Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight sluggers Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar will duel this Saturday (May 9, 2020) at UFC 249 from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
In these uncertain times, I can almost guarantee that Stephens is going to do his damnedest to bring thunder and this weekend. The long-time Featherweight contender is technically winless in his last four, but the quality of his performances and competition level have still kept him in ranked inside the Top 10. Kattar, meanwhile, has only been on the roster since 2017, but he quickly proved himself a top talent. Kattar enters this bout following a frustrating loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov in which Kattar was unable to turn the tide until the final round — similar to Stephens’ most recent loss to Yair Rodriguez!
These two are going to throw down, so let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 28-17 (1)
Key Wins: Doo Ho Choi (UFC Fight Night 124), Josh Emmett (UFC on FOX 28), Renan Barao (UFC Fight Night 88), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 189), Darren Elkins (UFC on FOX 10)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 194), Jose Aldo (UFC on FOX 30), Zabit Magomedsharipov (UFC 235), Frankie Edgar (UFC 205), Yair Rodriguez (UFC on ESPN 6)
Keys to Victory: Stephens has refined his kickboxing skills over the years, but the guy is still an animal, at times more focused on landing one massive haymaker than actually winning. He’s a straightforward fighter who does not hide his intentions, but that does not mean he’s ineffective.
Stephens’ greatest improvement has been the addition of calf kicks to his offensive arsenal. Fortunately for him, Kattar’s greatest vulnerability shown to this point has been low kicks. Kattar has great boxing and strikes like a boxer, which can often leave his lead leg vulnerable.
As Gilbert Melendez can attest, it only takes a few kicks from Stephens to severely reduce a fighter’s ability to move. Even if Kattar does a better job of checking and defending against kicks, those movements will interrupt his boxing flow, increasing the odds that one of those gigantic “Lil Heathen” whingers finds a home.
Key Wins: Ricardo Lamas (UFC 238), Shane Burgos (UFC 220), Andre Fili (UFC 214), Chris Fishgold (UFC Fight Night 138)
Key Losses: Zabit Magomedsharipov (UFC Fight Night 163), Renato Moicano (UFC 223)
Keys to Victory: Kattar is slick. “The Boston Finisher” has proven himself a very adept wrestler, but it’s really all about his boxing. Kattar is quick to establish the jab, after which he’ll set up long, powerful combinations. In his knockout win over Shane Burgos — a brilliant fight from both men — Kattar also showed off his nasty counter punching.
Stephens is a tricky fight, but he can be made a much easier opponent with the proper game plan. He’s never dealt well with lateral movement, and Kattar certainly has the footwork to cut angles and pivot well enough to frustrate Stephens — who seems frustrated almost all of the time he’s not either punching a face or getting his face punched.
Watching out for low kicks will definitely be important, but otherwise, Kattar is the sharper boxer and hits plenty hard himself. If he spends a bit of time circling and sticking out the jab, Stephens will over-reach with his punches. Kattar has the ability to make him pay for that habit more than most, which should help him stay ahead and control the fight.
Bottom Line: This is a very fun fight between two excellent Featherweights.
Despite his incredible impressive longevity and toughness, it seems almost certain that Jeremy Stephens will never fight for a title, even though he is somehow just 33 years old. At one point in 2018, Stephens was on undoubtedly the best win streak of his UFC career and close to securing that opportunity. Since then, however, he’s lost three fights, and it just doesn’t seem likely that he’s able to climb much higher than his current No. 7 position.
Instead, Stephens is simply looking to get back in the win column and avoid falling further.
Despite a tough couple losses, Kattar is in the opposite position. He’s very actively trying to make a run at 145-pound gold, and he’s a great match up for many of the current top contenders — even his loss to “Zabeast” proved his caliber. A win over Stephens would move Kattar a couple notches closer to the top five, potentially setting him up for a big fight next.
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At UFC 249, Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar will go to war. Which man will have his hand raised?