This weekend at UFC On FOX 28, featherweight hell-raisers Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett lock horns in an important five-round, 145-pound main event battle. The fight, which takes place at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, is a matchup between two of the very-best featherweights in the world. In a 145-pound division that’s in transition since the fall of Jose Aldo, this scrap could prove to have significant title implications.
Though Stephens is just 14-13 all-time in the UFC, his record does not tell his story. Win or lose, “Lil Heathen” is one of the most exciting featherweights on the UFC roster, and prior to his run at 145 he was a formidable lightweight as well. He’s fought the very best fighters in both weight classes and though he doesn’t always win you can never question his heart and toughness. It’s crazy to think Stephens is just 31 years of age but it’s somehow true. The longevity just adds to his allure, in my opinion.
He’s been around forever, having fought in the UFC for over a decade. Stephens first made his UFC debut back in 2007, and in 2008 he picked up his fight bonus award. He’s been doing nothing but picking up checks ever since, and he’s carved out a fantastic career for himself with nine “Fight/Performance/Knockout of the Night” bonus awards (that’s over $450,000 in bonus checks alone) in his decade-plus in the Octagon. Considering he’s in his early 30s still, when it’s all said and done he could be on the Donald Cerrone ‘non-champ but exciting fighter’ UFC Hall of Fame path.
Stephens is one heck of a fighter, and in his last fight he showed how powerful he is by destroying Doo Ho Choi in less than two rounds. Stephens is an extremely well-rounded featherweight and he showed how good he can be in his last two fights against Choi and Gilbert Melendez. I know he has essentially what amounts to a .500 record, but I would argue he’s one of the most underrated fighters in UFC history.
He’s fought the best of the best at 155 and 145 and has a number of big wins including his legendary video-game uppercut KO of Rafael dos Anjos back at UFC 91. And while it’s true he has lost nearly as many fights as he’s won in the Octagon, his losses have only come against the best in the world for the most part. Stephens’ argument that he’s an all-time underrated stud will surely be strengthened with a win over Emmett, who is on the rise at 145.
Prior to his last win over Ricardo Lamas, a shocking knockout after he missed weight, Emmett wasn’t viewed as a future featherweight title contender by many, but he has to be viewed as one now. Lamas is incredibly durable and even though Emmett missed weight, the fact he KOed a top-five featherweight in Lamas shows he’s right up there amongst the best in the world in his weight class.
Though he’s a surprising 32 years of age, Emmett is already 4-1 in the UFC and has carved out a nice spot for himself in the top-10 at 145. He’s shown he can outstrike his opponents, that he has solid cardio, and his wrestling is on point. It sounds a lot like most fighters from Team Alpha Male, his camp. Aside from a split decision loss to Desmond Green, Emmett has been flawless in the Octagon so far, and has gone from a guy who no one knew at 155 to a 145 contender in a very short period of time.
Stylistically, the Stephens vs. Emmett fight is a good one, though a tough one to call. Both men possess KO power, with a slide edge to Stephens because he’s proven it for a longer period of time. Both men are incredibly durable, with a slight edge to Emmett, who hasn’t been finished yet in his career. Both men have very solid wrestling, both guys have cardio, and both men want to win. It’s a very even fight and though both guys may not be huge names, it’s still a worth main event fight, especially since it’s five rounds.
After Frankie Edgar fights Brian Ortega, the winner will fight the champ Max Holloway for the belt, and after that things are up in the air. This presents a challenge for both Stephens and Emmett, as well as an opportunity, as a great performance would shoot either guy into the elite of the division. May the best man win.