Nine minutes, 45 seconds. That’s how long it took for Anthony Pettis to disrupt the narrative. From washed up, outgunned and over the hill, to the most unlikely welterweight contender since a 1-4 Matt Brown won seven straight with six finishes.
After storming the lightweight division in the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion and then marching into the Octagon to capture — and defend — Ultimate Fighting Championship gold inside six fights back in 2014, Pettis had looked like a husk of himself for the succeeding half-decade. A cut above divisional gatekeepers like Jim Miller and Charles Oliveira, but cannon fodder for the upper echelon. In his last five fights, Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson each stopped the Milwaukee native inside three rounds, and while the former champion was deservedly praised for his courage in moving up to 170 pounds, the prevailing wisdom was that he had bitten off more than he could chew. Once poised to become the UFC’s next mainstream star, we’d settled into viewing Pettis as a fighter almost devoid of stakes: a fun, risk-taking power-puncher who was reliable in action but not in victory.
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