Anthony Pettis to fight Joe Lauzon

Lightweight contenders Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon will meet Feb. 26 at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan.

"Verbal agreements are in for a match between two of the most exciting lightweights in the sport," UFC president Dana White said Tuesday night.

Lauzon (21-6) entered the lightweight contender conversation by submitting highly regarded Melvin Guillard 47 seconds into their Oct. 8 bout at UFC 136. Guillard was considered a top candidate for a title shot at the time.

Shortly after Lauzon's impressive upset victory, Pettis expressed an eagerness to fight him. Pettis (12-2) defeated Jeremy Stephens by split decision in an earlier bout on the UFC 136 card.

Pettis, the WEC lightweight champion before that organization merged with UFC in October 2010, was in line for a UFC title shot earlier this year. But 155-pound titleholder Frankie Edgar and top contender Gray Maynard fought to a draw in January and a third fight between them was scheduled. Edgar retained his title with a fourth-round TKO of Maynard at UFC 136.

Meanwhile, Pettis' title hopes ended during his UFC debut when he suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Clay Guida in June.

Franklin McNeil covers mixed martial arts and boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.