Roughly two years after he was promised a crack at lightweight gold in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Anthony Pettis may have finally forced his boss’ hand.
In another scintillating striking display, Pettis put away Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts mainstay Donald Cerrone with a first-round liver kick at UFC on Fox 6 “Johnson vs. Dodson” on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago. The gifted 26-year-old Roufusport representative mowed down the “Cowboy” 2:35 into round one, likely cementing himself as the next No. 1 contender at 155 pounds.
Cerrone spent the months and weeks leading up to their high-stakes encounter bad mouthing the man they call “Showtime.” Pettis responded with a devastating shin to the guts. Somewhere, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson and his next challenger, Gilbert Melendez, took notice.
Pettis has rattled off seven wins in eight fights, a decision loss to Clay Guida in his promotional debut the lone misstep. More importantly, the Duke Roufus protégé owns a victory over Henderson, having defeated “Smooth” by unanimous decision at the final World Extreme Cagefighting event in December 2010. Henderson and Melendez will do battle at UFC on Fox 7 on April 20 in San Jose, Calif., and one has to believe the winner will soon be standing across the Octagon from Pettis.
In the wake of UFC on Fox 6, here are seven other matchups that ought to be made:
Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez-Ian McCall winner: Johnson is leaving quite a mark on the fledgling flyweight division. “Mighty Mouse” survived a second-round knockdown and defeated John Dodson by unanimous decision in the main event, retaining his 125-pound title at the expense of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner. Johnson was stellar in the championship rounds, where he employed the Thai plum to great effect. Benavidez and McCall, both of whom have already dropped decisions to the diminutive champion, will lock horns at UFC 156 on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Jose Aldo-Frankie Edgar winner: Lamas’ resume speaks for itself, as the 30-year-old Chicagoan has recorded consecutive victories over Matt Grice, Cub Swanson, Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch since joining the UFC as part of the WEC merger in 2010. In his latest outing, Lamas sliced and diced the highly touted Koch, finishing the Roufusport product with a series of savage second-round elbows. Aldo will defend his 145-pound crown against Edgar in the UFC 156 main event on Feb. 2, with Lamas poised to meet the winner.
John Dodson vs. Benavidez-McCall loser: Dodson fell short in his bid to unseat Johnson as the world’s top flyweight, but he likely improved his stock in the process. The gifted Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export performed well in early exchanges, dropping the elusive “Mighty Mouse” to his knees with a left hand in the first round before flooring him with another in the second. In the end, Dodson succumbed to the champion’s relentless pace, as he faded down the stretch and surrendered a unanimous decision. Benavidez and McCall will toe the line against one another at UFC 156 in another anticipated meeting between two of the 125-pound division’s elite.
Glover Teixeira vs. Alexander Gustafsson-Gegard Mousasi winner: Teixeira may not have delivered the crowd-pleasing victory for which he had hoped, but a win over former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson still means something, no matter how one procures it. The 33-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt cracked Jackson with repeated left hooks and struck for six takedowns, as he pushed his winning streak to 18 bouts and secured a seat at the Top 10 table at 205 pounds. Gustafsson and Mousasi will square off in the UFC on Fuel TV 9 headliner on April 6 in Sweden.
Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon: Cerrone navigated the first 25 fights of his professional mixed martial arts career without being knocked out, but his good fortune failed him as soon as Pettis’ shin slammed into his side midway through the first round of their 155-pound scrap. The knockout defeat halted Cerrone’s modest two-fight winning streak and sent him tumbling down the lightweight ladder. Lauzon left his UFC 155 encounter with Jim Miller beaten, bloodied and scarred, but he remains one of the promotion’s most popular characters and fiercest competitors.
Clay Guida vs. Nik Lentz: Guida escaped his first dip in featherweight waters with a controversial split decision over former Sengoku champion Hatsu Hioki. He paired a steady diet of takedowns with a heavy top game, overshadowing the excellent work the Japanese star did from his back. Guida also outlanded Hioki in terms of both significant strikes and total strikes. Lentz has looked like a new man since he made his move to the 145-pound division, rattling off wins against Eiji Mitsuoka at UFC 150 and Diego Nunes at UFC on FX 7.
T.J. Grant vs. Edson Barboza: Perhaps no fighter gained more from the UFC on Fox 6 experience than Grant, who wiped out the durable Matt Wiman with a series of standing elbows. Undefeated since dropping to 155 pounds, the bearded Canadian has quietly moved towards the Top 10 with victories over Wiman, Evan Dunham, Carlo Prater and Shane Roller. Barboza, still one of the lightweight division’s most intriguing talents, bounced back from his first career setback to strike the previously unbeaten Lucas Martins into submission at UFC on FX 7 on Jan. 19.