Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis made a superhero splash in his welterweight debut Saturday, knocking out two-time title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson with a Superman counterpunch with 5 seconds left in the second round of the main event of UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Pettis, who in addition to once reigning at 155 pounds has also fought at 145, became just the third fighter to win in those UFC weight classes as well as 170 pounds, joining Kenny Florian and Conor McGregor.
Pettis (22-8), who came in having lost five of his eight bouts since dropping his lightweight belt in 2015, was getting lit up for much of this striking battle, with Thompson’s crisp jabs turning his face into a bloody mess.
“He was catching me with his jab, and I knew he had the range on me,” Pettis said. “I was trying to beat him up with low kicks. I knew I was hurting his back leg, and that’s what set up the right hand.”
Thompson (14-4-1), a former karate and kickboxing specialist who now has won just one of his past five, had been using fluid movement to keep the fight at his preferred distance for the better part of two rounds.
But then, just seconds before the Round 2 horn was to sound, he ploddingly closed the distance and paid the price. Pettis, whose background is in taekwondo, sprung away from the cage and knocked out Thompson with one big right hand.
Thompson suffered the first knockout loss of his career.
Afterward, Pettis was in no rush to decide what weight he would fight at next.
“I don’t want to fight no one behind me, especially at lightweight,” he said. “That’s why I was like, ‘Let’s move up. The results show.’ The weight cut was killing me at 145, 155. Now [at] 170, I’d better be in the top 10, bro.”
Pettis said he would like a rematch with the man who took his lightweight title from him, Rafael Dos Anjos, who now competes as a welterweight. But then Pettis came up with an even better idea for UFC president Dana White, pointing to a top-10 lightweight fight taking place next Saturday.