Through almost two rounds of the UFC Nashville main event at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, Pettis (22-8) had been picked apart and bloodied by Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (14-4-1). and it looked like it would be a long night for the former UFC lightweight champion.
But that all turned around in the closing moments of the second frame as he landed a Superman punch right on the button that put Thompson down for the count with four seconds remaining in the period.
It was a stunning finish given that this was Pettis’s UFC welterweight debut and that he is now the first fighter to knock out Thompson, a two-time title challenger at 170 pounds. Adding even more drama to Pettis’s latest highlight is the fact that he was clearly being out-struck by Thompson until he landed his epic blow.
After previously competing at featherweight and lightweight, Pettis was ecstatic about being matched up with Thompson.
“His ranking, No. 4 in the world,” Pettis said post-fight. “I don’t want to fight nobody behind me, especially at lightweight. I was like, ‘Let’s move up.’ The results show. The weight cut was killing me at 145, 155, now 170 I better be in the top-10. I’m feeling good, I love it.”
Asked to describe his newest signature move — one that may go down as more memorable than even the off-the-cage flying kick he landed against Benson Henderson five years ago — Pettis explained the events that led to the finish.
“It’s a Superman hook,” Pettis said. “He was catching me with his jab and I knew he had the range on me so I was trying to eat him up with the low kicks, thinking about low kicks. I know I was hurting his back leg and that’s how I set up the right hand.”
Pettis has now alternated wins and losses in his last eight fights, while Thompson falls to just 1-3-1 in his last five appearances.
With such an impressive welterweight victory now on his resume, Pettis sounded like he’s open to sticking around in the division while also looking forward to returning to lightweight.
“170 I felt so good coming into the camp, the weight cut,” Pettis said. “I’ll be here for awhile, but I’m not done at 155. Just a couple of names at 170.
“I want (Rafael dos Anjos) back, that’s one of the fights I need, and then 155, if Dana wants to give it to me, the winner of (Edson) Barboza and (Justin) Gaethje, I’m ready.”