Top flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez returned to the Octagon on Saturday at UFC 225 after being sidelined with a knee injury since December 2016. “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” faced No. 5 ranked Sergio Pettis and came up just short on the judges’ scorecards.
Benavidez was aggressive in the opening round landing leg kicks often. Pettis remained on the outside and looked to counter. He landed a right hand that staggered Benavidez in the early going. He followed up with an uppercut and another right hand. Benavidez quickly changed levels and secured a takedown. Pettis used the fence to get back to his feet and the two went back to exchanging.
Benavidez used more head movement in the second frame and pressured Pettis. He repeatedly looked to get the fight to the ground but Pettis’ takedown defense held up. In the third frame, Benavidez came out with a sense of urgency. He applied constant pressure and outworked his 24-year-old opponent. In the closing seconds of the round, the two planted their feet and looked to get a late finish. After three rounds of fighting, the judges scored the fight for Pettis by split decision.
Pettis clearly won the first round, but the next two could have gone either way. The stats showed that Benavidez landed more. As the scorecards were being read, Pettis wasn’t sure if he’d get the nod.
“I was worried about it (the decision). I got held on the cage a lot. Didn’t do much damage but he held me there and I know the judges score that pretty big. I just came out here and did my thing,” said Pettis after the win.
“I knew Joseph is very creative and very dynamic with his wrestling and his striking together. I wanted to make sure I could defend the takedown, and I knew I could outstrike the guy,” added Pettis.
At just 24-years old, Pettis has a bright future ahead of him. With a win over the top flyweight contender, Pettis put himself into title contention.
“I’m just getting better man. I took a loss in my last fight. I sat for six months watching that fight everyday, motivation and getting better. That’s what I’m here for. I’m only 24. So much time God willing and body willing in this sport. Let’s see where I can take it,” said Pettis.