Photo by James Law for SBNation
There's something about Jeremy Stephens.
Put him inside the Octagon with just about anyone and if his opponent is willing to stand and trade with the knockout artist, fans will have themselves one hell of a scrap.
There are, of course, instances where "Lil' Heathen's" opponent would rather fight to win as in the case when Stephens took on Melvin Guillard and Anthony Pettis. Each lightweight came away with a victory over the Iowa native and more power to them. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a cut-throat business and only a couple of consecutive losses can find a fighter unemployed.
Fortunately for fans at UFC 125, Marcus Davis isn't that kind of fighter. He's the go out on your shield kind of guy and when he and Stephens collided on the first night of 2011, they provided more than enough fireworks to ring in the new year.
Stephens has a fight coming up which promises to be just as exciting. On May 15, he's set to take on World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Donald Cerrone at UFC on FUEL TV 3: "Korean Zombie vs. Poirier." He stepped in for an injured Yves Edwards and immediately fans began wringing their hands in anticipation of what is sure to be an all-out war.
Before "Lil' Heathen" steps inside the Octagon in Fairfax, VA, let's take a look at his performance against Davis, one which earned him his third Knockout of the Night bonus.
Both lightweights nearly sprint to the center of the Octagon but Stephens soon forces Davis to back up against the cage. Unable to find an opening, however, Stephens allows his opponent to regain some ground. "The Irish Hand Grenade" uses his tried and true boxing skills to keep "Lil' Heathen" at bay, utilizing a snapping jab and constant footwork to frustate Stephens.
The Iowa native finally has had enough and clinches up with his opponent, looking for a takedown. In a reversal of fortune, the former welterweight shifts positions on his opponent and Stephens ends up up on his back. Davis holds him down for a minute until Stephens is able to get back up. His luck on his feet isn't any better as a perfectly placed overhand left from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 2 veteran wobbles him something fierce.
Taking the bomb right on the temple and on rubber legs, Stephens staggers back against the cage. "The Irish Hand Grenade" pounces but instead of attempting to finish the job he started with his fists, he opts to clinch his opponent which actually allows Stephens to recover from the huge punch.
It would end up being a lapse in strategy for Davis which would come back to haunt him.
In the second round, Davis continues to use his boxing to outwork and outstrike his opponent. For his part, Stephens turns into a bit of a kickboxer as he attacks Davis' legs to take a little bounce out of his step. Unfortunately for "Lil' Heathen," it's just about all the offense he has accumulated midway through the round.
Stephens once again clinches Davis against the cage in an effort to get the fight to the canvas but for the second time in as many attempts, Davis reverses his opponent and winds up on top. Perhaps it's what the Iowa native wanted as he immediately begins threatening with a kimura. "The Irish Hand Grenade" defends perfectly by transitioning into sidemount and despite getting pushed back to half-guard by Stephens, is able to escape the submission to end round two on top, landing ground and pound.
Going into the last five minutes of the fight, Stephens knows only a stoppage will win him the fight as he's lost the previous two rounds on the scorecards. Being the heavy handed brawler he is, though, all it could take is one punch.
He immediately springs into action, eating a jab from Davis but answering back with a hook. "Lil' Heathen" continues to push the pace, creating a sense of urgency which is often lacking from fighters who are down two rounds to none.
Despite the pressure from Stephens, Davis is more than holding his own. In fact, he's using it against his opponent, countering extremely well off the Iowa native's huge, headhunting punches. It's enough for Stephens to shoot in with a half-hearted takedown attempt which "The Irish Hand Grenade" stuffs easily.
As the seconds tick away, Davis continues to bounce around the Octagon, using constant movement to prevent Stephens are firing away at will. Another counter off a haymaker from "Lil' Heathen" draws a reaction from the crowd and Davis follows it up with a snapping straight left.
As the third round reaches the midway point, Davis throws a right and ducks down into a monster of an uppercut from Stephens. "The Irish Hand Grenade" collapses back in a heap and takes a huge flying punch as he raises his head off the canvas.
The one punch he needed, he found.
Will he find it again against Cerrone?