Top-Level Striking Headlines UFC Nashville

Two of the UFC’s best strikers — a former welterweight title challenger and former lightweight champion — are set to collide in the main event of UFC Nashville on March 23.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Anthony Pettis will collide in the headline bout, displaying a matchup of karate vs. taekwondo and jiu-jitsu and a battle of two fan favorites.

This will be Thompson’s first bout in about 10 months, last competing in Liverpool and losing a controversial unanimous decision to Darren Till. Thompson started his pro MMA career 13-1, defeating the likes of Robert Whittaker, Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald before challenging Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title twice.

Their first bout at UFC 205, which was named Fight of the Night for the evening, went to a majority draw. Their rematch at UFC 209, a lackluster bout, saw Woodley edge out “Wonderboy” for a majority decision. Between the second title fight and loss to Till, Thompson was able to score a unanimous decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217.

Pettis will come into this bout coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson in an entertaining scrap that was named Fight of the Night at UFC 229 last October. Pettis has struggled since losing the lightweight title to Rafael dos Anjos in March 2015, losing six of his last nine. Still, he has managed to win a bonus in each of his last three fights — with two Fight of the Nights, plus a performance bonus in a second-round submission win over Michael Chiesa at UFC 226 last July.

This will mark Pettis’ first bout at welterweight in 11 years, prior to competing in the UFC or WEC.

The UFC Nashville co-main event sees a battle of up-and-coming heavyweights when Curtis Blaydes faces Justin Willis. While Blaydes was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in less than a minute in his last outing, his second loss to Ngannou and the only losses of his career, he has torn through the heavyweight division otherwise. Blaydes holds a unanimous decision win over Mark Hunt and TKO wins over Alexey Oleynik and Alistair Overeem. Willis has gone 8-0 since losing his professional debut, beating the likes of Allen Crowder and Chase Sherman before scoring a decision win over Mark Hunt in December.

The rest of the main card features a potential flyweight title eliminator, the return of the highly-touted Maycee Barber and more.

UFC Nashville Main Card (8 p.m., ESPN+)

Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis
Curtis Blaydes vs. Justin Willis
John Makdessi vs. Jesus Pinedo
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Jussier Formiga
Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson
J.J. Aldrich vs. Maycee Barber

UFC Nashville Preliminary Card (5 p.m., ESPN+):
Bryce Mitchell vs. Bobby Moffett
Frankie Saenz vs. Marlon Vera
Alexis Davis vs. Jennifer Maia
Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Jesus Pinedo
Angela Hill vs. Randa Markos
Chris Gutierrez vs. Ryan MacDonald
Jordan Espinosa vs. Eric Shelton

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