On Saturday, November 11 the UFC machine keeps rolling, this week stopping in Norfolk, Virginia with an impressive lineup of fights that has gone largely unnoticed in the wake of one of the best cards ever. The main event for Fight Night: Norfolk will be a pivotal lightweight contest between Anthony “Showtime” Pettis and Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier with major implications for title contention.
Both Pettis and Poirier have recently bounced back from tough knockout losses, incidentally with both men earning hard-fought decision wins over Jim Miller in their rebound fights. Poirer was ostensibly scheduled to rematch Eddie Alvarez following their barnburner of a no contest in May but instead draws another former champion with an equally impressive a resume.
The Louisiana native has looked excellent since returning to his original weight class of 155lbs., compiling an impressive 5-1 record with the only setback coming at the hands of Michael Johnson. Pettis on the other hand has returned to Lightweight after a failed venture to 145lbs. Though he too has rebounded following his loss to Max Holloway, the Wisconsin native appears to be on a noticeable down swing since his 2013 Lightweight Title victory.
Ever since his beating at the hands of Raphael Dos Anjos, Showtime just hasn’t been the same. His vulnerability to wrestling based attacks and inability to defeat high level competition point to a general decline in his competitive career. Sure he can still beat the Jim Miller’s of the world, but Poirier will pose a considerably tougher challenge for the former champion.
Poirier has always been a top ten fighter in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions. He has consistently faced high level competitors, but has lost a few key fights that have kept him from attaining a title shot. A win over Anthony Pettis will certainly vault him into immediate candidacy for title contention, even though Pettis is only ranked #13.
The matchup itself will be somewhat similar to the co-main event of UFC 217 in terms of striking. Poirier, like Garbrandt, employs a boxing heavy system that relies on power punches and hand speed. Pettis on the other hand is a skilled kickboxer who uses angles and open space to launch explosive kicks and flashy techniques. Whoever manages distance more efficiently and effectively will win the battle on the feet, but for Poirier there may be a path of least resistance.
Thanks to Raphael Dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez, the blueprint for beating the RoufuSport product is now well-known. A smothering striking game that takes away time and space is essential to get Pettis on the back foot. Once he is backed up, a series of trips, throws and takedowns will neutralize any remaining threat. Poirier has shown himself to be an accomplished submission artist (6 submissions in 21 victories) and respectable wrestler. Although he probably fancies his chances on the feet, it would be foolhardy for him to deviate from a bulletproof blueprint.
In a year where Fight Night cards have been sorely lacking, UFC Norfolk will be a breath of fresh air. With fights like:
this is one Fight Night card that is surely set to deliver fireworks to the hardcore fans who are aware its happening, and to the casual Saturday night channel-surfing crowd as well.