UFC 223 on April 7th will be the biggest MMA event of the year to date, featuring a lot of intriguing lightweight matchups. What may be the most interesting matchup is Michael Chiesa vs Anthony Pettis.
This is a fight between two of the top 15 lightweights in the world. It also is a clash of two fighters who are in different positions in their careers. Anthony Pettis (the former UFC lightweight champion) has fallen from the top and been on a slide since winning the title in 2013. Poor Anthony Pettis is 3-5 in his last eight fights, including a brief stint at featherweight where he missed weight and went 1-1, the latter being a TKO loss to Featherweight champion Max Holloway.
In his last fight he was getting dominated by Dustin Poirier before a Pettis injury ended the fight. The question remains: Is this the end of the Pettis prime? Or is there another chapter? I believe April 7th will provide the answer.
Now to Pettis’ opponent: Michael Chiesa. Since the Ultimate Fighter season 15 he has had a decent run in the UFC, including wins over Al Iaquinta, Jim Miller and Beneil Dariush all submission victories. Chiesa is a dangerous opponent for anyone if and when he gets you to the ground. Ten of his fourteen wins have come by submission. The questions of Chiesa’s career have always been, how far can he go? Is he a championship caliber fighter?
His most recent fight, albeit with some controversy, is officially a loss to interim title challenger Kevin Lee. Granted, this was a fight that Lee was easily winning and probably would have won regardless. Up until then, Chiesa has had moments of brilliance, like the way he upset Beneil Dariush with a sick rear-naked choke. The way Michael and Jim Miller exchanged on the ground, from reversals to submission attempts and then how Michael ultimately locked in that choke and it was over, was incredible!
In my opinion, this fight will set the bar for how each of these men’s careers go from here. For Anthony Pettis, it comes down to whether or not he is still a championship caliber fighter, or if he is now a gatekeeper for the top ten, never to return to the relevance he saw in his amazing UFC title run.
For Michael Chiesa it’s the opposite. Can this man rise to the potential most analysts thought he had, and beat a top contender? Can he position himself into the top of the UFC’s most competitive division? April 7th is where we find out.
Officially on the record, I believe Michael Chiesa wins by a late 3rd round submission or by a decision where he dominates Anthony on the ground and keeps him there for the majority of the fight. With the tenacity Chiesa shoots for takedowns and his willingness to hold Pettis against the cage, I believe he can grind this out and make Anthony work and wear him out to eventually get the tap, and the win.