Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone with UFC Vegas 31, which took place inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, this past weekend (Sat., July 17, 2021). Plenty of fighters were left licking their wounds, including Marion Reneau, who didn’t get the honor of retiring with a win after suffering a third-round technical knockout loss courtesy of former women’s Bantamweight champion, Miesha Tate (see it).
And Thiago Moises, who became the latest notch on Islam Makhachev’s belt after losing via fourth-round submission (see it again here). But, which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now a few days removed from the show?
Coming into his Lightweight bout against Mateusz Gamrot, Stephens was in desperate need of a win after losing four of his last five fights inside the Octagon with his last victory coming in 2018. But, instead of righting his ship, it took on more water after Gamrot secured a fight-ending kimura early in the opening frame, ending their 155-pound showdown in the first 65 seconds of the fight.
And just like that, “Lil’ Heathen’s” record got a bit uglier, losing three in a row and five of his last six inside the Octagon to stand at 28-19 (1 NC). It’s the worst streak of Stephens’ 16-year career. In his defense, all of the losses he suffered came against some of the absolute best in the business, including former Featherweight champion Jose Aldo, as well as Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar.
He has that resume of opponents because he is an absolute beast who isn’t afraid to step up anytime, anywhere ... against anyone. That’s the reason Stephens has long been a fan favorite. That and his knack for knocking peoples blocks clean off. The only problem is he hasn’t been doing much of that lately.
Which begs the question: What’s next for Stephens?
“Lil’ Heathen” has earned the praise of UFC President, Dana White, over the years. And for great reason since he has always left it all in the cage and is never in a boring fight — win, lose, or draw. But how much longer will the promotion keep him around if he doesn’t produce a win?
Especially at age 35.
Why it started going downhill for the longtime UFC veteran in what seems like a blink of an eye is unknown. One thing is certain, it isn’t the same Stephens who instilled feared in his foes thanks to his legendary knockout power. He does have the skill to turn it around, but he simply has been unable to shake his funk and find his groove.
I highly doubt UFC will cut Stephens based on his recent woes. That’s because “Lil’ Heathen” still attracts eyeballs in some form. Furthermore, the promotion probably doesn’t want another other major organization to hire the power-punching slugger once he's a free agent.
If the promotion does decide to give Stephens another fight, perhaps a showdown against someone like Yancy Medeiros is in order. Medeiros is also in a dip, having lost four in a row. To be honest, I'm just spit-balling here because I don't see other options suitable for Stephens at the moment, so I leave it to you to drop a suggestion or three below.
For complete UFC Vegas 31 play-by-play updates and results click here.