Can Anthony Pettis Turn Back the Clock?

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Anthony Pettis (22-9) takes on Carlos Diego Ferreira (16-2) in the main card opener for UFC 246 on the 18th of January. This marks the return to lightweight for Pettis who recently went on a 1-1 run in welterweight. Ferreira has been working his way up the lightweight ranks and is currently on a five fight win streak. Pettis and Ferreira are two top lightweight who offer action packed fights.

Anthony Pettis and Ferreira Both Need Wins

With a win here Ferreira should reach the top 15 of the division. This is a unique match as Ferreira attributes that can give Pettis problems but also open up opportunities. Key factors in this match-up for Pettis is if he can earn the respect of Ferreira, and if he can manage to keep it together long enough to get a win.

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On paper Pettis should have the advantage in the striking. He has cleaner technique, better defence and more variety in his strikes. At range this is most certainly true, but Pettis has shown difficulty facing opponents who walk him down. Ferreira’s striking is largely about forward pressure and volume. While the Brazilian has power in his shots he usually overwhelms opponents with his ferocity.

A Chance For Pettis, but a Slim One

Now this already looks like it is going to spell disaster for Pettis, he struggles with pressure and is fighting someone who uses it regularly, but it’s not that cut and dry. Ferreira may have forward pressure but he is defensively unsound. He often fails to return his hand to his guard after he throws strikes and does not move his head when throwing. Ferreira is also jab happy but often throws it without any regard, in his fight with Mairbek Taisumov (27-6) he was cracked with a counter right over that jab. While Ferreira managed to survive, Pettis can punish him in devastating fashion if he shows those openings again.

Forward pressure is likely the motto of the Ferreira camp but few people have been able to break Pettis without wrestling. The two exceptions to this are Max Holloway (21-5) and Tony Ferguson (25-3) who were able to melt Pettis with pace and pressure. Ferreira would do well and take the examples offered by both men and hit the body. Holloway was able to finish Pettis wicked straights and hooks to the body. Ferguson used teeps to keep Pettis on the back foot and check his cardio.

Pace is not Pressure

While Ferreira is probably able to match the pace of these men he does not possess the attributes that made their approaches work. Ferguson is a large lightweight and his reach made it difficult to punish him for pushing forward. Holloway has excellent defensive footwork when moving in-and-out the pocket, making it difficult to land counters as he retreated off angles. Ferreira possesses neither of these qualities and may have to rely on wrestling Pettis to grind him out.

In terms of wrestling Ferreira is not great. His shots tend to be fairly obvious and he lacks the athleticism to muscle through bad technique. Ferreira will generally shoot for a double leg and attempt to finish it along the cage with varying levels of success. That being said this level of wrestling may be enough if he uses it as a means to tire Pettis out.

If the fight hits the mat it is likely that Ferreira will have the advantage. Pettis is no slouch off his back and has proven multiple times that he is a capable submission artist. Ferreira is far more accomplished and thrives in scrambles and chaotic positions. Ferreira is also a wizard at back takes and finishing from the back, Pettis has a tendency to give up the scramble when his back is taken. This is truly a stylistic nightmare for Pettis on the ground and the feet.

Pettis Needs to Win Before He Breaks

The moment Pettis steps into the cage he is on a countdown timer. As a possible consequence of such a successful career Pettis has been prone to injury. In his last five fights the former champion has had a major injury in each. The longer the fight goes on the more likely Pettis, or his body, will break.

It is important for Pettis to catch Ferreira early and either keep him at distance or finish him. The prime opportunity is during Ferreira’s double jab. As said previously the Brazilian tends to drop his hands between exchanges and is open for counters. If Pettis can time him between jabs he may be able to inflict severe damage. Another outcome of this fight is that Pettis clips Ferreira and manages to submit him, further cementing the idea that head trauma is the best answer to Jiu-Jitsu.

Prediction for Anthony Pettis vs Diego Ferreira

Anthony Pettis is up against the wall but it may not be as dire as we believe. If he is ever going to overcome this stylistic challenge Carlos Diego Ferriera may be the best opportunity. That being said it may be too late for Pettis to turn things around. Ferreira is rightly the favorite to win but he leaves too many openings to feel comfortable with that decision. All in all this is easily the fight to look out for on the main card as it promises to be a true banger of a match.

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Sam Ancer is a South African writer and MMA fanatic, he has spent several years training Sanshou, as well as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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