entered 2011 having been promised a UFC lightweight title shot. His loss to Clay Guida at Saturday night's Ultimate Fighter Finale ensures that he'll end 2011 without having fought for the title.
But make no mistake: Pettis is an elite talent with a bright future, and he'll fight for a UFC title some day.
Pettis probably shouldn't have been promised that lightweight title shot in the first place: The UFC made that promise because Pettis was the last lightweight champion of World Extreme Cagefighting, and giving the reigning WEC champion the first crack at the UFC belt seemed like an easy fight to promote. But the truth is, the lightweight division in the WEC was never anywhere near as good as the lightweight division in the UFC, and winning the WEC belt didn't make Pettis deserving of a crack at the lightweight title.
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.
Even in losing to Guida, 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards, Pettis showed glimpses of why he's such an exciting fighter. He reeled off a brilliant spinning kick in the second round, and in general he got the better of the striking exchanges. He just wasn't able to keep Guida from putting him on his back. Pettis can learn enough wrestling and takedown defense that in the future, when he's getting the better of the striking exchanges, he'll be able to keep the fight standing up rather than winding up on his back.
There are a lot of reasons to like Pettis outside the cage: He's a good-looking, personable, intelligent young man with an interesting life story and a willingness to share that story with fans.
But the big reason for fight fans to like Pettis is that he's already done great things inside the cage, and Guida showed him exactly what he has to do to get better. Pettis is five years younger than Guida, six years younger than Frankie Edgar and eight years younger than Gray Maynard. He's going to keep getting better for a long time, and eventually he'll earn a title shot. Even though he's not there yet.Notes from UFC 130
-- Jeremy Stephens dominated Danny Downes for 15 minutes to win a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26. Stephens is now 20-6 in his MMA career, and 4-1 in his last five, with the only loss a split decision to Melvin Guillard. Stephens is so experienced that a lot of people don't realize how young he is: He just turned 25 and still has plenty of room for improvement. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephens is fighting for the lightweight title some day.
-- The first fight on the Spike TV broadcast, Chris Cope vs. Chuck O'Neil, really didn't belong on a live UFC broadcast. Cope and O'Neil are both young and inexperienced and still honing their rudimentary skills, and they belong on undercards or in smaller promotions, not on the main televised card of a UFC event.
-- The statistics coming out of the Fabio Maldonado-Kyle Kingsbury fight were interesting. According to CompuStrike, Maldonado had a very slight edge over Kingsbury in total strikes landed in their fight: Maldonado landed 91 strikes to 90 for Kingsbury. But while Maldonado is just a puncher, Kingsbury mixed in kicks and knees: Kingsbury out-landed Maldonado 60-0 in total leg strikes. Fight Metric scored the fight 29-28 for Maldonado
, but all three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Kingsbury. Quotes from UFC 130
-- "I heard something pop and I said, 'It's broken, it's broken.' But Danny Downes, I kid you not, is a tough son of a gun." -- Stephens, saying he thought he broke Downes' arm with a kimura during their fight, and crediting Downes for the toughness not to tap out.
-- "It's unbelievable. ... I can't describe it. Oh my God, it's amazing." -- Ed Herman after knocking Tim Credeur out just 48 seconds into the first round of their fight. It was great to see Herman, who's been injured and out of action for close to two years, having a reason to celebrate again.Good call
The UFC was smart to put all the preliminary fights on Facebook: There was a lot of good action on the undercard, and hard-core fans are always delighted to watch all the MMA they can. The decision to put the fights on Facebook wasn't announced until Friday evening, but this is something that the UFC should make permanent: It's a great way for the promotion to connect to its most enthusiastic fans.Bad call
Joe Rogan, explaining that MMA judges sometimes score a round giving more weight to the end of a round, said, "Schoolyard logic applies to the Ultimate Fighting Championship." Rogan was explaining that MMA judges sometimes judge rounds as if they were seeing a schoolyard fight and judging it based on who was winning at the time the teachers pulled them apart. I support Rogan's repeated calls for improved judging in MMA, but I wish Rogan would stop suggesting that a fighter can "steal" a round just by getting a takedown at the end. Schoolyard logic shouldn't apply.Stock up
Scott Jorgensen bounced back nicely from his loss to bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, knocking out Ken Stone in the first round. Jorgensen is a serious talent who deserves to be recognized as one of the elite fighters at 135 pounds.Stock Down
It's hard to believe that when the UFC and WEC merged, Josh Grispi was considered the No. 1 contender for Jose Aldo's featherweight title, because in two UFC fights, Grispi has looked like garbage. First, Dustin Poirier whipped Grispi for three rounds at UFC 125, and then George Roop dominated Grispi on Saturday night. It's a good thing Grispi never got his chance to fight Aldo, because Aldo would tear Grispi apart.
I don't know what's happened to Grispi recently, but I hope he gets his fighting career back on track. He's only 22, so he has plenty of time to turn things around, but he's gone from dominating everyone he faced in the WEC to getting dominated twice in the UFC.Final thought
Tony Ferguson was the bad boy in The Ultimate Fighter house this season, and his behavior on the reality show was unacceptable. But he's also a very talented fighter who looks like he's ready to do big things in the UFC. I could see him having a Chris Leben-style career in which he eventually becomes better known for his hard-hitting style of fighting than his brash nature outside the Octagon.