Made official with a victory in the main event of UFC On FOX 3, Northern California native Nate Diaz was declared the #1 contender for the Lightweight title and now awaits to challenge the winner of the upcoming rematch between newly crowned champion Benson Henderson and now former champion Frankie Edgar which is expected to headline UFC 150 in August. With the championship rematch now three months away and an added four or more months till the winner of that bout is able to defend the title, Diaz could be looking at what could be a lengthy layoff. With this taken into consideration, a lot of fans and analysts are looking at the likelihood that Diaz could put his #1 contendership status on the line in the meantime to stay active, which is where Anthony Pettis comes in. Interviewed during the post fight show on FUEL TV, the former WEC Lightweight champion made his case saying he feels he is the #1 contender and wanted a match with Diaz to decide who deserves the shot at the title.
The final WEC Lightweight champion before the promotion was officially absorbed into the UFC, Pettis was originally promised a shot at unifying his title with the UFC title against the winner of the bout between then reigning champion Frankie Edgar against #1 contender Gray Maynard at UFC 125. In an unexpected twist the title bout resulted in a draw marking the second time ever a UFC title bout ever had that result, which lead to an immediate rematch between Edgar and Maynard to decide the true winner and meant that Pettis would need to decide on whether to accept a bout in the meantime or wait for his next chance. Pettis decided to accept a match-up with former inaugural Strikeforce Lightweight champion Clay Guida, and would lose the bout being outwrestled by the agile grappler and losing via Unanimous Decision thus losing his shot at the title. Pettis would bounce back from the disappointing loss taking a Split Decision win over UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens where he showcased his improved wrestling game and a Rnd1 KO over TUF5 alumni Joe Lauzon that earned KO of the Night honors. After his victory over Lauzon which was also at the same event where Benson Henderson took a Unanimous Decision to win the division title from champion Frankie Edgar, Dana White said at the post event press conference that Pettis could receive the shot at the title coming off a win and also being the one that captured the WEC title from Henderson before the transition. With talk of a title shot shifting to the then upcoming match-up between Diaz and Miller, Pettis opted to have a minor shoulder surgery done in the meantime. Now on the mend rehabbing from his surgery, Pettis wants to get back into the title picture immediately with fans already spreading rumor that a match-up with Diaz could serve as the co-main event on the card that could be headlined by Henderson vs Edgar II.
Even with fans who would like to see the match-up happen in the meantime, there is a large consensus of fans still that feel Diaz should maintain his position as #1 contender with Pettis fighting in another bout to decide the next contender. At this time if Diaz does choose to sit aside waiting for the winner of Henderson vs Edgar II, the only match-ups that appear available for Pettis include potentially welcoming back TUF1 winner Diego Sanchez to the division, fighting Jim Miller after just losing this #1 contender’s bout to Diaz, or awaiting the winner of the upcoming UFC On FX 4 main event pitting TUF5 alumni Gray Maynard against former Strikeforce champion Clay Guida. In recent months following his Unanimous Decision loss Welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger, 1x Lightweight title challenger Sanchez spoke of a likely drop back to competing at 155lbs and said that he was specifically interested in a possible bout with Pettis in his return. As for a match-up with Miller, he serves as a perennial contender only career losses include losing decisions to then future champions Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson, then future 2x title challenger Gray Maynard, and being finished for the first time by now #1 contender Nate Diaz. As for a match-up against the winner of Maynard vs Guida, it makes for an interesting match-up with Maynard having fought for the title twice going 0-1-1 in his attempts, and the potential for a rematch with Guida to avenge his lone loss in the promotion could do some good also earning a win over a top 10 ranked fight. Another match-up that fans may overlook could be to welcome potential new import Eddie Alvarez. Seen as the #1 Lightweight not yet signed under Zuffa, Alvarez holds a record of 23-3 with his only career losses including a loss to veteran Nick Thompson in 2007, a loss to submission specialist Shinya Aoki in 2008 that he avenged this past April, and losing his BellatorFC Lightweight title to now champion Michael Chandler. With his contract with BellatorFC expected set to expire in the next couple months, and seen sitting ringside next to Dana White during the Diaz vs Miller bout, Alvarez is expected to join the crowded roster in the coming months. Should Pettis be denied a bout with Diaz to decide the division’s #1 contender’s position, these could be the likely options on the table for Pettis to advance in the title picture.
Written by @mmafanhq