Anthony Pettis is currently on a three-fight losing streak and has made the big decision to drop down to the UFC featherweight division. This Saturday, he’ll be fighting featherweight contender Charles Oliveira.
Not long ago, Pettis reigned as king of the UFC lightweight division, but recently he’s left much to be desired. Switching weight classes could help him get back to the top of the ladder, but another loss could spell doom for the former champion.
Since winning the UFC lightweight championship against Benson Henderson at UFC 164, Pettis has gone 1-3. He successfully defended his belt against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181, but then lost his belt to a dominant Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 185. Most recently, Pettis has dropped back-to-back decision losses to current UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza. On Saturday, he will be looking to bounce back with a victory to make people forget all about those defeats!
A lot of UFC fighters have been moving up to a heavier weight class lately due to USADA making IV’s illegal for rehydration during weight-cutting. However, Pettis will be dropping down ten pounds in order to fight at featherweight. He was never considered a big lightweight, so cutting an extra 10 pounds shouldn’t be too difficult. Oliveira, his opponent, is 5-1 in his last six fights. That being said, it’s clear that Pettis’ first fight at featherweight will be against a formidable foe. Oliveira’s only loss in his last six fights was against the number one featherweight contender Max Holloway and he has victories over top contenders like Jeremy Stephens and Myles Jury.
If Pettis had stayed in the lightweight division, he’d likely be out of the top five right now and wouldn’t necessarily be a huge draw for a main event or co-main event. However, fighting Oliveira at featherweight makes this fight much more interesting to fans. Fight fans like seeing something different. A great example is Conor McGregor moving up to welterweight twice in order to fight Nate Diaz. The fights made no sense as far as rankings go, but they drew in larger crowds than any other UFC event.
Switching to featherweight makes Pettis exciting and interesting again. A win could lead to him fighting top contenders like Frankie Edgar, Holloway, or even UFC interim featherweight champion Jose Aldo. And if McGregor decides to fight at lightweight and challenge Eddie Alvarez, Pettis could be looking at a championship opportunity after winning only one or two fights.
As opportunistic and exciting as this fight is for Pettis though, it is just as dangerous. A fourth consecutive loss could leave him wondering what to do next. Showtime is extremely competitive and it’s unlikely that he’d be content with falling out of the UFC rankings. If he does happen to lose, don’t be surprised to see him fighting at Bellator soon. With the semi-recent signings of Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson, along with the popular Michael Chandler, the most money for Pettis may come from switching organizations. A rematch with Henderson could draw in big numbers. Their first fight was made famous by the “Showtime” kick, where Pettis ran on the cage briefly before kicking off and head-kicking Henderson, creating possibly the most famous kick in MMA history.
Pettis will undoubtedly be extra motivated in this fight and he’ll need to make a statement on his debut in the division, especially considering his recent struggles in the UFC. This is an incredibly important fight for both Pettis and Oliveira as the winner could be looking at a title shot down the road, but the loser will have to start climbing up the featherweight ladder from the bottom all over again.