Eddie Alvarez showed up smart, in shape and sharp en route to the biggest win of his long career, Sunday, against Anthony Pettis. The two action lightweights were vying for dibs on the next title shot and fought hard for three-straight rounds.
In the end, Alvarez successfully mixed boxing and wrestling to stifle Pettis and win a split decision. Scores were 29-28 (twice), and 28-29 in favor of East-coast son.
"I had a game plan. I stuck by it," he said, afterwards.
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"I want the champion, next. Give me the champion."
Alvarez started the first round with a double-leg takedown of Pettis, working strikes on the ground, and grinding the former champion against the cage. Pettis got back to his feet but Alvarez kept him pressed against the cage, looking for more takedowns.
Alvarez did indeed score two more takedowns but also ate hard body kicks from "Showtime" once the Roufusport leader got back to his feet.
In the second, Alvarez pressured Pettis, changing up his stances, and landing right hooks to the head. Alvarez pressed Pettis against the cage once again, looking for more takedowns, but Pettis was able to free himself without hitting the mat.
Later in the round, Pettis began to find his range with leg kicks and straight punches to the head. For his part, Alvarez continued to press for takedowns, switch his stances, and connect with hooks and a few of his own kicks to the head.
At the start of the third, Alvarez charged Pettis looking for another takedown. Pettis got free, sooner than he had at any point earlier in the fight, and began to pepper Alvarez with punches to the head, and opening up a cut.
Alvarez leaned into the action, swung away and shot once again. This time, the Philly warrior scored it and pressed Pettis against the cage.
Pettis created enough space to lock in a heel hook attempt that looked dangerous. Alvarez survived and battered Pettis with short hammerfist punches until Pettis stood up.
Alvarez scooped him up and slammed him back down again. Unbroken, Pettis worked his way back up, once more, but was dragged down yet again by the dogged Alvarez.
With under a minute left, Pettis got off the cage and had one more chance to steal the fight. Though both men looked exhausted, it was Alvarez who swung strikes more actively in the final moments of the bout.
The win improved Alvarez’s record to 26-4 and is his fifth win in the last six tries. Pettis’ loss was his second straight and dropped his mark to 18-4.