Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight bruisers Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett clashed last night (Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
A decade deep into his UFC career, Jeremy Stephens was trying to earn a title shot last night. Perhaps not immediately after this fight, but “Lil Heathen” was closer than he’d ever been and hoped to make the most of it. Meanwhile, Emmett is only a couple years into his UFC career, but a short-notice upset knockout of Ricardo Lamas allowed him to jump the line and earn a Top 5 spot. If he could follow that up with another big win, Emmett would stand out as a bonafide title contender.
Stephens came out with pressure, whereas his opponent circled the Octagon. The fighters were patient to engage, trading low kicks and body shots early. Stephens seemed to find his range first, landing a few good counter combinations. Just as Stephens picked up some momentum, Stephens pursued too heavily, allowing Emmett to crack him with a massive right hand. “Lil Heathen” fell to the mat, stunned, but Stephens was able to recover and regain his feet before the bell.
Many of the exchanges went Stephens’ way, but Emmett’s right hand was the most significant strike by far.
Emmett struck with some quick combinations early in the second, while Stephens partially answered with a spinning back fist. Suddenly, a wide left hook from Stephens connected directly to Emmett’s chin and sent him falling to the mat. A partially illegal knee landed in the follow up, but it was a pair of absolutely brutal elbows from Stephens that brought the bout to a close.
Stephens’ power is unquestionable. He’s become a smarter fighter — making good use of the jab and kicks — but his single punch power is still what separates him from the pack. Stephens’ left hook didn’t connect fully, but it landed on the chin with all his weight behind it, and that was enough to badly rock Emmett. On the whole, Stephens did a great job of staying patient in this bout. He paid for it the one time he really tried to force the power shot, but otherwise his counters landed quite effectively.
At this point, Stephens has proven three times that he can remain patient and still be deadly. So long as he keeps his emotions in check, Stephens is in contention for the strap, although he’ll need one last victory to really solidify his claim.
Emmett fought well overall. His combinations were landing, and he managed to put his right hand across Stephens’ chin a few times. Ultimately, this is the risk of engaging in a firefight — the Lamas knockout was great, but there’s always a chance it’s you left on the mat instead. Tactically, I’d like to have seen Emmett at least attempt to hide a double leg behind his blitz. The threat of the takedown would have made Stephens a bit more hesitant to plant and counter even if it didn’t land, and extended grappling exchanges are known to slow Stephens’ hands a bit.
Last night, Jeremy Stephens continued his unlikely title run with a massive knockout win. Who should Stephens face next?
For complete UFC on FOX 28: “Stephens vs. Emmett” results and play-by-play, click HERE!