Anthony Pettis showed up for the main event but “Showtime” didn’t.
Pettis — who earned his apt monicker from his days as a UFC champion — lost to Stevie Ray in a unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, Friday night at the jam-packed Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in the Professional Fighters League’s lightweight semifinal.
It was the second time in six weeks that Ray beat Pettis. The first time came in June when Ray (25-10) submitted Pettis (25-14) with a a body triangle.
For the rematch, the former UFC champ promised a little more razzle-dazzle but it just didn’t happen.
Ray of Scotland smothered Pettis’ attack and consistently brought the fight to the floor. During the final minute of round one, Ray thought he had Pettis ready to tap out when he cinched on a north-south choke. But Pettis squirmed free seconds before the horn.
“I was sure that he was gonna go to sleep,” Ray said. “I squeezed. But I think I gassed myself out a little bit.”
Heading into the final round — and probably knowing he needed a stoppage for the win — Pettis managed to avert Ray’s takedown attempts and uncorked some big strikes. A kick to Ray’s lower leg sent the Scot to the mat. But it was too late for Pettis. Time soon expired. And it was Ray who was celebrating, knowing his march to the lightweight championship and the $1 million prize will continue.
Ray, a 10-bout UFC veteran, said he planned to celebrate his victory but not with any adult beverage. “I’m not much of a drinker, so I will celebrate with pizza,” he said.
Ray added: “I just beat Anthony Pettis twice, but I now I have my biggest test next.”
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His next test will be Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the championship. Aubin-Mercier dominated Alexander Martinez earlier in the evening with a 30-27, 30-26, 30-26 decision victory.
Also on Friday, light heavyweight Rob Wilkinson KO’d Delan Monte at 1:37 of the first round in of the fight that was the most thrilling bout of the main card.
Wilkinson will face Omari Akhmedov in the title match. Akhmedov scored a humdrum decision, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, over Josh Silveira at the Garden. Wilkinson replaced 2021 champion Antonio Carlos Jr., who pulled out with a reported torn ACL.
Two more PFL postseason cards this month are scheduled for Cardiff, Wales, and in London.