UFC 136: Under The Radar

Anthony Pettis celebrates

Anthony Pettis - photo courtesy Zuffa/UFC

Lightweights Pettis and Stephens get some time in the spotlight

There are all kinds of fights on the UFC 136 card that could earn the Under the Radar treatment. That’s what happens when you have two title fights and Chael Patrick Sonnen competing on the same card.

Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon deserve some love, and the middleweight tilt between Demian Maia and Jorge Santiago is going to surprise some people, but I’m still going in another direction. That’s how great this card is: I just name-checked five different fights, and there is still another outstanding fight that’s getting almost no attention heading into Saturday night.

Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens

Anthony Pettis (13-2, 0-1 UFC)

LOSS TUF 13F Clay Guida (Unanimous Decision)
WIN WEC 53 Ben Henderson (Unanimous Decision)
WIN WEC 50 Shane Roller (Submission, Round 3)

Jeremy Stephens (20-6, 7-5 UFC)

WIN TUF 13F Danny Downes (Unanimous Decision)
WIN UFC 125 Marcus Davis (Knockout, Round 3)
LOSS UFC 119 Melvin Guillard (Unanimous Decision)

Why do I love this fight?

Anthony Pettis was white-hot four months ago as he prepped for his UFC debut against Clay Guida.

Whether it was a case of too much, too soon can be debated. But this is still a kid who was a win away from fighting for the UFC lightweight title, and now no one seems to be paying any attention to him.

How does that happen?

Pettis is a very talented fighter with explosive weapons. Just because he didn’t show that last time out doesn’t mean they’ve dried up and gone away. He’s still the guy who ran up the side of the cage and kicked Ben Henderson in the face, and dropped a Capoeira kick on Shane Roller before subbing him out at WEC 50 too.

He was simply out-wrestled in that last fight. That’s a testament to Guida’s wrestling ability and evidence that Pettis still has some room for improvement, which shouldn’t be such a big surprise considering he’s just 24-years-old.

Despite the loss, I still think Pettis is the most promising under-25 fighter in the 155 pound ranks, and those are the kinds of emerging talents you have to pay attention to every time they fight.

Stylistically, this fight is far different from Pettis’ UFC debut. Jeremy Stephens is not Clay Guida. He’s not coming out to shoot doubles and grind Pettis into the cage or the canvas for three full rounds. Stephens has knockout power, as he showed in his come-from-behind win against Marcus Davis. He throws with violent intent every time, and showed some development on the ground last time out, wrenching Danny Downes‘ shoulder into a gnarly position with a deep kimura.

He’s been stuck as a good-but-not-great lightweight for the last couple years, and this is his chance to earn a three-fight winning streak for the first time in the UFC — something that has eluded him on two other occasions — and step into the next level of competition in the UFC’s deepest division.

Because he’s made 12 trips to the Octagon and been on the UFC roster for the last four years, it’s easy to forget that Stephens is only 25-years-old and still developing. He’s done a much better job fighting to strengths without over extending lately, and as he continues to do so, his power will only become more dangerous.

There are some outstanding fights on this card, and all of them deserve the attention they’re getting, but so too does this one. These two are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at each other and could easily deliver a Fight of the Night-worthy performance.

Fights like that shouldn’t be flying this far under the radar.

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