Stephens came out with combination and was aggressive in the opening moments.
A body punch for Stephen’s landed, but the head punch that followed missed. They circled and Stephens landed a big takedown by the cage. Pettis showed that his work with former Olympic wrestler Ben Askren is paying off as he returned standing.
Stephens is the less technical fighter of the two and low kicks for Pettis found a home on Stephens lead leg when he threw them.
Stephens again landed a takedown towards the end of the opening frame and he clearly looked to mix things up in the first.
Pettis came out on a mission in the second and put Stephens on his back alongside the cage. While Stephens was able to get back to his feet on two occasions, Pettis quickly utilized his vastly improved wrestling to take the action back to the mat.
The end of the round was spent with Pettis controlling Stephens from back position and threatening with a rear-naked-choke. However, Stephens was able to reverse the position in the final seconds.
Stephens kicked off the third round the same as he did the first, aggressively throwing strikes. He hit a takedown, but was unable to keep the fight there and once they returned standing, Pettis used the clinch to secure a takedown of his own.
Pettis’ grappling in the final frame was too much for Stephens and the Duke Roufus trained lightweight proved that he shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Stephens kept the fight close and found success with takedowns, which proved that Pettis still has room for improvement in his takedown defense. But the final WEC lightweight champion's technical striking and takedowns proved too much for Stephens.
Overall, a solid performance was turned in from Pettis to earn the unanimous decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in his rebound fight from a disappointing Octagon debut.
"I wanted to show I was well rounded and show the fans how I deliver," Pettis told the UFC post-fight. "I could have done better. But at the same time it's not all about the knockouts. His face said it all that he wanted to control this fight."
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