Anthony Pettis made his UFC debut last night and dropped a unanimous decision to Clay Guida at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale. Pettis, riding a wave of hype engendered by his show-stopping performance against Ben Henderson in the last WEC fight ever, had initially been promised a UFC title shot.
That was not to be -- first champ Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard fought to a draw at UFC 125, then Pettis accepted a bout with Clay Guida for his UFC debut. It was a fateful decision.
Guida dominated Pettis, taking him down and keeping him down and even taking his back to win the fight. But it was far from a one-sided contest as Pettis landed more on the feet and maintained an active dangerous guard, threatening submissions and landing strikes from the bottom.
Pettis earned praise from his opponent, as Guida told Kevin Iole:
"I think he has the trickiest guard of anybody I've ever fought," Guida said. "I must have defended 10, 12 triangles and arm bars. He hit me lights out a couple of times from the bottom, I ain't going to lie. He kicked me in the back of the head. He punched me, elbowed me and is tough as nails. He has a real tricky guard and is a super talented kid."
But Pettis recognizes that Guida was the better man last night, telling MMA Junkie:
"I feel I had some holes in my game, and Clay Guida and (Guida's trainer) Greg Jackson did a great job of having a good gameplan. I've got to go back to the drawing board and get better there."
"I think I knew control-wise, he was on top, and he did a good job staying on top. I couldn't get my submissions off. I attempted a lot. I hit him a lot. I just understand how the game works. If he controls you, you lose the round. I didn't do enough to get up off my back, so big up to Clay."
Pettis did attempt a flying 360 degree roundhouse kick off the cage (gif), but Guida managed to evade it. He also threw and missed with a capoeira-style upkick on Guida (see photo).
Pettis is only 24 years old, he'll be back.
Michael David Smith commented on the bout and Pettis' future in the UFC:
In that respect, Guida might have done Pettis a favor on Saturday night. Losing a one-sided decision to a good but not great UFC lightweight in Guida might make it clear to Pettis exactly what he has to improve upon.
Pettis needs to work on his wrestling and his takedown defense, but at age 24, he still has plenty of time to make those improvements. From all appearances he has both the athletic ability and the motivation to get better, and it's not like Guida exposed limits to Pettis's talent -- Guida just exposed limits to Pettis's skill set. That can be fixed with time and work.