Anthony Pettis made his PFL debut on Friday night in Atlantic City, topping the PFL 1 card against a fellow UFC alum in Clay Collard.
While Pettis had exited the UFC off a pair of wins and jumped straight to the Professional Fighters League, Collard had taken time to compete in the boxing ring. On Friday night, that showed, as Collard took the lead early against the former UFC and WEC champ.
In the opening round, Clay Collard managed to back Pettis, up, using his boxing and targeting the body. After spending a year in the ring, it was clear Collard had plenty of skill in his hands. Pettis would answer back, but with less frequency. Collard had the edge in volume, and accuracy. When Pettis went off-balance on a cartwheel kick, Collard chopped away at his legs.
Collard, however, was not going to willingly go to the ground with the former UFC champ. Which allowed Pettis to get back up. On his next attack, Collard backed Pettis into the fence again, targeting the body and leaving Pettis on his back once more. Through the first round, Collard was fighting exactly the fight he needed to: heavy on the boxing, high percentage with his strikes, and avoiding the flashy, low-percentage attacks of “Showtime.”
In the second, the body work by Collard continued. Pettis mixed in knees to the body, and tried a jump knee, only to slip off the attempt. Collard then came up short on his own flying knee in respect.
Then, along the fence, Collard landed a blow that crumpled Pettis, set up with a body shot. Pettis somehow survived, covering up, but when he was back to his feet, he was far from recovered. Collard was flat-out piecing Pettis up, smelling blood in the water. Lighting up the body and going upstairs as well. Soon, Pettis was rocked a second time, care of a body shot, and was circling and retreating more than fighting. Moments later, he was dropped a second time, and Collard moved in for the kill. Pettis turtled up, and it seemed like the finish was imminent. But the ref gave him all sorts of leeway, and Pettis finished the round working on a triangle off his back.
Round three found Anthony Pettis in need of a finish. Collard meanwhile appeared to have injured his left hand. Pettis landed a left hand, a kick that was blocked, and seemed to have some life in him yet. But a caught kick saw Collard dump Pettis and chop at his legs some more. On the way up, Pettis wound up rocked by a Collard right hand, but he’d land a spinning back fist a moment later. Collard, out of character, threw out a wheel kick, falling short. Pettis was retreating, and the strong start he’d hand to the round had dissipated.
Late in the final round, however, a head kick landed for Pettis! Collard was rocked, and a knee put him down. He wasn’t out, though, and tied Pettis up. When Pettis could finally free himself, he glanced another head kick off Collard’s dome, but time was up. Pettis had stolen the round, but he’d lost the war.
Official Result: Clay Collard def. Anthony Pettis by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)