By Mike Coughlin, WrestlingObserver.com
Anthony Pettis keeps doing the never before done. It might be a kick, a submission, or a win; it all leads to his fights being special. Saturday night, as he defends his UFC Lightweight Championship against Rafael dos Anjos, Pettis will again look to be spectacular.
Gilbert Melendez had fought 25 times in his life before facing Pettis. Over 12 years – five hours, fifty-eight minutes, forty-nine seconds – Melendez had never been finished. It only took Pettis six minutes, fifty-three seconds and a perfectly executed guillotine.
By 2013, Benson Henderson’s ability to avoid submission had become practically legendary. He possessed seemingly quadruple jointed limbs and an extra trachea. Houdini marveled. Then along came Pettis. Four and a half minutes. Armbar.
And remember: Pettis is a striker first, not a grappler.
Donald Cerrone won’t forget. He’s fought 34 times in his MMA career. Lost? Sure. Submitted? Yes. Close decisions? You bet. Finished by strikes? Never. Two and a half minutes of Pettis changed that. A series of liver kicks and The Cowboy was left in a heap. Pettis was an Army sniper playing a carnival game.
Joe Lauzon had lost by decision. He had lost by ground and pound. He had lost by submission. But as his last fight with Al Iaquinta showed, actually knocking him out – hitting him so hard the brain turns off – simply doesn’t happen. Except: Pettis. Head kick. 81 seconds.
And that was just the last fifteen minutes of his career. In 2010 there was That Kick. Of course you know it. At the last ever WEC event, during the last ever WEC fight, as Pettis and Henderson fought for the right to be called the last ever WEC Lightweight Champion, the last ever moment:
The only reason it isn’t a myth is because it happened on TV. You would laugh at the implausibility of it all of it was in a movie. The Showtime Kick: so unique, so daring, so … just ballsy as shit … that it truly and forever will anchor every highlight reel.
The 30 year old dos Anjos is certainly a worthy challenger. A well-earned UFC-Ranking of #1 comes on the heels of a run highlighted by wins over Cerrone, Nate Diaz, and a knock-out of Henderson. In a sport overflowing with Brazilians, dos Anjos is surprisingly the first Brazilian Pettis will ever face. Brazilian or no, he’s certainly no less difficult an opponent than the gauntlet Pettis has run thus far during his career. dos Anjos hasn’t appeared on a Wheaties’ box but he’s definitely elite.
Or has he…?
Worthy, talented, dangerous, difficult: but not special.
Pettis isn’t special because he hasn’t, or won’t ever, lose. Pettis has lost. dos Anjos has lost. The current UFC champions have a combined 26 losses. Being unbeatable is a myth. Fight long enough and against tough enough competition and the losses will come.
Pettis becomes special because in a sport that’s spanned decades and continents and featured everything from barroom brawlers to Olympics Gold Medalists, and during a 24/7 era of snark and cynicism, where Twitter and Instagram conspire to provide the world instant access to every possible form of entertainment, he still manages to do things that make the collective pause and say, “Wow.”
What Pettis might do on Saturday is a mystery. How can you reasonably guess at a man doing something that’s never been done before?