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UFC on FOX 28 card: Jeremy Stephens vs Josh Emmett full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Winnipeg-Emmett vs Lamas Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight bruisers Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

Stephens may be a decade deep into an up-and-down UFC career, but few can question his current upswing. “Lil Heathen” has slugged past a pair of excellent opponents to cement himself as a high-level Featherweight still in pursuit of the title.

On the other hand, Emmett is a newer face in the UFC ranks. After suffering his first career defeat, Emmett dropped a division to immediate results. He set records in his debut with four knockdowns in the first round before taking a short-notice bout with top contender Ricardo Lamas and flattening him.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man.

Jeremy Stephens

Record: 27-14

Key Wins: Doo Ho Choi (UFC Fight Night 124), Renan Barao (UFC Fight Night 88), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 189), Darren Elkins (UFC on FOX 10), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 215)

Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 194), Frankie Edgar (UFC 205), Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 44), Charles Oliveira (TUF 20 Finale)

Keys to Victory: Stephens is a fluid striker who excels in the pocket. He may occasionally grow frustrated and chase brawls, but otherwise Stephens is a sharp puncher with brutal low kicks and great kickboxing tricks up his sleeve.

In this matchup, finding the pocket is once again the goal for Stephens. Emmett likes to box, but he tends to move around and pick his spots before briefly exploding and returning to range. Stephens should be looking for counters in such exchanges, but he risks getting out-paced if that’s his only offense.

To gain the pocket, Stephens has to focus on cutting off the ring. Too often, Stephens has allowed his opponent to circle freely while he follows. If he’s cutting off the ring, landing early may still be a bit difficult, but the low kick will be more available.

If Stephens can chop the leg and slow Emmett’s feet, he’ll get the brawl he desires. Emmett has power, but Stephens is historically durable and tends to thrive in slugfests.

Josh Emmett

Record: 13-1

Key Wins: Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 26), Felipe Arantes (UFC Fight Night 118), Scott Holtzman (UFC on FOX 22), Jon Tuck (UFC Fight Night 87)

Key Losses: Desmond Green (UFC 210)

Keys to Victory: Emmett is a deceptively quick fighter who strikes in combination with big power strikes. At 155 lbs., Emmett uses those bursts to close range against longer foes, but he’s found more success getting inside and landing with full power at his new weight class.

In this bout, Emmett should be looking to avoid prolonged exchanges with Stephens. That’s precisely what the veteran wants, and Emmett has other options, so why not followed the established strategy to frustrate Stephens?

Emmett should keep his feet moving early, only attacking when Stephens’ overexposes himself. Stephens is not one for patience, so drawing him into counters tends not to be all that difficult when a fighter remains disciplined.

In addition, Emmett would be smart to mix takedowns into his offense. They don’t have to be the center piece of his attack, but even the occasional takedown will score points and force Stephens to waste energy standing back up.

Bottom Line: The winner is in title contention.

Realistically, the victor of next week’s bout between Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega at UFC 222 is guaranteed a title shot barring truly insane circumstances. With that said, the winner of tonight’s match up is next in line behind them for a shot at the strap. That likely means fighting one more time in a title eliminator, but regardless, the winner is in great position among the elite at 145 lbs.

For the defeated fighter, a setback here places him among the many other rising Featherweights trying to break through to the title mix. That’s a difficult pack to break from. For Stephens, he’s dealt with setbacks before, but it would be tough to see his momentum destroyed after how well he’s been fighting. As for Emmett, he was able to jump the line with that short-notice Lamas knockout, but a loss forces him to go back to it.

At UFC on FOX 28, Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett will throw down. Which man will take another step towards the strap?

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:15 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.