Anthony Pettis' second appearance inside the Octagon wasn't an easy one as he narrowly edged veteran Jeremy Stephens, winning the contest by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Pettis came out fast in the opening frame, throwing a variety of kicks and punches with little success. Stephens countered with a couple of glancing shots and two brief takedowns, likely taking the first round on most scorecards.
Pettis landed a takedown early in the second round, beating on Stephens from top control and using knees to the body to maintain position. Stephens eventually made his way back to his feet at the halfway mark, but Pettis found ways to bring Stephens back to the mat repeatedly. Pettis threatened with a rear naked choke late in the round. Stephens escaped, however, trying to tee off on Pettis as the horn sounded.
Stephens pressed hard to open the third, taking down Pettis thirty seconds into the round. Pettis escaped to his feet after a brief exchange, then took it to Stephens, repeatedly taking him down over the remainder of the round. Stephens did have many moments in which he regained his feet quickly, avoiding any damage from Pettis. He also reversed a few takedown attempts from Pettis, making the round hard to score for the judges.
Pettis lost to long-time UFC veteran Clay Guida in his promotional debut at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale in October. He was previously crowned the WEC's final lightweight champion at WEC 53 in December, edging Ben Henderson by unanimous decision in a wild affair.
Like Pettis, Stephens is also one of the UFC's promising young bucks. He entered tonight's contest with a 4-1 record in his last 5 appearances, only faltering to Melvin Guillard at UFC 119 in a narrow split decision loss. He defeated Marcus Davis and Danny Downes in his last two appearances.