UFC on FX 5, which takes place tomorrow night (Oct. 5, 2012) at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., features many exciting fights. Though it may be difficult to predict a fight that could earn "Fight of the Night" honros, there is one that I have my eye on:
Both of these fighters have been around for some time, with a combined 88 fights between the two. Where some fighters may prioritize technique, both of these men can be willing to overlook technique in order to put on a gritty all-out war.
Stephens (20-8, 7-7 UFC) is a fighter known for throwing with huge power, and also for putting on terrific fights. His striking game is his namesake, and it is the main reason behind his impressive 14 technical knockout wins. What he may lack in technical ability, he compensates for with a high output of heavy leather. Jeremy tends to utilize wide hooks and few kicks, causing his game to be somewhat predictable. What keeps him alive against better technical strikers is his terrific offensive output, as well as the worry of his one-punch knock out power.
Despite being an aggressive pressure fighter with big power, Stephens seems to struggle when this kind of gameplan is utilized against him. He doesn't always react to pressure well, backing straight up and remembering too late that he should have circled out. Luckily for him, his chin can keep him standing in these exchanges, but it won't always save him from losing rounds. His style favors a lot of movement, and he tends to be quick handed and light on his feet, but his actual footwork leaves something to be desired. That isn't to say he doesn't know how to use footwork properly, it is more a testament to his tendency to get sucked into brawls where he throws technique to the wayside.
His grappling game isn't anything to overlook, but it isn't something that is truly scary about his overall skillset. He has effective wrestling, as well as good ground and pound, and he doesn't sacrifice any of his aggression when the fight hits the mat. He can also be fairly reckless when the fight hits the mat, as he tends to find himself on bottom after scrambles or in a submission attempt. He will also threaten with submissions, as he went for multiple attempts in his fights with Marcus Davis, Danny Downes, and Spencer Fisher. Stephens possesses a threatening ground game, but it isn't much to worry about if you have an edge in technique.
Edwards (41-18-1, 9-6 UFC) is a true veteran of mixed martial arts (MMA), with his first professional fight being in 1997. He has faced just about every type of opponent a pro fighter can see, including the likes of Nate Marquardt, Hermes Franca, Josh Thomson, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and many more high level fighters. He is fairly even in victories by submission and victories by technical knockout, with a slight edge to submissions (17), which he may attribute to his mastery of "thug jitsu."
His striking game incorporates many techniques, some ugly, some terrific. He will forever be known for his amazing knockout of Josh Thomson at UFC 49, with a brutal flying head kick that put Thomson away. He can be a brawler at times, opting to fight his heart out while head hunting, but he can also be a very solid technical striker. He throws a wider array of strikes than Stephens, and his footwork tends to be better most of the time. He is a strong kicker and puncher, and I expect him to utilize his more diverse striking against Stephens.
In addition to a solid striking game, Edwards is one of the most exciting grapplers around, possessing a very aggressive submission game and good technical ability. With 17 total submission victories, Yves has shown that he is not one to mess around with on the ground, as he can threaten at any time. He can initiate and win scrambles on a whim against lesser grapplers, and he will never let them off the hook if he has them in a precarious position. Edwards' positional game can occasionally fade away if he feels the urge to jump on a submission, but that tendency hasn't really come back to bite him like it can for other fighters.
Edwards can throw good strikes from both top and bottom, and no fighter is ever safe when in his guard or underneath him. Edwards definitely holds a grappling advantage against Stephens, and it will be interesting to see if he can implement it to his advantage.
After looking deep into both fighters' styles, it is easy to see that they tend to put on exciting fights. It will be interesting to see how Stephens reacts to a more diverse striker in Edwards, and also to see how he reacts to Stephens' pressure. Edwards' grappling advantage is certainly significant, but it may be difficult for him to utilize it against a fighter I believe to be the better wrestler in Stephens.
Beyond a look at their styles, you also have to look at the position of both of these fighters. Both are coming off of significant losses after wins over less-than-stellar opposition, and they could potentially be on the chopping block with a loss here. Whereas some fighters may play it safe in that kind of position, neither of these fighters tend to do that, and if they feel like they are losing, they will always push back. All in all, they may have everything to lose in this fight, and I believe it will drive them to put on as good a fight as possible.
When the cage door closes tomorrow night, we'll see two exciting fighters stare each other down and engage in a fight that could very well see both have significant success. Though an early finish is certainly possible from either man, if this fight goes more than one round, it could be an instant classic and a sure-fire candidate for "Fight of the Night."