In the main event of the evening at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 13 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Nevada, lightweights Clay Guida (28-11) and Anthony Pettis (13-1) will go to battle in a highly-relevant showdown that could have major implications on the outlook of the upper-echelon of the division. For Guida, a win could put him up for consideration as a contender in the division, adding on to a three-fight win streak that includes submission victories over Rafael dos Anjos, Shannon Gugerty, and Takanori Gomi. Pettis is in a similar situation as he was the last WEC lightweight champion before the merger late last year, and he's shown improvements in every single bout since his injection into the ranks of the WEC.
We won't delve too deep into the records as it is still tough to analyze exactly where the WEC's best lightweights stand against upper-echelon competition. Pettis' debut may be the first real performance we can evaluate as such, although Ben Henderson's victory over Mark Bocek at UFC 129 is a consideration. Guida doesn't possess the skills of a Gray Maynard or Frankie Edgar, but he is a good test for Pettis' first dip into the deep waters of the division. Whether it proves anything is a different debate altogether.
The obvious disparity between these two fighters is in the skills they possess. Guida, for all the success he's had on the balance sheet due to his exciting, relentless style of fighting, is far from a consummate fighter. His striking remains one of his major weaknesses, although I will say that it has actually improved in the last few fights. He's made the improvements to utilize submissions in combination with his grinding style of wrestling, something that he could have benefited from greatly a number of years ago. But the past is the past, and it's refreshing to see Guida make the changes to his game to finish his opponents.
Pettis, on the other hand, is much more well-rounded. He possesses a sharp, diverse stand-up game that has been honed by Duke Roufus, and his ground game is good enough to threaten mid-to-upper level wrestlers and grapplers looking to neutralize his offense on the feet. At 24 years of age, Pettis will be one of the key figures at the top of the division for years to come. He's that good at this point in his career, and time will only improve him.
History states that Guida's key to victory is a high pace and an endless gas tank. He doesn't have the striking ability to compete with Pettis, and I'm of the belief that he'll be waxed in the striking department if he tries to stand toe-to-toe with Pettis for a prolonged period of time. The threat of constant pressure and takedowns could affect how Pettis goes about his business on the feet, but he's proven his ability to transition to a defensive stance quickly.
I'm also under the belief that the addition of Ben Askren to the Roufusport fight team will help Pettis immensely. Guida would have likely had some problems blasting through Pettis' hips before Askren arrived, but I imagine Askren's unique brand of wrestling could give Pettis some interesting insight as to how to sweep and reverse wrestlers who gain the edge on the shot. "Funky" Askren is well-known for his ability to grapple his way to the top quickly even if he is taken down.
Any way you put it, Guida is going to have a rough night. His conditioning and pace should endanger Pettis from the start, but Pettis' overall technique and arsenal of offensive weapons give him a major edge in this contest. I don't think Pettis can finish off "The Carpenter", but I think he'll do a nice job of proving to fans who don't necessarily know who he is that he has what it takes to compete against the best. Pettis via decision.