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23 Feb 2018

UFC on FOX 28: Emmett vs. Stephens Preview & Prediction

(Photo Credit: Msmirlie2863)

Josh Emmett: A meteoric rise

UFC featherweight and Team Alpha Male representative, Josh Emmett (13-1), went from relative obscurity to title contention in just one round of fighting. When Ricardo Lamas found himself without an opponent in December, Emmett stepped up to the plate on short notice. He missed weight due to the lack of preparation time but made up for it by knocking Lamas out cold with 30 seconds remaining in the first round. In that moment, Emmett went from newcomer to the number four ranked featherweight contender in the world. 

Josh Emmett will have a shot to make a case for a title shot in what will be his sixth UFC fight this Saturday night when he takes on fellow heavy-hitter, Jeremy Stephens. Emmet has half as many fights as Stephens has wins but his 13-1 record is nothing short of impressive. Emmett's only loss came in a split decision to Desmond Green. 

Though it was not showcased in the Lamas fight, Emmett has great wrestling to go along with his hard punches. He wrestled in college and could look to take this fight to the mat if Stephens gets the better of the striking exchanges. As long as the striking stays relatively close, he could win a decision thanks to his takedowns. If Emmett choses to stay on the feet, he will need to stay on his bike to deal with the speed of Stephens and take away his angles. Occasionally, Jeremy Stephens likes to wind up for a big shot which could leave an opening for Emmett to end the fight with one punch once again. 

Jeremy Stephens: The long road to the belt

Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens (27-14) has been in the UFC for about ten and a half years, with his first fight taking place at UFC 71 in 2007. He is a streaky fighter but has never fought for a title. Stephens is on a run right now though, and as the number seven ranked featherweight contender, a win over Josh Emmett will at least put him in the conversation. Stephens comes into this fight off two straight wins: a dominant unanimous decision over Gilbert Melendez and an electrifying knockout of Doo Ho Choi. "Lil' Heathen" now has a third killer standing in his way in the form of Josh Emmett. 

Stephens hits like a truck and has 18 knockouts on his record to prove it. He has great speed and is good at finding angles to land his devastating uppercut. Stephens is just as hard to take out as he is to survive against. He has not been finished in any of his last five losses, showcasing an iron chin in some all-out wars. Since making the move from lightweight to featherweight, his power has been amplified against smaller competition. 

As a UFC veteran, Jeremy Stephens has really showed improvement in his strategy. His last two fights were won not only through spectacular fighting, but expert game-planning. He punished Gilbert Melendez with low leg kick so much that Melendez could barely move. He also loads up on his punches less and is more patient before going in for the kill. This is dangerous for Emmett who will need a mistake or impatience to finish Stephens.

Prediction

Josh Emmett's ability to get a takedown will be huge in this fight. Stephens has underrated wrestling and good takedown defense but Emmett will definitely have the advantage if he can get the fight to the mat. Even if he can score takedowns, Emmett will likely not be able to submit Stephens. To get a finish, Emmett will have to stand and box and hope to land another haymaker and hope it is could enough to knockout the iron-chinned "Lil' Heathen."

Jeremy Stephens will have success if he is patient and lands similar leg kicks to the calf of Emmett like he did in the Melendez fight. Those kicks were so punishing that it hurt to watch. Taking away the mobility of Emmett would be huge for the already faster Stephens. He will find a home for his uppercut but hopefully will not go in for the kill too early. 

A more patient Jeremy Stephens with the same level of power and toughness makes for one of the scariest featherweights out there. "Lil" Heathen will pour on the pressure and back up Emmett until he breaks late in the fight. As long as he does not get caught by a power shot from Emmett, he will chip away at his stamina until Emmett falls late in the fight.

Stephens by TKO