UFC Nashville: Thompson vs. Pettis Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Nashville, Tenn.

Updated: March 20, 2019 • 5:40 PM ET

Anthony Pettis is trying to work his way back to championship status.

The UFC will land in Nashville, Tenn. for UFC Fight Night 148 this Saturday, featuring a welterweight fight between a former title challenger and a former champion in the Bridgestone Arena. No. 3 ranked welterweight Stephen Thompson will face former lightweight champion and No. 8 ranked lightweight Anthony Pettis in the main event.

Thompson will attempt to rebound from a loss to Darren Till last May, and he’s 1-2-1 in his last four fights. He challenged Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title at UFC 205; and after being as close as you can get to being knocked unconscious, he somehow found a way to convince the judges the fight was a majority draw. The draw resulted in an immediate rematch, but Thompson was unable to engage in any significant exchanges and lost the rematch by a majority decision. Thompson followed the losses to Woodley with an impressive victory over Jorge Masvidal, but his momentum was quickly halted by Till.

His karate and kickboxing background made waves when he entered the UFC, as Thompson scored highlight reel finishes over notable names like Robert Whittaker, Jake Ellenberger and Johny Hendricks. The 36-year-old is widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the UFC and needs a win this weekend if he wants to stay in the title picture.

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The time for Thompson to gain another title shot could be better now than ever with Woodley losing the title to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235 earlier this month. A third Woodley and Thompson fight was unlikely after what fans considered to be a lack of action in their second fight.

Thompson compiled a 58-0 kickboxing record and has a 14-3 MMA record. He’s 9-3-1 in the UFC, and his fighting style can still cause problems for anyone in the welterweight division. As long as Thompson can keep winning, he’ll remain a title threat.

After losing only two fights in the first 20 bouts of his professional career, Pettis is 3-6 in his last nine fights with the losses coming to Rafael dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson. He most recently lost to Ferguson at UFC 229 in October via a second-round corner stoppage. Up to that point, the fight was one of the best of 2018. Pettis hurt Ferguson badly and was close to a major upset before being badly hurt by Ferguson.

The 32-year-old Pettis is a former WEC and UFC lightweight champion with notable victories over Michael Chiesa, Jim Miller, Charles Oliveira, Gilbert Melendez, Benson Henderson, Donald Cerrone, Joe Lauzon and Jeremy Stephens. Since losing the lightweight title to Dos Anjos at UFC 185, he hasn’t looked like the same explosive fighter that entered the UFC; but every time fans forget about him, he reminds them why they shouldn’t have.

A victory over Thompson would once again remind everyone that Pettis isn’t done yet. It could also announce his presence as a contender in a new division.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a heavyweight showdown between No. 4 Curtis Blaydes and No. 10 Justin Willis.

Blaydes will try to rebound from a first-round TKO loss to Francis Ngannou in November after winning four straight fights. He’s 10-2 overall (1 NC) with the only losses coming to Ngannou. The 28-year-old has key victories over Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt and Alexey Oleynik.

Willis is on an eight-fight winning streak and hasn’t lost since 2012, his first professional fight. He’s 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the UFC, most recently defeating Mark Hunt by unanimous decision in December for the biggest win of his career. The 32-year-old could announce his presence as a serious title threat in the heavyweight division with a win over Blaydes this weekend.

The rest of the main card

Lightweight bout - John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo

Flyweight bout - No. 1 Jussier Formiga vs. No. 4 Deiveson Figueiredo

Featherweight bout - Luis Peña vs. Steven Peterson

Women's flyweight bout - Maycee Barber vs. JJ Aldrich


ESPN+ Prelims

Featherweight bout - Bryce Mitchell vs. Bobby Moffett

Bantamweight bout - Marlon Vera vs. Frankie Saenz

Women's flyweight bout - No. 5 Alexis Davis vs. No. 11 Jennifer Maia

Women's strawweight bout - No. 15 Randa Markos vs. Angela Hill

Bantamweight bout - Ryan MacDonald vs. Chris Gutierrez

Flyweight bout - No. 12 Eric Shelton vs. No. 15 Jordan Espinosa

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