Jason -- the winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Brazil 1 -- is on a roll in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He's dispatched all three of his opponents and holds an eight-fight win streak in mixed martial arts (MMA). His most recent victory was a submission over Mike Wilkinson at UFC on FUEL TV 10 last June.
Stephens doesn't have quite the momentum Jason carries into this bout. The longtime lightweight competitor recently made a successful debut at featherweight by defeating Estevan Payan at UFC 160. Prior to that, Stephens dropped three straight fights at 155 pounds, so it was clearly time for a change.
Stephens will need to have put the bad memories of both his losing streak and arrest behind him, because anything less than the sharpest of focus won't do against the surging Jason.
These two fighters have the ability to put on an exciting war for the fans in Brazil. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Stephens:
Record: 13-3 overall, 3-0 UFC
Key Wins: Sam Sicilia (UFC 153), Godofredo Castro (UFC 147)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (Cage Fight Nordestre)
Keys to Victory: Jason is a dangerous fighter who blends a proficient stand-up game with an absolutely lethal ground game. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has submitted eight opponents throughout his career. He notched the fastest submission in UFC featherweight history with his win over Wilkinson at UFC 160.
Jason has built up some good buzz during his recent surge and the roaring crowd in Goiania will only amplify that. Jason will need to temper his emotions to avoid exhausting himself too quickly. Getting careless could open up an opportunity for Stephens to let his hands go and score the upset.
But Jason has shown to be a ruthlessly efficient killing machine in his short UFC tenure. Despite his kickboxing skills, Jason should look to get this fight to the ground.
Stephens also has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he would much rather knock out his opponent on the feet.
It won't be easy to get Stephens down to the mat thanks to his wrestling skills. If Jason can secure a takedown, a myriad of potential submissions will open up. This isn't the fight to get overconfident. Despite Jason's win streak and skill, Stephens can put anyone's lights out with a well-placed punch.
And he has even more power at his new home of featherweight.
For that reason, Jason should stick to his ground game. He'll come in believing he can finish the fight anywhere it goes and that should help him achieve his goal.
He just can't sleep on "Lil Heathen."
Record: 21-9 overall, 8-8 UFC
Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 91), Sam Stout (UFC 113)
Keys to Victory: Stephens has had a rollercoaster ride of an MMA career. He does hold a decided advantage over Jason in terms of experience with 16 UFC bouts to his name.
That experience will be crucial in keeping his wits about him in hostile territory. Brazilian MMA fans may be the most passionate in the world about supporting their hometown brethren, so Stephens will be met with a loud chorus of boos.
He needs to let that slide off of his shoulders and implement his gameplan.
Stephens will be look to do damage with his strikes as he has 14 knockout victories. While Jason has a good chin, Stephens' power at 145 pounds could be among the best in the division.
But that may not be enough to put away a freight train like Jason. He's only lost by knockout due a doctor stoppage, so Stephens has his hands full. If "Lil' Heathen" can avoid Jason's takedowns and score a few of his own, he'll score much-needed points in the eyes of the judges.
Stephens will absolutely have to put the inconsistencies of past years behind him to win in Goiania. If he shows up with his mind elsewhere, Jason won't hesitate to end his night with a submission hold. Stephens has a new-found boost in power at featherweight, but Jason has a big win streak intact.
It's all going to depend on Stephen's motivation. He has the experience and know-how to earn a big win at UFN 32; actually getting one is going to be the hard part. Throwing haymakers with reckless abandon isn't likely to end well for Stephens. He needs a gameplan, and he needs to stick to it.
If Stephens doesn't show up in the best fighting shape of his career, he could become just a stepping-stone for the rising Jason.
Bottom Line from Goiania: The bottom line of this bout is a classic contrast of grappler vs. striker. But it's a bit deeper than that as Jason has striking skills of his own, while Stephens is proficient is both wrestling and submissions.
This fight is going to prove whether Jason will become a true contender in the UFC featherweight division. Stephens is the perfect test for him, having fought many bouts at lightweight. "Lil' Heathen's" knockout power is the X-factor for this bout.
With one punch able to turn the tide so quickly, Stephens always has that ace up his sleeve.
Overall, however, Jason maintains a huge momentum advantage. He's looked impressive in his early stint in UFC; now he receives a step up in quality of opponents. In a featherweight division that has recently established itself as one of the most talented in all of MMA, wins are going to come at a premium.
For either Jason or Stephens to inch their way toward a post in the top 10, they'll need to win impressively in Brazil. The crowd will be roaring for Jason. He can't let the pressure get to him. If he uses the fans to his advantage and plays his game, a big win is ripe for the taking in Goiania.
But not if "Lil' Heathen" has anything to say about it. Stephens has the tools, but can he follow trough with the right strategy?
Jeremy Stephens will look to start a run at featherweight against Rony Jason at UFC Fight Night 32. Who is your pick to keep the ball rolling in Brazil?