showtime” tested the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s waters at 170 pounds and knocked out Stephen Thompson in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 148 main event on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The lights went out on Thompson 4:55 into Round 2, as the Music City crowd looked on in awe and wonder.

Pettis’ decision to move to the welterweight division was met with widespread consternation, and for the better part of two rounds, it seemed warranted. Thompson measured “Showtime” from a safe distance, scored with check hooks, jabs and a variety of kicks, bloodied his nose and methodically built his lead. However, late in Round 2, Pettis sprang forward with a perfectly timed and exquisitely placed Superman punch, felling “Wonderboy” where he stood. The affable South Carolina-based karateka collapsed to the canvas unconscious and defenseless before being met with two more right hands, the victim of an early contender for “Knockout of the Year.”

In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Thompson vs. Pettis,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Anthony Pettis vs. Rafael dos Anjos-Kevin Lee winner: If nothing else, Pettis now has options. The 32-year-old Roufusport export planted his flag in the welterweight division in stunning fashion, all while keeping open the possibility of a return to 155 pounds. Pettis has alternated wins and losses in each of his last seven appearances, and though his inconsistency has made him something of a maddening commodity, he remains one of the UFC’s preeminent entertainers and most recognizable competitors. Dos Anjos and Lee will collide in the UFC Fight Night 151 headliner on May 18 in Rochester, New York.

Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos: It had a crocodile-versus-gazelle feel to it. Blaydes bullied, roughed up and overwhelmed Justin Willis in the heavyweight co-main event, cruising to a unanimous decision that allowed the Elevation Fight Team standout to put some welcomed distance between himself and his 45-second knockout loss to Francis Ngannou four months ago. Scores were 30-27, 30-26 and 30-25, as he unraveled Willis with ragdoll takedowns, ground-and-pound and stifling top control. Not a single second of the fight felt competitive. Blaydes has won five of his past six bouts and, at just 28 years of age, looks more and more like the future of the heavyweight division. Dos Santos extended his winning streak to three fights on March 9, when he dispatched Derrick Lewis with second-round punches at UFC Fight Night 146.

Jussier da Silva vs. Luke Sanders: With the flyweight division on its last leg, it would behoove Cejudo to shift gears to 135 pounds sooner rather than later. The former Shooto Americas champion came through with a stellar performance in his flyweight showcase opposite Deiveson Figueiredo, as he laid claim to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Brazilian. Da Silva, 33, finds himself on a four-fight winning streak, but with all signs pointing to 125-pound champion Henry Cejudo targeting bantamweight gold, “Formiga” has no real direction in which to go at his preferred weight. A former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion, Sanders knocked out Renan Barao at UFC on ESPN 1 in February.

Maycee Barber vs. Lauren Mueller-Poliana Botelho winner: Barber handled her business but likely raised more questions than answers, as she stopped J.J. Aldrich with punches in the second round of their women’s flyweight showcase. Aldrich succumbed to blows 3:01 into Round 2. Barber did not leave the cage unscathed, as the Factory X prospect hit the deck inside the first 30 seconds after eating a clean straight left and spent a majority of the first round on her heels. Barber provided a violent retort in the middle stanza, where she staggered her counterpart with an overhand left and swarmed with punches until the job was done. Mueller and Botelho have been booked opposite one another at UFC 236 in April.

Marlon Vera vs. Nathaniel Wood: The results are starting to line up with Vera’s talents, as he put away Frankie Saenz with punches in the first round of their undercard clash at 135 pounds. The Team Oyama export dropped Saenz to a knee with a counter left jab, took top position and unleashed a volley of hammerfists -- several appeared to land to the back of the former King of the Cage champion’s head but went unnoticed by referee Jimmy Neely -- and brought it to a close 1:25 into Round 1. Vera, 26, has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since his February 2018 decision defeat to Douglas Silva de Andrade. One of the rising stars in the bantamweight division, Wood last competed at UFC Fight Night 147 on March 16, when he submitted Jose Alberto Quinonez with a second-round rear-naked choke. The 25-year-old has rattled off eight consecutive victories, all of them finishes.

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