When it comes down to pure striking in the UFC, there may not be a more dangerous fighter on the roster than lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
He’s proved time and time again that his wide array of creative kicks and deadly punches are lethal in a fight against any of the top 155-pound fighters in the world. Pettis’ resume looks like a highlight reel decorated by knockout after knockout of some of the top fighters in the sport.
Pettis treats the Octagon like he’s participating in a parkour competition, bouncing off the walls and usually abusing his opponents in the process. So as he prepares for his first title defense against another striker like Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181, Pettis is licking his chops like a wolf in a henhouse just waiting for a chance to ply his craft.
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He doesn’t see anything Melendez does on the feet as a real danger to him, but what Pettis can do to the top ranked lightweight contender is another story entirely.
"I think he’s very basic when it comes to standup," Pettis told FOX Sports about Melendez. "He’s got decent boxing and he’s tough. That’s most Mexican fighters, they are the most exciting fighters, they are tough and have good boxing. Unfortunately for him, that’s my zone. If he wants to stand in there and trade, he’s not going to see me having a Diego Sanchez fight, I’ll tell you that.
"I think I outclass him in the striking like he’s a beginner. He’s still new to striking. His wrestling’s not strong enough to hold me down. Once it’s on the feet, he’s in for a long night. Or maybe a short night."
If you get a guy like (Gilbert) Melendez and he’s tough enough to get past the first couple of minutes, I think you’re going to see the best Anthony Pettis. If he’s tough enough to withstand the first couple of minutes, you’re going to see how good I really am
— Anthony Pettis
Pettis is more motivated than ever because he’s had to sit out for nearly 16 months dealing with a knee injury and then filming "The Ultimate Fighter," which kept him on the sidelines until his scheduled December return.
The UFC’s lightweight champion knows people have short memories in this sport, so he intends to go out and remind them why he’s the best 155-pound fighter on the planet. There are scores of fighters who tried to stand and bang with him, and it hasn’t ended very well for any of them.
He plans on adding Melendez to that list on Dec. 6.
"Look at (Donald) Cerrone — Cerrone’s supposed to be one of the best kickboxers in the division, and I ended that fight in three minutes. A couple body kicks and that was it. I was just warming up," Pettis said.
"If you get a guy like Melendez and he’s tough enough to get past the first couple of minutes, I think you’re going to see the best Anthony Pettis. If he’s tough enough to withstand the first couple of minutes, you’re going to see how good I really am."
The frustration of being out of action for more than a year has consumed Pettis at times, but the time off also allowed him to up his arsenal by adding a few new weapons to his already impressive striking style.
The last time anybody saw Pettis in the Octagon was August 2014 against former champion Benson Henderson, whom he submitted in the first round by armbar. On that night, Pettis was also dealing with a knee injury that he kept hidden so he could remain in the title fight in his hometown of Milwaukee.
It all paid off in the end, but Pettis doesn’t want anyone to think that was his best night.
"I think I’m night and day a different fighter. Even against Benson, that was a short camp, I was coming off that little LCL tear, that was not the best Anthony Pettis. I want to say I was 75 percent as a fighter that night," Pettis said. "I’m focusing in on the details. I’m getting older now so I’m getting smarter and wiser, knowing positions more, my takedown defense is better, I’m just ready to go out there and (show) everybody what I’m capable of."
Pettis respects all of the accomplishments Melendez has achieved during his career. He also knows the former Strikeforce champion has never faced anyone like him before.
Pettis doesn’t get paid by the hour so he plans on dispatching Melendez in the same fashion he’s done his past three opponents.
"It’s mixed martial arts so anything is possible," Pettis teased. "With that being said, I don’t see it going past the first."