This Saturday night (November 11th), the slogan “Virginia is for lovers” won’t extend to the Ted Constant Center. Following in the footsteps of the Democratic Party, the UFC will continue the whuppings with Fight Night 120.
The event has an exciting headliner with former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis returning to the division to take on the tough-as-nails Dustin Poirier. Also on the card is a clash between Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez, two aging and ailing fighters desperate for a win.
Anthony Pettis (-120) vs Dustin Poirier (-110)
In a stacked weight class with a title held hostage, both Dustin Poirier (21-5, 1 NC) and Anthony Pettis (20-6) are struggling to stand out. Pettis, the former lightweight champ, has had a tough time in the octagon since losing his title to Rafael dos Anjos back in 2015. After suffering back-to-back losses against Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza, he decided to dip down to featherweight where he lost a title fight against Max Holloway. Now he’s back at 155 pounds and ready to rebuild his career. Though, with just two wins in his last six fights, he’s only a couple losses away from being cut loose.
Poirier has been steadily making his way up the division and is currently the eighth-ranked lightweight according to the UFC’s official rankings. His loss to Michael Johnson (via first-round KO) was a significant setback to his title hopes, but he recovered well in his next fight, a majority decision over Jim Miller which garnered Fight of the Night honors at UFC 208. He followed that with a thrilling back-and-forth against Alvarez. Poirier was arguably on track to win before Alvarez landed a few illegal knees, leading to a stoppage and a No Contest ruling.
Poirier likes to set a high tempo, swarming his opponents with strikes and backing them up against the cage. Pettis is able fight at a fast pace, but his real gift is his creativity and versatility. With his wild, unorthodox striking and his killer ground game, he’s one of the most exciting and unpredictable fighters in the division.
The momentum is on Poirier’s side. With only one loss since his return to lightweight in 2015, he’s deservedly a top-ten fighter in the division. But every time he’s been matched against a top-tier opponent — Michael Johnson, Conor McGregor, Cub Swanson — he’s come up short.
Anthony Pettis is in a slump right now, but take a look at the opponents he’s lost to — RDA, Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Max Holloway. His record is patchy because he’s fought the toughest guys in the lightweight and featherweight divisions.
I believe there’s still more to come from “Showtime” Pettis. His capoeira-style kicks can catch his opponents off guard and his ability to dominate fights both on his feet and on the ground will play to his advantage against the more limited Poirier.
Pick: Anthony Pettis (-120)
Matt Brown (-350) vs Diego Sanchez (+265)
Both Matt Brown (20-16) and Diego Sanchez (27-10) are nearing the end of their MMA careers. Brown has only won one of his last six fights and has lost three straight. Meanwhile, Sanchez has only won four of his last ten. They are both in their mid-thirties and this will be one of the last times we see either in the octagon.
Brown is coming back from a brutal knockout against Don Cerrone. Before that, he was mauled by Jake Ellenberger and badly concussed against Johny Hendricks. He’s been open about the effect fighting has had on his brain and body, and has questioned his future in MMA.
Diego Sanchez may not be the most effective fighter, but he’s undoubtedly entertaining to watch. With seven “Fight of the Night” awards and three “Fight of the Year” honors, Sanchez is one of the most beloved fighters. His ability to absorb blows and constantly move forward makes him a terrifying opponent. He has cardio for days and will not shy away from trading punches.
Brown is the more technically gifted fighter, but he has little left to give. While both men have suffered an enormous amount of damage throughout their careers, Brown is worse off. Sanchez at +265 is too good of an offer to pass up.
Pick: Diego Sanchez (+265)