Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight sluggers Jeremy Stephens and Drakkar Klose will go to war this weekend (Sat., April 17, 2021) at UFC Vegas 24 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Stephens has seen hard times and bad losing streaks in the past, but he’s on a particularly rough stretch, winless through five fights dating back to Feb. 2018. Admittedly, all of those defeats have come to elite Featherweight competition, and his performances have actually been pretty solid even in defeat. Still, at 34 years of age deep into his fight career, one has to wonder if all those brawls are catching up to “Lil Heathen.”
Klose is the unfortunate position of trying to break into the Lightweight Top 15. There are numerous killers in those ranks, and every time Klose has built up a good bit of momentum, he’s run into a setback that prevents him from really making ground.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 28-18 (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), Calvin Kattar (UFC 248)
Keys to Victory: Stephens has been there and done that. Look at the resume above — who hasn’t this guy fought? “Lil Heathen” has come a long way technically from the brawler who first stepped into the Octagon in May 2007 (!!!), but at heart, Stephens just wants to swing big and knock fools out.
In the stand up, Stephens should recognize his opponent’s tactics quite well. Both men like to rip the calf until their opponent feels uncomfortable in his footing, at which point the punches start flying. These two are likely to rip calf kicks and haymakers at one another from early in the fight, so a bit of smarts might determine who falls first.
I’d like to see Stephens work the body. He can be rather over-eager with his overhand and hooks, but at least if he’s targeting the mid-section, he’s less likely to miss entirely. Plus, given Klose’s wrestling background, punching at the body will be a wise choice to help ensure Stephens’ weight is low and in position to stop the shot.
Key Wins: Marc Diakese (TUF 25 Finale), Christos Giagos (UFC 241), Bobby Green (UFC on FOX 31), Lando Vannata (UFC 226)
Key Losses: Beneil Dariush (UFC 248), David Teymur (UFC 218)
Keys to Victory: Klose fights ugly ... and he does so quite well. The wrestler is strong, well-conditioned, and tough as an old shoe, the perfect attributes for grueling wars of attrition. Klose is at his best when bullying opponents, mixing together forward pressure, calf kicks and clinch work.
There is something of a standard gameplan when fighting Stephens. It involves lots of lateral movement and distance management, forcing Stephens to strike without setting his feet. It’s a well-established blueprint, but it’s also one that really goes against who Klose is as a fighter.
If Klose and his team are confident in his ability to adjust, go for it! If not, wrestling Stephens seems like the more obvious path. Stephens has been fighting Featherweights for the last eight years, and that additional 10 pounds makes a huge difference. Klose can very likely exhaust his foe with frequent clinch and shot attempts, which will make a huge difference in taking some of the sting off Stephens’ punches.
There may not be title implications, but this should be an entertaining co-main event scrap.
Stephens appears to be at a point in his career where he’s accepted that he’s not really in the title hunt. At least, that’s the only reason I can ascertain for his return to 155 pounds, where Stephens never came particularly close to the title. At Featherweight, Stephens still holds a Top 10 ranking, even if he’s lost to many of the men ranked above him.
Weight cuts suck, of course, but if Stephens wanted to contend, Featherweight was his only chance. Back at Lightweight, “Lil Heathen” has seemingly accepted his role as highly-paid action fighter. If he wants to maintain that position, Stephens needs to get back in the win column.
Despite being just seven fights into his UFC career, Klose is not really a young prospect at 33 years of age. If he’s going to make an impact, he needs to put together a serious win streak. Klose has talked recently about potentially dropping to Featherweight, which may help rejuvenate his title dreams.
Ultimately, the only way to the top is consistent victories, and Klose can start a new win streak Saturday night.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 24 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 24, Jeremy Stephens and Drakkar Klose will collide in the co-main event. Which man earns the victory?