It’s difficult to look at T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz and not expect a “Fight of the Night” performance from the two bantamweights this Sunday at UFC Fight Night 81.
However, there is another main card bout that has all the makings of an instant classic and possible “Fight of the Year” candidate by the end of the year.
Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez.
The two lightweights will be the co-main event on FOX Sports 1, and with both former champions looking to make an immediate 2016 impact, fireworks should be expected.
Pettis will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since a March decision loss to Rafael dos Anjos cost him the lightweight title. “Showtime” was unable to do anything of note vs. RDA, suffering his first setback in almost four years.
After claiming the WEC title with a victory over Benson Henderson in 2010, Pettis debuted in the UFC a year later and was bested by Clay Guida. He rebounded, reeling off five consecutive wins including a first round submission of Henderson that scored him the UFC title.
Following a second submission win over Gilbert Melendez, which was his fourth straight finish, Pettis ran into a buzzsaw. You can believe, though, that he has taken the loss to heart ahead of facing Alvarez.
An ex-Bellator champion, Alvarez finally found his way to the UFC in 2014, falling to Donald Cerrone. Almost a year later, he returned and scored a split decision vs. Melendez to position himself in this title-eliminator.
During his MMA career, Alvarez has bested the likes of Michael Chandler, Shinya Aoki, Roger Huerta and Pat Curran, reeling off a stretch that saw him go 10-1 at one point.
Along with Dillashaw-Cruz, Travis Browne-Matt Mitrione, Patrick Cote-Ben Saunders and Paul Felder-Daron Cruickshank should all bring the TD Garden crowd to their feet throughout the night.