HOUSTON — Sergio Pettis is back on the winning track.
The 22-year-old Milwaukee native stumbled in his return to flyweight in March, losing to Ryan Benoit. But the younger brother of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis rebounded with a strong all-around performance Saturday night against Chris Cariaso.
Pettis won via unanimous decision, taking scores of 29-27, 29-27, 29-28.
Pettis, who appeared considerably larger than his opponent, set the tone early when he caught an attempted Cariaso kick and deposited him on the mat. Cariaso got out of that predicament, but later in the round, Pettis dropped Cariaso to the mat with a straight right hand. Pettis then laid out a ground-and-pound assault, but Cariaso managed to get to the end of the round.
“I hurt him, but he’s hard to finish,” Pettis said. “He a veteran and he’s a tough guy.”
There was less action in the second round, which included a standup by the referee after a Pettis takedown led to little action. But Pettis still got the best of things by tagging Cariaso with a variety of strikes.
In the third, Cariaso had his best round, as he got Pettis to the mat, pushed through a nasty Pettis upkick to get top control, and eventually maneuvered Pettis into a heel hook/armbar attempt. Pettis, however, managed to hold on until the horn and preserve the win.
With the victory, Pettis improved to 13-2 and won for the third time in his past four fights. Cariaso (17-8) has dropped three in a row.
“He’s a great opponent, he’s a top-10 guy in the division and I’ve been watching him since high school,” Pettis said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”