Simon Says: Only a Tune-up Fight for Pettis Will Do

After Saturday night’s setback at UFC 197 Anthony “Showtime” Pettis is back to the drawing board.

While his performance wasn’t abysmal in the least, it appears as though Pettis just cannot get a win under his belt after suffering his third-consecutive loss inside the octagon. He has changed his training regimen, worked with different camps, new sparring partners, all to no avail. The only constant variable throughout his past three loses is the extremely high-level of competition he has had to face.Tune up fights are almost exclusively and traditionally reserved for those coming off of long layoffs or injury.

Even though Pettis has remained quite active as of late, his apparent loss of confidence, motivation and execution almost perfectly parallel that of the ring-rusted fighter.

Pettis fell short of joining his brother Sergio in the winner’s circle.

The recent victories of both Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and Interim Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones lend credence to the merits of fighting a lower-level opponent. Although, the ultimate test lies in their next fights, it is quite clear that the two enjoyed renewed confidence and comfort stemming from their respective victories.

Pettis’ descent, from Lightweight Champion, to a man occupying the lower reaches of the top ten has been absolutely shocking – from being on the Wheaties box to losing three in-a-row in under a year. What’s more is that this decline is difficult to attribute to any single or specific factor.

We could easily point to the night of March 14th , 2015, when now Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos utterly dominated Pettis for five grueling rounds. It wouldn’t be difficult to argue this event caused a severe lose of confidence and even a loss of motivation. Moreover, it isn’t out of the question to suggest the traumatic and concussive beating he took may have permanently damaged aspects of his fighting ability.

Others may point to the advent of USADA and comprehensive drug testing as a means to explain the Roufus Sport fighter’s fall from grace. The truly aloof would claim he was never any good to begin with. Cause and effect aside, Pettis finds himself in a truly difficult situation.

“Never let go Rafael, never let go.”

Lets not forget, “Showtime” hasn’t been losing to lesser competition. Dos Anjos, Alvarez and Barbosa each occupy the very upper echelons of the lightweight division. This steady stream – or more aptly a ferocious torrent – of opponents has contributed to Pettis’ decline and current predicament. Ultimately the responsibility lies on his shoulders alone but if the UFC wishes to keep Pettis as a viable draw they would do well to match him up with someone at the lower end of the top 15.

By no means are tune-up fights a sure thing: this is MMA and anything can happen. I am also positive no high level fighter (Pettis included) would ever ask for one: it is in their nature to want to fight the best. Regardless, as it stands, the Milwaukee Native has little left to lose. Unless UFC brass are content in using him as a springboard for future contenders (who can claim they beat the former champ) a radical change needs to be made. For, if the current trend continues, “Showtime” may have to change his nickname to “The Stepping Stone”.

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