Contributor: Benjamin Kohn
The UFC has once again ignored fighters who deserve title shots and had someone else jump the line. Recent examples of fighters who jumped the line are: Chael Sonnen, Nick Diaz, Frankie Edgar, and now add Anthony Pettis to the list. Chael Sonnen talked his way into a title shot because of his big mouth and ability to generate cash flow in the form of PPV buys. Unfair obviously but it makes sense since the UFC loves money. Nick Diaz is coming off a loss and suspension and jumped over the clear #1 contender in Johnny Hendricks because….well money again. Frankie Edgar coming off of two decision losses, whether or not I or anyone thinks he won is irrelevant, got a title shot in a division he never fought in because…well he’s Frankie and has more name value than any current FW so that means, you guessed it, more money.
Now we come to Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. He is a dynamic, young, exciting, athletic and extremely talented fighter who was the last WEC champion and the last man to defeat the current UFC champion Benson Henderson, who coincidentally, is the man Pettis defeated to become the last WEC champion. After being promised an immediate title shot, he was forced to wait because of Frankie Edgar’s draw with Gray Maynard at UFC 125 and opted to fight Clay Guida in order to keep busy. This turned out to be a huge mistake as Clay Guida gave new meaning to the term “lay-n-pray” and used his wrestling skills to do literally nothing but land a few weak shoulder “strikes” and take a bad decision. Pettis was out of contention and needed to come back strong in his next fight to show the last fight was just an off night for him. Anthony was given a favorable matchup in Jeremy Stephens, a hard-nosed brawler who has big power but was seen as too slow and plodding to pose any real threat to Pettis. What happened was that Pettis eked out a split decision in what was primarily a wrestling and clinch heavy matchup between the two. Pettis’ stock did not rise much from that fight and one more mediocre performance and he could kiss title contention goodbye for the time being.
Now we move on to his last two fights, against Lauzon and Cerrone. Against Lauzon, a sub specialist with decent striking and not much wrestling, he demolished him completely in a highlight reel head kick finish that would make Mirko Filipovic proud. Against Cerrone, he absolutely demolished the MuayThai striker with a liver kick that Bas Rutten almost had a heart attack after seeing. The thing is, none of the fighters after his loss to Guida had the skill that clearly Pettis doesn’t seem to have at the moment, wrestling. He has been kept away from wrestlers for the time being which is understandable but eventually needs to happen. If he played guard with Gray Maynard like he did against Guida, he would be in for a very long night. So instead of perhaps having to fight Maynard or waiting for a title shot, he instead decides that he wants to fight Jose Aldo. Hey if Frankie can do it, why can’t Pettis right?
Now we move on to the main point of my article. Anthony Pettis does not deserve to jump the line at featherweight, period. He is not some huge PPV commodity nor is he well known among casual fans. He has no history at featherweight and was not exactly an undersized lightweight. The only reason for making this fight is because they are two exciting strikers which mean fireworks. That is not how matchmaking should be handled if Dana wants to make this sport mainstream like he claims. This is the kind of matchmaking that illegitimizes the sport of MMA. When the premier MMA league posts its own rankings having the rightful #1 featherweight contender ranked #2 and the man you just a gave a title shot not even ranked in the division, how exactly do you explain that? I have no problem with Anthony getting a top ranked contender if he drops down since he proved he can obviously beat top fighters but to give him an immediate title shot is wrong. The only thing I can think of that would make sense for the UFC making this matchup would be if Pettis was a huge draw but he is far from it. This matchup really is just showing even more that it doesn’t matter how many wins you get or who you beat rankings wise. If the UFC and Dana White ever make MMA a legitimate sport, this type of matchmaking needs to stop.
-Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.