Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight veterans Jose Aldo and Jeremy Stephens collided last night (July 28, 2018) at UFC on FOX 30 inside Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Aldo dominated the division for so long that it appeared nearly impossible to defeat the Brazilian, but the years take down even the greatest champions. “Junior” came into this bout having lost three of his last four by knockout, which really left Aldo with his back to the wall.
Stephens did not represent much of a step back in competition. The knockout artist has never been sharper, resulting in a pair of brutal stoppages and a dominant decisions. This was his real chance to secure a title shot, the potential first of his long UFC career.
The two opened the bout finding their range, trading low kicks and jabs. Stephens pressured and Aldo countered, but both men were looking to set up singular big power shots. At first, it was Aldo landed the sharper blows, but Stephens managed to return the favor and briefly stun the former champion.
After the wild brawl that immediately ensued, it was Aldo walking Stephens down. Out of nowhere, Aldo ripped a very fast left hook to the mid-section. Stephens — who had been smiling through all the exchanges — grimaced and crumpled to the mat immediately. He tried to latch onto one of Aldo’s hands and defend himself, but Aldo continued to drop fast punches.
When Stephens turtled up, the bout was called.
It was amazing to watch, but this is a difficult performance to make heads-or-tails from regarding Aldo’s place in the division. His head movement was sharp, but Aldo still ate a lot of power shots and jabs from Stephens — a man he probably should have been able to keep on the end of his own jab. Similarly, Aldo’s and Stephen’s low kicks seemed to be working at an even pace.
In the end, Aldo’s defensive head movement did win the bout. Stephens relied on covering up and hoping to deflect Aldo’s strikes, which set up the eventual body shot that sent “Lil Heathen” to the mat. Meanwhile, Aldo came out of their brawling exchange having made Stephens miss quite a bit, meaning he was the fresher man when Stephens tried to force the issue afterward.
It really felt great to see Aldo win, but in my opinion, he did look a bit more vulnerable than a couple years back.
As for Stephens, he fought as promised. Walking Aldo down, boxing smartly, and chopping at the calf, Stephens made it a damn scrap, and “Lil Heathen” usually wins a slug fest. I don’t have any real criticism for Stephens, it was a neck-and-neck fight prior to the body shot, and Stephens never stopped defending even after being badly hurt.
When your game is starting wild scraps and hoping your chin holds up, there is risk. Stephens wound up on the wrong side of the knockout, but he didn’t make any major mistake or go in with a bad game plan. He fought well and proved his development.
Last night, Jose Aldo scored his first knockout victory in years. Who should Aldo face next?
For complete UFC on FOX 30: “Alvarez vs. Poirier 2” results and play-by-play, click HERE!