Anthony Pettis (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)UFC 181: Keys to Victory for Anthony Pettis Blane Ferguson December 2, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight It’s been nearly four years since Anthony Pettis landed the “Showtime Kick” in the WEC against Benson Henderson. Since then, he’s only fought five times and has yet to defended the UFC lightweight championship he won from Benson Henderson a year and a half ago at UFC 164. Fast forward to December 6, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas where Pettis, meets former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who is coming off one of the greatest fights in that weight class in mixed martial arts history against Diego Sanchez. So what does Pettis need to in order to solidify his spot on top of the mountain at 155 pounds? Let’s break down some ways he can retain his belt against Melendez. Stay healthy With a week until UFC 181, we should keep Pettis in a cocoon of bubblewrap and pillows away from any sort of sharp object or table corner. Besides maybe Dominick Cruz, Pettis has had the worst luck with injuries leading up to fights. So obviously, he needs to be going into the cage as close to 100 percent as he can be. When he is at full strength, Pettis does absolutely beautiful things on the feet. His striking is almost unparalleled in the division and will be on full display Saturday night—assuming he avoids dropping any heavy bags on his toes. Maintain distance Pettis’ game is not in the clinch, dirty boxing, and making it an ugly fight. He’s at his best when he is able to keep his distance and pick his spots. With some of the quickest hand speed in the world, Pettis is able to counter a majority of his opponent’s strikes because they are constantly having to try to land from Pettis’ desired range. Melendez will be coming forward from the opening bell. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t practically sprint in order to get to the center of the octagon first. Applying pressure is second nature to Melendez, so Pettis will want to maintain his distance. It only takes one big counter from Melendez to put Pettis to sleep. Avoid the takedowns I’m not necessarily saying that Melendez will try and take this fight to the ground, although he has been successful on 80 percent of his takedown attempts in the UFC. What I am suggesting though is that the only time Pettis has ever looked average in the UFC, Clay Guida smothered him for three rounds on the ground. That’s been the only blueprint on how to defeat Anthony Pettis. Even though he did submit Benson Henderson, Pettis is not a fighter who wants to stay on his back attacking from his guard. He wants to knock you out in spectacular fashion, pick up his bonus money, and head back to Milwaukee. If he arrives inside the cage relatively uninjured, keeps his distance and avoid watching his lightweight championship vanish from his back, Pettis will remain on top of the 155 pound division.