If the WEC was undecided about giving a title shot to the winner of the Anthony Pettis-Shane Roller fight, the promotion had to be sold after watching the thriller that unfolded tonight in Las Vegas. The lightweights engaged in a great back and forth battle that moved all over the cage. Roller had his moments but was down 2-0 and likely losing the third, when he went for broke in the final seconds. Pettis capitalized on Roller's aggression, slapped on a triangle choke and scored the finish at 4:51 of the third round.
The 23-year-old Pettis is now in line for a title shot against WEC champ Ben Henderson.
"My confidence is as high as it's ever been," said Pettis. "I'm ready for the champ. Where's he at? Ben, where you at? WEC needs a new face, it's me baby!"
Update: The WEC announce Pettis got the $10,000 submission of the night bonus.
Pettis (11-1, 4-1 WEC) set up the victory with some excellent grappling work. He avoided Roller's nasty takedowns and even when he was dumped to the mat, Pettis quickly got back to his feet or put his opponent in potential submission predicaments.
Even more shocking was Pettis' ability to takedown Roller, a three-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State. Pettis was 3-for-3 on takedown attempts while Roller was just 2-of-6. According to Compustrike, Pettis dominated the striking outlanding Roller 63-27.
"Taking down Shane Roller was pretty good," said Pettis. "He's a tough guy. I never got hit in the face that many times. Big ups to Shane."
Roller, who suffered a cut on the bridge of his nose in the final 90 seconds, said he never got into a groove.
"I was a little frustrated. It was one of those nights where it wasn't clicking," said Roller (8-3, 5-2 WEC). "I felt sluggish all three rounds. I didn't feel strong in here for some reason."
In the lead up to the fight, Pettis had drilled his wrestling heavily. He had worked on his takedown defense with former Olympian and two-time NCAA wrestling champ Ben Askren. Early on, it was clear Pettis' prep work was paying dividends. He thwarted two takedown attempts in the first two minutes.
On the feet, he was much faster and more creative. He landed the best blow of the fight with a crazy, looping head kick that landed on the back of Roller's head (pictured).
From the start of the second round, Roller didn't seem right. He was backing up and allowing Pettis to control the cage. That's when Pettis scored a takedown, controlled Roller on the ground for a little over two minutes and landed some good body shots. But Roller wasn't out of the fight as he landed a crushing left hook that stunned Pettis. He just didn't have the additional burst to pour it on.
Roller did score a takedown early in the third but he could never settle into Pettis' guard long enough to smash him with anything significant and several times he almost got caught in positions where a triangle could've been slapped on. It was a sign of things to come as Pettis finally got him with nine seconds left in the fight.