After fighting just four times in three years, all Anthony Pettis wanted for the holidays was a quick turnaround. Luckily for him, he got his wish. After becoming the first man to finish Gilbert Melendez, and doing so in almost effortless fashion, Pettis is scheduled to once again defend his UFC lightweight title, this time against Rafael dos Anjos on March 14 at UFC 185.
And dos Anjos has already let it be known, he sees holes Pettis' game, and he plans on bringing the belt back to Brazil.
"That's what they all say, man," Pettis told MMAFighting.com. "‘Cowboy' (Cerrone) said the same thing. (Benson) Henderson said the same thing. So did Melendez. And we all saw how that ended up. So I mean, I respect that he has to talk, he has to convince himself that I have holes in my game, but I don't know what fights he really watched besides Clay Guida to get a gameplan, and I fixed that a long time ago. Honestly, I think it's hard to even prepare for me.
"I mean, if I was fighting myself, I wouldn't even know what fight to watch. I haven't shown any flaws in my game or had any bad moments in my last couple fights. So if he really believes I have holes in my game, I guess he's going to find out the hard way that it's definitely not true."
It's no hyperbole to say that dos Anjos has taken the long road to get to this spot. The streaking Brazilian has been a mainstay of the UFC's lightweight division for seven years, fighting 17 times and competing against a cadre of big names. Only within the past few years, however, has dos Anjos truly put everything together, rattling off an impressive 8-1 record over that span with notable victories over Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson, and Nate Diaz.
The last of those wins, a one-sided unanimous decision against Diaz this past December, finally propelled dos Anjos into the number-one contender role he fills now. A steady diet of forward pressure was the key to winning that fight, and dos Anjos has stated that the same strategy will be the key to defeating Pettis.
Although in that regard, the champion disagrees.
"Everybody says that. And that's the key with any fighter. To beat anybody, you've got to break their will and then you can get them to tapout or quit," Pettis said.
"But these guys think they can pressure me, but they don't understand that I'm a counter fighter. I'm very good at countering right now. I have a unique range, I control it, and if you're coming at me hard, the harder you come at me, the easier it is to knock you out or hurt you. So I like that they all have that gameplan of pressure, but I mean, Melendez did the same thing. I think he's going to be surprised when he actually feels how strong I am and how technical I am and the angles my strikes come at. It's just different."
It's rare to hear the normally reserved dos Anjos say a bad word about anybody, however this time around, he's confident enough in his chances that he recently told Brazilian media, "I knocked Ben Henderson out and I'll do the same with Pettis." To that, Pettis' reply is simple: come try it.
"Benson Henderson is not even close to being on my level in striking, and neither is Rafael dos Anjos," Pettis said. "His striking, to me, he's a decent striker, but when I look at him I'm not afraid of his striking. His jiu-jitsu as well. His wrestling is decent. I mean, I just feel like I'm a bad match-up for him. The things that he thinks he's good at is where I'm way better than him at.
"I'm going to finish the fight," Pettis added. "I don't know exactly how. My last few fights were submissions so I'm due for a knockout. But if he thinks he's going to stand there and bang with me, then I think this fight will definitely end in a knockout, and I don't see it going out of the first round. I mean, even though Melendez got me into the second, I actually fought that fight a little safe. Even though it didn't go so long into the second round, I just fought it safe. I was inching along out there, but I think now I'm back at it. I don't think I need more than five minutes to take this guy out."