Now is the time to take an utterly subjective unscientific look at some of Anthony Pettis' many, many great and memorable moments in Mixed Martial Arts. However unscientific, few will argue the following moments are anything but deserving of consideration of top status.
#5: Knockout of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
This moment could be closer to the top spot, but it is a nice first bookend to start with as it is something in recent history and not in the early part of Pettis' career. This knockout is not only a top moment, but a testament to the tenacity and skills of the fighter himself.
It was a spectacular finish, but it was also one of those crossroads moments. While no one would say Pettis who went up in weight to fight the Karate genius did not give a good account of his grit, his face did not look like he was winning that fight. It was not merely the knockout, it was that Showtime was Showtime and flew off the cage (foreshadowing our list runner-up, are we?) with a spring-loaded Superman punch to do it!
#4: Submitting Gilbert Melendez to Defend his Belt
Heaven forbid there be any MMA math in a list like this, but this moment and the fight that contains it has a couple of layers to it. It is odd to have a moment lower in a countdown that came later than the top moment, but hopefully this will be sensible. One of the layers here is that if one is only aware of Gil's UFC career, this moment lacks spark. However, if one knows Melendez's history and credentials this makes sense. That is that dreaded MMA math at work, but – pun intended – it adds up here.
Imagine you could travel back in time to the Strikeforce heyday era and find a diehard fan who watched Melendez and the Diaz brothers march around mugging like invincible movie villains and then you said to that hardcore fan the following: "In the future Anthony Pettis will survive an onslaught from Gilbert, win the fight, defend a championship - oh, and by the way, he will do it with a guillotine choke that had all the swagger of a boss. One more thing; it will be in the UFC that this will happen." If you did this then, you would be mocked with a Conor McGregor-level mocking. It must be on this list.
#3: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone Body Shot Finish
It would be nice if there were cheat codes like video games have to use two moments in this fight for our list. [CHEAT CODE ENABLED] Just for a quick second, please. Before the finish there were other great moments in this short fight. One that could be right here in this third spot is that cartwheel kick that landed in the first thirty seconds of that fight. You read that right - a cartwheel kick that landed! Cowboy made it cost him though, sneaking in a sneaky knee to the sternum.
But the real moment in that fight was the breathtaking (literal) kick to the body (liver) that stopped Cowboy. After already having touched that paralysis button seconds earlier, Pettis focused and honed in on it. Then with 2:28 remaining in just the first round, Cerrone's body shut down with the thud of thuds body kick. Equal parts painful and exhilarating to watch.
#2: Two words - Showtime. Kick.
If someone said this should be the top moment, it would be tough to argue. We will make the case in a bit why it got the silver. It is difficult to estimate the shockwave that single moment sent through MMA. There is broader significance as it was the WEC's last event and Anthony won the belt in that fight as well.
That kick is the stuff of Martial Arts legend. It is the kind of thing a kid thinks of doing when they think of themselves as a superhero fighting monsters. It ignited the imagination when it toppled Benson Henderson – one of those four minute mile moments for sure. If you have ever seen sports highlights, they can be misleading. This moment was the real deal. Pettis has lots of moments that belong on highlight reels, but this will never not be one if he is in it.
#1: Winning the UFC Lightweight Championship in his Home Town
Stated already, the kick heard round the world could easily be in the top spot. But it is probably safe to say this moment edges it out on the scale due to its bigger significance. Combat Sports as sport really has many goals associated with it. That said, it is hard to deny that becoming a champion in a top organization is the dream of most. Speaking of being on top, Pettis was the challenger in this fight with that familiar foe Bendo who was riding a string of successful title defenses.
Not only did Anthony attain the coveted UFC Lightweight Belt, he did it in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He had already spoiled a hometown party in taking Benson Henderson's belt in his hometown. Now, he spoiled Smooth's attempt to get hometown-spoiling vengeance. His accomplishment in proving to be the best fighter in the world, along with the elation and tears with his mother, is what puts this at the top of the list.
There are actually here a couple of pretty literal honorable mentions as it is a mention of Pettis' honor itself. This is not technically a single moment of course, but the perceptive fan will note there are lots of those moments strung together and we may have to make a loophole to qualify them here. One group of moments is in his honor of his father. Not just the ink on the chest, but in carrying on his name pretty openly. There are even more honorable moments of late to behold in his introspection and growth mentally – particularly in his sharing it publicly. It takes real courage to wear that on the gi like he has. If it makes us feel better on a top list, pick a single interview in the last year or so and mark it down. Space simply doesn't allow his honor of his Coach, or brother, etc. At least we sneaked in the honor though!