LAS VEGAS -- Former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis needed a win Saturday after a pair of flat performances and losses in his past two fights.
Edson Barborza came into UFC 197 in search of a signature win after a UFC stint in which he's always seemed just a cut below the lightweight division's elite.
Something had to give.
In a sneakily hard-hitting and tactical fight, Barboza outmaneuvered, outstruck, and generally flustered his foe, winning via unanimous decision. The judges' scores at the MGM Grand Garden Arena were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
The opening round featured both fighters moving at a fast pace as they tried to figure out one another's range. Barboza won that battle, as he beat his opponent on sheer volume of strikes.
Pettis had his moments in the second round, but it started to become clear the damage was adding up, as Barboza pelted him with kicks to the body and legs and punctuated the round with a wicked left hook to the jaw. Pettis ended the round with wicked welts on both his lead leg and his midsection.
The former champ did his best to find another level in the final round, but every time he sought to bring it up another level, Barboza had an answer, as he shut down his fluid foe's angles of approach and landed counters when Pettis did manage come at him.
Pettis dropped to 18-5 with his third consecutive loss, while Barboza (17-4) has won two out of his past three fights.