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Anthony Pettis Seeking to Conquer New Ground in the PFL

Aiming to avoid challenges that plagued him a season ago, "Showtime" is hungry for more.

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Anthony Pettis made a statement last month against Myles Price, leaving no doubt that “Showtime” had finally arrived in the PFL.

Surprisingly, that marked the first PFL victory for Pettis after losing his only two fights last season. Showing he is still elite off his back, Pettis subbed Price with a triangle choke with just over 40 seconds remaining in the opening round of the fight.

“I did it exactly how I’d planned,” Pettis (25–12) says. “I didn’t force anything. He came, shot the takedown, I defended, and we had a scramble on the ground. Even though it looks dynamic, triangles are very basic for me.”

Anthony Pettis

Pettis is looking to produce a highlight-reel finish in Friday's PFL bout against Ray.

The win was reminiscent of early in Pettis’s career when he fought for WEC, bringing back memories of a stretch from 2009 to ’10 when he earned three of his five wins via the triangle. Though best known for his flashiest finishes, like the Superman punch that knocked out Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson or the famed Showtime Kick against Benson Henderson, some of Pettis’s most impressive work in the cage has been courtesy of his submission victories. He subbed Henderson in ’13 with a double arm bar to win the UFC men’s lightweight title, and defeated Charles Oliveira—the reigning UFC lightweight champ—with a guillotine choke in 2016.

“People definitely forget my submission skills,” Pettis says. “My highlight wins overshadow those, but it’s a strength of mine, especially when people think they have an advantage against me on the ground.”

Pettis returns to the cage Friday against lightweight opponent Stevie Ray (23–10). Currently atop the PFL standings, Pettis has already punched his ticket to the playoffs—which he would like to enter on a winning streak.

“I’m looking for the knockout,” Pettis says. “This guy is a southpaw, and he fancies himself as a striker, but he’s never fought no one like me. Once I find my range and rhythm, it’s going to be a short night for him.”

The schedule of a PFL season differs vastly from fighting for the UFC. Following Friday’s bout, Pettis will fight again at the beginning of August. He needs to be smart with his approach in this fight, avoiding problems that plagued him in his first PFL season a year ago.

“It was so foreign to me,” Pettis says. “I was used to doing my eight-week training plan, then fighting my opponent and then taking as much time off as I needed. But this is so different. I started my camp in December. I’m not getting into shape to make weight for one night—I need to make weight four times. But I’m really enjoying myself. It’s given me this new life for training camp.”

Pettis is also returning to the UFC Fight Pass on July 3 for a grappling team survival tournament. He is coaching a team that features Daniel Manasoiu, Christos Papadelos, Giancarlo Bodini and Oliver Taza. They will compete in the Fight Pass Invitational against squads coached by Jorge Masvidal, Urijah Faber, and James Krause, with a $25,000 prize on the line.

“I recruited the best submission grapplers I knew, and we put together a killer team,” Pettis says. “The cool thing is that it’s not points—you’ve got to submit the guy to win. It should be a fun night.”

Fifteen years into his career, Pettis is hungry for more. After a disappointing first season, he plans on conquering a new challenge in the PFL.

“Friday night, it’s going to be showtime,” Pettis says. “We’re in for a highlight-reel finish.”

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Cat Zingano on Cris Cyborg: “That fight is obviously in the environment”

Zingano battles Sorenson in Friday's Bellator 282 and could face Cyborg next with a victory. 

Zingano battles Sorenson in Friday's Bellator 282 and could face Cyborg next with a victory. 

Cat Zingano steps back into the cage Friday at Bellator 282. She meets Pam Sorenson in a women’s featherweight bout that should serve as a prelude to a title bout against reigning champ Cris Cyborg.

“My focus is on 282, but that [Cyborg] fight is obviously in the environment,” Zingano says. “Right now, I’m focused on punch-by-punch and moment-by-moment.”

Zingano is currently ranked second in the featherweight division, but top-ranked Arlene Blencowe just fell short in her shot against Cyborg. A meeting between Cyborg and Zingano has been rumored for over a year, but it should become a reality once Zingano defeats Sorenson.

“I want to test my limits,” Zingano (12–4) says. “This is the deepest 145-pound division in the world. All the baddest featherweight women are right here, and I want to reach the point where I’m the best. So, of course, it would be great to be known as the best in the division.”

Undefeated in her two Bellator bouts, Zingano looks to keep the momentum rolling Friday on the prelim card against Sorenson (9–4).

“I expect the best version of her, and I’m bringing the best version of myself,” Zingano says. “It’s been the right discipline and the right game planning. My life is in a steady, consistent place. I feel strong, healthy, and everything’s in line to have a great night.

“It’s entertaining to me to go out and do this, let alone having everyone watch. I’m excited for everyone to see and I’m excited to go out and do this.”


The Pick ‘Em Section:

UFC on ESPN main event: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot

Pick: Arman Tsarukyan

Bellator 282 middleweight title bout: Gegard Mousasi (c) vs. Johnny Eblen

Pick: Gegard Mousasi

Bellator 282 welterweight bout: Brennan Ward vs. Kassius Kayne

Pick: Brennan Ward

Bellator 282 women’s featherweight bout: Cat Zingano vs. Pam Sorenson

Pick: Cat Zingano

PFL lightweight bout: Anthony Pettis vs. Stevie Ray

Pick: Anthony Pettis

Last week: 2-2

2022 record: 69-38


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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.