First off, boy was I wrong in my preview for this fight. I thought that Shane Roller's wrestling would be too much for Anthony Pettis. While Roller got his licks in -- he landed some hard punches, got mounted position, landed a front kick to Pettis' face and threatened to submit Pettis with a guillotine in the final round -- WEC 50 was the Anthony Pettis show.
Here's Michael David Smith on the bout:
Early in the fight the 23-year-old Pettis showed serious improvement in his takedown defense, keeping the fight standing against a good wrestler in Roller. He also showed off some creative striking, employing a variety of kicks that had Roller frustrated. As the fight wore on Pettis also showed a more sophisticated ground game than he had in the past, and the way he finished the fight was a thing of beauty, escaping from a guillotine choke and then catching Roller in the triangle that made Roller tap at the 4:51 mark of the third.
Steve Cofield commented:
Pettis (11-1, 4-1 WEC) set up the victory with some excellent grappling work. He avoided Roller's nasty takedowns and even when he was dumped to the mat, Pettis quickly got back to his feet or put his opponent in potential submission predicaments.
Even more shocking was Pettis' ability to takedown Roller, a three-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State. Pettis was 3-for-3 on takedown attempts while Roller was just 2-of-6. According to Compustrike, Pettis dominated the striking outlanding Roller 63-27.
Pettis gave much of the credit for his ability to stuff Roller's take downs to his training with Bellator tournament champ and Olympic wrestler Ben Askren. Adding a sound wrestling game to his repertoire makes Pettis one of the most complete and most dangerous lightweights in MMA.
I went into the bout thinking that Shane Roller, with his NCAA wrestling credentials, was the WEC lightweight most likely to make it to the big show. Now I'm convinced it will be Anthony Pettis instead.
Gifs by Chris Nelson.
Here's the first stuffed take down of the fight. Roller has a right arm whizzer -- or overhook -- deep under Pettis' left armpit. He has his right leg deep between Pettis' legs and is looking for a hip toss.
Pettis stuffs it beautifully by hopping and then planting his right foot then stepping outside Roller's right leg. That stops the throw right in its tracks. Pettis maintains his double underhooks, grips his hands together for the body lock and then drives Roller back into the cage. Note that he drives his head into the "pocket" underneath Roller's jaw. The head position is critical for controlling a clinch fight like this.
On the left we see the first of two capoeira kicks that Pettis threw late in the first round. The second one is captured in Tracy Lee's spectacular photograph at the top. This one landed much more cleanly though he doesn't actually put his hand on the ground in this instance.
Here we see Roller lunge forward behind a jab that Pettis slips by moving to his left but then he continues to torque his body down and to the left and brings his right leg up high for a beautiful Martelo kick. Note how his shin and instep crash down onto Roller's head, shoulders and neck.
Here's a description of the Martelo from wikipedia:
A Martelo is a type of kick as practiced in Capoeira. The martelo, which literally means "hammer" can be described as a roundhouse kick. In generic terms, it is a strike with the instep, the lower part of the shin, or the shin itself, against the opponent's body; the most common being the temple of the head.
Aú Batido-The aú batido is an aú variation where a practitioner does a handstand, followed by a twist with the hips and a split, performing a downward martelo. During the kick, one arm is protecting the face while the other one is obviously supporting the body. Aú batido literally means "broken cartwheel". This movement is a defensive move, used when attempting to perform a cartwheel and the opponent attacks, generally with a cabeçada, a headbutt, the aú batido takes place, attacking the opponent by surprise before the attack is executed. The aú batido is sometimes also used in doubt or simply as a trick move. This move is also performed intricking, and for quality, it is also used often in breakdancing where it is known as the L-kick. Names used in different schools may also include Beija Flor (Humming Bird, literally Flower Kiss(er)), Leque (Fan), Aú Québrado (also "broken cartwheel"), Aú Malandro(wily cartwheel), Aú Amazonas (Amazon cartwheel) or Amazonica).
On the right we see some of Pettis' awesome ground fighting from the second round. We begin the sequence with Roller in full mount. He's got his left arm hooked under Pettis' right armpit and is working to establish an overhook with his right.
Pettis beging to move and buck with his hips, stepping to his right with his right leg then bucking to the right and then the left. He flirts with locking his hands together behind Roller's head but thinks better of it.
Note that he keeps his right hand on the back of Roller's neck even as he allows Roller to posture up.
On live TV the referee moving into the frame was no where near this annoying.
Pettis continues to circle his feet toward the cage wall, bringing first his right foot up high on the cage, then basically bounding both feet up high on the cage.
From there he pushes off with his feet, bucks his hips and rolls out and over Roller, a beautiful reversal from mount that capitalizes on his long legs and lower body strength.
On the left we have a classic up kick. Roller is standing above Pettis who is gripping Roller's wrists at the start of the sequence and pushing off Roller's hip with his right leg. He then brings his left heel down into the crook of Roller's right arm pit, releases Roller's left wrist and cocks and fires his right foot smack into Roller's face.
This is a staple of BJJ for MMA and you can easily see why as you watch the stunned Roller stagger back.
On the right is another, more unusual kick. Pettis is behind Roller with his arms wrapped around Roller's waist in a body lock. He then steps around Roller before stepping deep forward with his left foot and firing his right up and around into Roller's face.
Fortunately for Roller he pulled his right arm up and turned his head away. If Pettis had been able to pull off that kick while Roller was still leaning forward into it, it could had been a KO shot.
As it is, it's just a tasty little morsal of nastyness from the talented Mr. Pettis.
But Pettis pulls his body back and then rolls over his right shoulder and out of danger. This creates a scramble that immediately leads Roller into diving into Pettis' guard and the fatal triangle choke.
Forgive me for not having Chris gif up the triangle, but it was no more and no less than a classic triangle choke, which we've covered many times.
In sum, the 23 year old Anthony Pettis showed off a dazzling ability to fight effectively in all phases and ranges of MMA against the very formidable Shane Roller. I expect big things from Pettis as he continues to grow and develop as an athlete. Training with Duke Roufus and Pat Barry means that he will continue to bring top notch MMA striking to his fights and the willingness to expand his horizons by training with outside experts like wrestler Ben Askren means the sky is the limit for Pettis.
Note I have no idea if Pettis has ever formally studied capoeira or if he developed these moves independently or from another style. If anyone has any insight, please share in the comments. We're here to learn!
Bonus: Here's some capoeira instruction from The Capoeira Blog:
As the video says, you start "almost" like an au, but you need to stop your momentum. When you start to get airborne, you need to twist your hips a bit (so you can kick to the front), and kick the leg out. Try to keep the leg as straight as you can (but remember, there is much room for personal variation). The non-kicking leg can stay straight, or it can bend, or it can go with the other leg for the dual kick.
Your knee should come to rest on the side of your chest. Again, this is not a side kick. To see what I mean, stand up, and try to kick your leg up to the side and hit your head. It's pretty much impossible (unless you're super flexible) because your hip joint just doesn't go that way.
After you've kicked you can grab the leg and try to hold it for a while, but if you're using this as an actual attack you don't have to do this.
To end the move, your leg should automatically snap back the way it came. Keep your leg pretty straight when landing, or else you'll crouch down when you land, and unless you want to do that on purpose, it's not the best way to land.