Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and Anthony Pettis are not strangers to one another, having competed in the WEC at the same time before eventually meeting in the UFC Octagon in 2013. Pettis earned the win in that one by first-round TKO. Now welterweights, they faced off in a rematch in the featured preliminary bout of UFC 249 on Saturday night. There was no quick finish this time around, but it was again Pettis who had his hand raised at the end of the bout.
Rather than a wild brawl, the two men engaged in a tactical battle for the majority of their time in the Octagon, fighting mostly on the feet. Cerrone used a few takedowns to counter any attempt at Pettis' trademark flashy strikes. Pettis worked the same kicks to the body that scored him a TKO in their first meeting, but Cerrone was able to take them well.
Toward the halfway mark of Round 3, Pettis pawed with an open hand, causing Cerrone to cover up and shout to the referee that he had suffered an eye poke. The referee told him to fight on, leading to the first wild exchange of the fight. As Pettis tried to pour on strikes, he was badly rocked by a Cerrone head kick. From that point to the final bell, the two men bit down on their mouthpieces and engaged in a series of wild exchanges.
After three rounds of action, the judges turned in their scorecards with all three at ringside scoring the fight for Pettis 29-28.
"I thought it was close," Pettis said after his victory. "That last high kick shook everything, so I didn't know what happened. He's a legend. That's my friend. We put it all on the line. I hit him, he hit me, that's what it's all about. He got some takedowns, but he didn't do nothing with it."
With the win, Pettis snapped a two-fight losing skid and picked up just his fifth UFC victory since 2015. Cerrone, meanwhile, is now on a four-fight losing skid of his own and has not won a fight in more than a year.
"I'm better than I was when I won the belt. I think each part of your career requires a new version of yourself and I'm finding the version that makes sense. When I was 155, I wasn't as good but I didn't give a f---. I still don't care, Cowboy is a beast and I took him on 21 days notice, I'll fight anyone," Pettis said. "That's where I think I've been finding my mixed results.
"Me and Duke sat down and talked about it, after this fight, let's figure out what's our real career path. Where do we want to go and stick to that, not who's the next big guy in line, who will give me a title shot, because that's what I've been doing and we've seen what that's gotten me -- mixed results. I need to go back and watch this fight because it's hard to asses without the crowd. When I land stuff, I hear the crowd and know it was a good one. This time, there was no crowd. I saw his head pop, but there was nothing behind it, so it's hard to tell. It could have gone either way, in my head that's what I was thinking. I'm excited, as you can tell. I'm excited that I won and that I get to go back to the gym as a winner and build off of this.
For complete results, highlights and analysis of the action on Saturday night, be sure to visit the CBS Sports UFC 249 live blog.