Anthony “Showtime” Pettis (13-2) is a former WEC lightweight champion and was in search of his first UFC win Saturday night in Houston, Texas at UFC 136. His opponent, Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens (20-6) was coming off two wins earlier this year against Marcus Davis and Danny Downes.
The fight which featured two outstanding strikers got underway with both fighters exchanging punches before Stephens took Pettis to the ground. Each time Pettis was able to quickly get to his feet and avoid any damage from the guy who before the fight blogged, “Come October 8th I’m going to beat the (expletive) out of Pettis. Knock him off his little pedestal, his little whatever the (expletive) he thinks he’s on. Just expose this chump. Take him out in graceful fashion in the way I like to call a vicious KO.”
In the second round the fighter who fans know as “Showtime” went to work showing off his newly improved wrestling skills. He took Stephens to the ground early in the second and later in the round took his back, placing his opponent in all kinds of trouble. He managed to lock up a body triangle and even attempted a choke, but “Lil Heathen” managed to avoid the submission attempt and survive for a third round.
The third round consisted of more wrestling from Pettis as he again took Stephens to the canvas and secured a split decision victory, his first in the UFC.
Pettis looked like a completely different fighter than the one we saw in his UFC debut against Clay Guida who exposed the former champ’s wrestling game. Guida was able to take him down at will throughout the fight and won by unanimous decision. Pettis admitted he had went into the Guida fight a little “hot headed” and is now just going to start winning some fights.
To prepare for this fight Pettis called on the assistance of four-time All American and NCAA Division 1 wrestling champ Ben Askren to improve his ground game. In a post fight interview Pettis said, “The game plan was to show the world that I have wrestling. The Guida fight led to where I am now.” The 24-year old fighter who trains under Duke Roufus in Milwaukee said any fight excites him right now and he is excited to get back in the gym and continue to get better.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC
MMATraining Take: Pettis looked significantly better in his fight with Stephens. He’s ultimately known for his flashy moves and off the cage kicks but he showed tremendous improvement in his wrestling, probably his only weak area as he also has outstanding jiu-jitsu and is a serious threat off his back. I look forward to seeing Pettis continue to grow as a fighter and watch him climb his way back up the lightweight division.