His UFC Fight Night 81 opponent, Alvarez, had been out of action nearly as long, although he was coming into this bout having won a split decision over Gilbert Melendez in his last trip to the Octagon.
While both are known as strikers with knockout power, Pettis is one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC, and Alvarez wasn’t taking any chances with his approach to the fight.
“I had a game plan, I stuck by it,” Alvarez said after the fight.
His gameplan was to stay tight on Pettis and try to take him to the ground, giving him little room to strike.
Alvarez wasn’t able to negate all of Pettis’ strikes, and suffered a fair amount of damage when Pettis had the space to strike. He got in a few licks of his own on the feet, but Pettis’ strikes were greater in both volume and damage.
Where things worked well for Alvarez was the time he controlled the fight. Starting early in the opening frame, he pressed Pettis up against the fence, pinning him there, not allowing him room to get off clean strikes.
Many of Alvarez’s takedowns took a lot of time to develop and Pettis was generally quick to regain his footing, but Alvarez was relentless, constantly pressuring Pettis and returning him to the canvas.
Early in round three, Pettis looked to have hurt Alvarez, but couldn’t do enough damage before Alvarez planted him back on the mat. Pettis threatened with a leg attack from his back, but Alvarez landed several hammerfists to fend him off.
Pettis again and again returned to his feet, but Alvarez wouldn’t let him stay there, putting him back on the mat a couple more times before they ended the fight on their feet, trading punches and kicks until the final horn.
It was a close fight with the judges scoring a split decision in Alvarez’s favor, moving him to 2-1 in the Octagon. With back-to-back wins over Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis, both former champions, Alvarez wasn’t shy about what he wants next… a title shot.
“He’s a former champion. So far, I’ve fought nothing but guys with title fights. I want the champion next. Give me the champion.”