LAS VEGAS -- It may have been just a glimpse but Anthony Pettis is starting to look like the UFC champion of old again.
The former 155-pound king and Wheaties box cover boy recorded his most impressive victory in years on Saturday when he submitted Michael Chiesa in the second round of their lightweight bout at UFC 226 inside T-Mobile Arena.
Pettis (21-7) dealt equally well with the constant scrambling and steady trash talk from Chiesa (14-4) to force the tap via triangle choke at 52 seconds of Round 2.
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The 31-year-old Pettis continued a trend of alternating victories with losses over the past two years and improved to 3-4 since losing his title to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015. But it was the quality of the performance, which included a well-rounded blend of striking and grappling, that provided flashes of his prime years.
"I'm excited for the fans. This is what we do," Pettis said. "What got me to the title shot is submissions and great kickboxing and that's what we do. I wanted to put on a show for you all. Next time, I guarantee I will put on one of my old knockouts for you guys."
Chiesa, 30, announced before the bout this would be his last fight at lightweight after missing the non-title limit of 156 pounds at Friday's weigh-in by 1.5 pounds. He showed an attacking mindset from the bout's start and twice recorded takedowns in the opening round.
But Pettis began to find his groove late in Round 1 and hurt Chiesa with a right hand before dropping him with another right before the horn to end the round. The fiery Chiesa instantly jumped to his feet and taunted Pettis before referee Herb Dean broke them apart.
The second round so more taunting Chiesa, but Pettis instantly countered with a stiff right hand that staggered him into the cage wall. Pettis partially connected with a flying knee that sent both to the ground and brought the crowd to its feet.
Despite losing position on the ground as Chiesa took over top position, Pettis quickly applied a triangle that produced the fight's finish.
"This was amazing," Pettis said. "I have caught so many good guys with submissions. I think I just earned my black belt today so big news for me in Las Vegas."
The loss for Chiesa comes during a disappointing stretch which includes a controversial submission loss to Kevin Lee last June. Then in April, ahead of his originally scheduled bout with Pettis at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York, Chiesa was forced to pull out when he was injured by shards of glass caused by Conor McGregor's attack on a bus which held UFC fighters at the Barclays Center.
For full results from UFC 226,.