“I’m a victim of circumstance!” - Curly, 1936.
Despite his best efforts, Jeremy Stephens came up short last night at UFC on ESPN 6 in his grudge match with Yair Rodriguez. It is an immensely frustrating result for “Lil Heathen.” Excluding the eye poke “No Contest” just a few weeks ago, Stephens has essentially lost three straight fights, effectively removing him from title contention completely.
The short summary of this fight is simple: Rodriguez was the better man. He deserved the win beyond any shadow of a doubt. Rodriguez won the first round with his dazzlingly fast array of kicks, and he made Stephens collapse in a fit of pain in the second due to a brutal liver kick. It was a great win for “Pantera,” one that helps prove he’s truly a contender.
Dig a bit deeper, and it gets a more complicated. From a wider perspective, this bout is really a great example of how much luck and external circumstances play into the outcome of a bout. Luck is a complicated topic in combat sports, often the first excuse from fans when a well-liked fighter tastes defeat. Still, the idea that there’s no such thing as luck in a fistfight? Nonsense.
Neither man had any real control over the transition of this fight from five rounds to three, yet it proved to be hugely impactful on the outcome. The unexpected eye poke disrupted the initial plan for a 25-minute contest, and it was up to UFC as to when exactly the fight would be rescheduled and on which event. The chances of the matchup remaining a main event dropped significantly.
As it turned out, Jeremy Stephens really needed those final ten minutes. It is, of course, impossible to say that Rodriguez would not have fought differently with that time frame in mind, but even before the bout, a shorter bout seemed to favor “Pantera.” Rodriguez has a hugely energy intensive style, one that is much harder to maintain over time. Meanwhile, Stephens’ meat-and-potatoes mix of takedowns and hard punches is more reliable late.
The fight itself supported that notion. Stephens rallied in the third round, which he easily won via top control.
None of this is a knock on Rodriguez. But, it is an example of an external factor having a major influence on the outcome of the bout. In this case, there was a distinctly negative effect on Stephens, as any potential come-from-behind win was cut short. Rodriguez fought hard to rightly earn the win, and Stephens is a victim of circumstance — both statements can be true without contradicting the other.
Though slightly unrelated, I’d like to conclude the article with this: the idea that Jeremy Stephens was “looking for a way out” of the first fight with Yair Rodriguez was always ridiculous, but the way this bout played out made it look even sillier. Anyone who espoused such nonsense should feel shame.
For complete UFC on ESPN 6: “Weidman vs. Reyes” results and play-by-play, click HERE!