Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ia back on network television this weekend with the UFC on FOX 28: “Emmett vs. Stephens” mixed martial arts (MMA) extravaganza, which takes place this Sat. night (Feb. 24, 2018) inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
UFC on FOX 28 will be headlined by the featherweight showdown pitting Josh Emmett against Jeremy Stephens in a five-round scrap that could have serious implications in the 145-pound title chase.
Elsewhere on the “Sunshine State” fight card, strawweight contenders Tecia Torres and Jessica Andrade collide in the 115-pound co-main event, while Ilir Latifi and Ovince Saint Preux hook ‘em up for light heavyweight bragging rights.
Excited? Me too!
To get a closer look at the UFC on FOX 28 preliminary fights, spread across FOX and UFC Fight Pass, take a look at what the handsome and charming Patty Stumberg had to say here and here. For his odds and betting lines breakdown click here.
As for the four-fight main card, we can go ahead and deconstruct that below.
145 lbs.: Josh Emmett (13-1) vs. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (27-14)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jeremy Stephens has been fighting for UFC for over a decade and during that span, he’s never been able to win more than three fights in a row, a feat he accomplished just once roughly four years back.
Right after he lost three straight.
That’s why I’m not going crazy over his consecutive victories over Gilbert Melendez and Doo Ho Choi, or attributing said victories to time served under Eric Del Fierro at Alliance MMA, as this is familiar territory for “Lil’ Heathen.”
With that in mind, his No. 7 ranking feels about right.
You would think that having 25-plus fights in UFC would leave Stephens more well rounded and for the most part, he’s a complete fighter. His wrestling is solid and he can throw more technical strikes than his highlight reel will attest. Submissions? Well, two outta three ain’t bad.
His real issue is getting tagged, becoming angry, and turning his fights into street brawls.
That will work in favor of Josh Emmett, who is the toast of the 145-pound town after toe-tagging former division title contender Ricardo Lamas back in December. That was good enough for the No. 4 spot in the top 10, even if his previous body of work does not support such a rapid promotion.
His last four contests went to the scorecards, including a UFC 210 loss to Desmond Green, and I’m not breaking out the party hats for decision wins over Felipe Arantes, Scott Holtzman, or Jon Tuck, the latter of which was a split.
Why? Because none of them are ranked in the top 15.
There’s a lot to like about Emmett, who effortlessly blends top-shelf wrestling with powerful strikes. But his defense is a work-in-progress — and that’s a generous assessment — and he’s way too susceptible to leg kicks, something Stephens used to successfully turn away Gilbert Melendez.
Emmett might be the cat’s meow after punishing “The Bully,” but he’s not going to present anything Stephens hasn’t already seen — or conquered — in his storied UFC career.
Final prediction: Stephens def. Emmett by unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Tecia “Tiny Tornado” Torres (10-1) vs. Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (17-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: Tecia Torres, who cut her teeth under the Invicta FC banner before entering the 115-pound field on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, is the total package. Aside from graduating from college with a double major in Criminal Justice and Sociology, the “Tiny Tornado” is a former world kickboxing champion and Taekwondo black belt.
And she's certainly easy on the eyes.
Inside the cage, Torres can pretty much do it all, which is why she’s 10-1 and the winner of three straight. Working against her is nine decisions in 10 wins, and while winning is the most crucial aspect of any combat sports career, sometimes how you win can be just as important.
Torres will not win a decision against Jessica Andrade.
While she may have the physical tools to match the Brazilian inside the gym, so did fellow strawweight specimen Claudia Gadelha, and “Bate Estaca” ran through her like the Blues Brothers ran through the Dixie Square Mall.
I’ve seen “Claudinha” outstruck, but I’ve never seen her manhandled like that before.
That does not leave me feeling overly optimistic for UFC Orlando. Torres may be the more technical striker and former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk did lay the blueprint for how to stymie the Brazilian, but Torres does not have the footwork or scrambling ability of the once-beaten Pole.
Facing an opponent who’s landed 10 takedowns across her past four fights, her only chance is volume.
Andrade has mastered the art of blocking punches with her face, but for every knuckle sandwich devoured inside the cage, she regurgitates two of her own. A relentless stalker with terrifying aggression, I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Torres can escape the former bantamweight’s devastating blitzkrieg.
Final prediction: Andrade def. Torres by unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi (13-5, 1 NC) vs. Ovince “OSP” Saint Preux (22-10)
Nostradumbass predicts: I’ve often wondered if Ilir Latifi would be competing in UFC had he not been able to play the role of “warm body” for Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9, thanks to a last-minute cut that felled original headliner Alexander Gustafsson.
If not, the promotion would have missed a valuable addition to its light heavyweight division, as “The Sledgehammer’ has since compiled an above-average record of 6-3 with four violent finishes. He’s probably not going to dazzle you with his technical ability, but if that right hand lands ... forget the stretcher, bring a sponge.
That makes Latifi dangerous in any contest, including this one, and opponent Ovince Saint Preux can’t afford to be sloppy in his defense. In addition to the power punch, “OSP” must be weary of the Swede’s powerful double-leg takedowns.
Saint Preux was grounded four times in last November’s win over Corey Anderson.
Latifi is a gamer and dangerous for all three rounds, but from a technical standpoint, he’s grotesquely outmatched. Saint Preux holds a seven-inch reach advantage and stands five inches taller, affording him the ability to strike at range without getting to close to the go-for-broke counterpunch.
In addition, Saint Preux has one of the sneakiest submission games in the division.
Unless “OSP” abandons all logic and turns this into a phone booth fight, there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to dominate this contest wherever it goes. He’s larger, more athletic, and better skilled in every discipline. From my perspective, this is his fight to lose.
Final prediction: Saint Preux def. Latifi by submission
170 lbs.: Max “Pain” Griffin (13-4) vs. “Platinum” Mike Perry (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Max Griffin made his debut back in August 2016 after compiling an impressive 12-2 record on the regional circuit, with eight of his victories coming by way of knockout or submission. Unfortunately, that success got him thrown into the deep end of the welterweight pool and “Pain” was promptly drowned by Colby Covington at UFC 202.
He followed that up by stopping the since-deposed Erick Montano, but failed to capitalize on that win with a disappointing decision loss to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos at UFC Fight Night 119 last October. It should be noted that Griffin works a 9-5 job and at age 32, we may have seen the best version of the former TUF 16 hopeful.
Sorry, but his black belt in Bok Fu may as well be a black belt in Bok Choy, because opponents don’t stand still and let you hit them inside the Octagon.
That doesn’t bode well in a fight against Mike Perry, who on the surface fights like an unrefined bar brawler but in reality brings a skilled striking arsenal to each and every attack. He doesn’t land those bombs because he’s lucky (lightning doesn’t strike that often for any power puncher), but rather because he understands how to set up his punches, get inside, and unleash hell.
Perry is hittable — still forgivable while his chin remains solid — and has shown in previous losses to both Alan Jouban and Santiago Ponzinibbio that he can be frustrated by busier fighters capable of giving as good as they get. While Griffin enters this contest with a five-inch reach advantage, his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
Remember when the jab used to be a thing?
You don’t get many second chances against the power of “Platinum,” who ended all 11 of his wins by knockout. That’s a staggering statistic, even when considering the level of competition he’s faced, and I haven’t seen anything from Griffin to convince me he’s not going to be lucky number 12.
Final prediction: Perry def. Griffin by knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.
For much more on this weekend’s UFC on FOX 28 event click here.