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Michael Chiesa gives his key to victory for Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone at UFC 249

Michael Chiesa has very high expectations for the featured preliminary bout at UFC 249.

Before the loaded main card kicks off on Saturday night at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., he’ll eagerly watch a welterweight matchup between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone.

Cerrone also has a history with Pettis. They met at UFC on FOX 6 in January 2013, and “Showtime” landed a nasty body kick that lead to a first-round TKO finish. But Chiesa also shared the octagon with Pettis in what turned out to be his final fight at 155-pounds; after missing weight by 1.5 pounds, he was submitted by the former lightweight champion nearly two years ago at UFC 226.

So, what does “Cowboy” need to do to avoid the same fate he suffered over seven years ago?

“Don’t go backward,” Chiesa told MMA Fighting on What the Heck. “That’s the biggest thing when you fight Anthony Pettis, and (that’s) easier said than done. The one thing about Anthony that I underestimated is when you stand across from the guy, it’s one thing to walk him down. But the way his stance is and the way he looks in front of you, his body is just locked in.

“He’s really twitchy and makes these really small movements that can draw you [in]. It’s not even like his feints are feints, he’s just a fast twitch striker. The way his motion is with his stance, sometimes it can trigger you into an attack, and sometimes it can trigger you into a retreat.”

Chiesa has a lot of respect for Pettis and learned a lot in their meeting in July 2018—one that ultimately lead to the “Sikjitsu” trained fighter to make a change in his fighting career. One thing he took away from that encounter is that no matter how much you prepare for an unorthodox fighter like Pettis, it’s best to expect the unexpected.

“You never know what the guy’s gonna do,” he explained. “He could run off the fence and freakin’ kick you. He might jump off the fence and Superman punch you, you just never know what he’s going to do.”

Both fighters head into Saturday night looking to snap losing streaks. Pettis has lost back-to-back fights in matchups with Nate Diaz and Diego Ferreira, while Cerrone looks to snap a three-fight skid that included both headliners for Saturday night’s event, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, and a recent blowout loss to Conor McGregor.

Chiesa and Cerrone have some common ground when it comes to preparation for a fight with Pettis, which could prove to be quite pivotal, according to the top-10 welterweight.

“I think one thing he has going for him is bringing in John Wood was a great asset for this camp, “Chiesa said. “I trained a lot with John Wood before I fought Pettis, and I had my success until I ran out of steam. John does a good job getting fighters to put pressure on people, and it’s likely (Cerrone) working with John is gonna help him with applying pressure.”

When it comes to making an official prediction, Chiesa sees so many intangibles favoring both sides of the equation. Using his knowledge of both competitors, he sees a path to victory in an intriguing rematch that’s over seven years in the making.

“Whoever wins this fight is gonna be the guy that moves forward and doesn’t retreat,” Chiesa said. “That’s kind of the tale for both guys, right? If you look at both guys, or if you get matched up with them and breaking down film, one thing that’s always going to be at the top of the list is, ‘Okay, get them on their heels.’

“Whichever guy can get going forward first, I think that’s gonna be the guy that wins. I think it will be a fun fight and I can’t believe it’s a prelim (fight). That’s a striker’s delight right there. That could steal the show.”

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