How ironically cruel it must feel for Anthony Pettis to find himself “Spike TVing” on the undercard of the rematch from January 1st between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. It was that fight afterall that took his projected superstar making year and turned it into a downward spiral. Pettis entered 2011 as the reigning WEC Lightweight champ who was sitting on the sidelines awaiting the winner of Edgar/Maynard II so that the two Zuffa titles could be unified. Of course that fight ended in a thrilling, appropriate draw, the rematch was set for UFC 130 before it was pushed back again due to injury and now, 10 months later, it will finally happen. In the interim, Pettis took a high profile fight against Clay Guida which saw him out maneuvered at every turn and soundly decisioned, thus costing him his title shot and effectively evaporating the WEC Lightweight title into thin air.
So now at a time in the year when he must have envisioned himself as a main eventer he has been cast of the entire main card and is stuck fighting a very tough Jeremy Stephens. He does enter the fight as a fairly solid favorite, -325 at last check, which to me sounds like a brilliant way to waste $325. Pettis has been praised as an innovator of exciting offense who excels in all areas of the game. He can stand and bang, ground and pound and fight off of his back. My problem with him here is that there is no way he can match Stephens muscle for muscle. The WEC always had the most thrilling shows and it was because of people like Anthony Pettis, you want flying kicks that see him ricocheting off cages (while arguably doing limited damage) then he is your guy. His fellow WEC vets Donald Cerrone and Ben Henderson have rocketed to the top of the UFC Lightweight division by grounding their game and enhancing their brawling. But I think we can all agree that Guida exposed him as somebody who cannot grind out a victory. Fight an ugly, boring match and your chances of defeating Anthony Pettis go through the roof and that is certainly something Jeremy Stephens can provide.
Stephens has won 4 out of his last 5 fights though the toughest in that bunch, Melvin Guillard, is the one he succumbed to. In his last outing he put a man vs. boy beating on Danny Downes though he was shockingly unable to put him away. He has to know that on some level that constitutes a failure and look for him to make no such mistake this time. Assuming he can concoct the proper gameplan so as to exploit his size and strength advantage I look for Stephens to wear Pettis down in the opening frame and leave him out cold in the second.
Pick: Stephens via 2nd Round KO
Tags: Anthony Pettis, Jeremy Stephens, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC, UFC 136