Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight scrappers Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano battled last night (April 15, 2017) at UFC on FOX 24 inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Most of Stephens’ recent Featherweight bouts have been opposite ranked opponents. This was a change of scenery for the veteran, as Moicano was more of an unknown, but it was also a chance for Stephens to remind fight fans of his knockout power. On the other hand, Moicano impressed in his two previous performances, but he hasn’t been the most active fighter. The fact that he received this opportunity against Stephens was something of a surprise, but the Brazilian still intended to make the most of this fight.
The fighters immediately opened the fight by exchanging a dozen low kicks. before long, Moicano made his game plan apparent, as he circled the outside and looked to dig low kicks. For the first half of the round, Moicano was able to frustrate Stephens, avoiding his punches and landing hard kicks in the process.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, circling constantly and kicking is a bit exhausting. Stephens began to find his range, returning low kicks and landing a few decent punches. Just as “Lil Heathen” seemed to be turning things around, a well-timed takedown allowed Moicano to take top position.
It wasn’t particularly damaging, but Moicano was able to take the opening round.
Moicano opened the second round with a strong start, stuffing a takedown and landing a good combination. He stuck to his strategy of kicking and moving, but Moicano was beginning to plant his feet a bit more often. When that happened, Stephens was able to find a home for punches, and his low kicks were landing as well.
On the whole, the second was a pretty tight round. Moicano landed some decent jabs and low kicks, but his volume was definitely down from the opening round. Alternatively, Stephens missed a fair amount, but he also landed some hard shots and remained on the offensive throughout the round.
It was likely tied up heading into the final frame.
As such, both men threw hard early, but Moicano switched it up with a smart clinch takedown. Stephens worked up to his feet after about one minute, returning to stalking his opponent around the cage. He did a better job of cutting his foe off with kicks, but nevertheless Moicano remained elusive.
Moicano was definitely the more effective striker in the third round, as both his jab and low kick continued to do damage. However, it still was not necessarily a clear round for the Brazilian, as Stephens did land and threaten enough to force Moicano to turn his back and flee repeatedly.
It was ugly, but Moicano’s hand was ultimately raised.
I mentioned it a bit in my preview to this fight, but Moicano showed his ability to play the outside in his last bout as well. Once again, Moicano’s ability to control range against an explosive striker earned him a close victory.
More than anything else, this fight showed Moicano’s ability to follow the game plan. Throughout the entire 15 minutes, his focus remained on circling, kicking, and jabbing. He may have been a bit timid at times, but he did more damage than his power punching foe.
Following this win, Moicano is now a player at 145 pounds, assuming he doesn’t disappear for another year. If he can return to the cage quickly, a match up with someone like Darren Elkins would make plenty of sense for the Brazilian.
As for Stephens, this is a definite disappointment, but it also wasn’t impossible to see coming. Stephens has always struggled opposite fighters who look to maintain their range and avoid the brawl, and that’s precisely the style that Moicano brought to the Octagon last night.
Stephens’ big problem here — and in a fair few of his losses — was that he loaded up on power shots too often. When he kicked or punched to the body, Stephens often landed, which in turn helped slow Moicano down. Rather than commit to body work and kicks, Stephens continued to leap into wide punches that routinely came up short.
Were it not for his iron chin, all the counter punches he ate might have hurt him as well. Despite the loss, Stephens will remain a ranked fighter and take on another tough foe next. This is hardly the veterans first loss, but he historically bounces back without much issue.
Last night at UFC on FOX 24, Renato Moicano out-pointed his opponent. How high is the Brazilian’s ceiling?
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