Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC on Fox 28 as Josh Emmett takes on Jeremy Stephens in Orlando, Florida.
Josh Emmett (Record: 13-1, +140 Favroite, Power Ranking: C+)
The Team Alpha Male trained is coming off the biggest high of his career. In his last outing, he stunned perennial contender Ricardo Lamas knocking him out in the opening round. Emmett has won four of his past five fights in the UFC and looks again to get a top 10 win.
A former JUCO and NAIA collegiate wrestler, Emmett transitioned quickly to MMA under the tutelage of Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male. Emmett has solid striking output landing just over four significant strikes per minute. He has good footwork moving in and out to land strikes from different angles. He’s not afraid of a firefight as he’s willing to step in to take a shot to land one or two of his own. He’s capable of landing some takedowns of his own, but in recent fights he’s been more focused on his striking as he prefers that his lead aggression in bouts. Emmett is a physical strong fighter and certainly more muscular than most featherweights. It’s this added muscle which allows him to start well in fights, but as bouts develop Emmett tends to slow down as endurance becomes an issue. While the Lamas win was certainly significant, the question remains if that victory was a one hit wonder or if it was a sign of things to come.
Jeremy Stephens (Record: 27-14, -170 Favorite, Power Ranking: B)
The Iowa-born, Alliance MMA-trained featherweight has made the most of his move down to featherweight having been a regular on the division’s top 15 rankings. Stephens is coming off quality back to back wins over Doo Ho Choi and Gilbert Melendez.
Stephens has been in a mainstay in the featherweight rankings since dropping down from lightweight. While he’s not a high volume striker, what he does do is put power in every single strike. Stephens is not a tight, technical striker, instead he tends to throw heavy looping punches. The quicker, better footwork opponents tend to be able to avoid them, but fighters who lack quality footwork tend to struggle against him. Once Stephens lands clean, it tends to slow his opponents down to the point of where he has a clear advantage. However, the question remains whether he is able to land as his volume is relatively low for the division and he can be outpointed in bouts. He can mix it up a bit wrestling, but ultimately his goal is to win by knockout. Defensively his takedown defense is only 64% and opponents have taken him down in the past to control and slow him down. In his recent run of fights, Stephens has made in fight adjustments which ultimately allowed him to dominate opponents. It’s these tactical adjustments which have shown Stephens maturity as a fighter.
In the main event of UFC on Fox 28, top ten featherweights collide as Josh Emmett takes on Jeremy Stephens. Look for this to be a striking contest from the onset. Both fighters are more strong for the weight class and tend throw power punches as opposed to a more volume heavy technical striking attack. Emmett is the better offensive wrestler overall, but I see both fighters looking to impress in this main event, so I’d expect exchanges on the feet as a knockout is seeked out. While some clean punches will be landed early in this fight, I think the key to this bout is durability. Emmett has never been knocked out in his career, but his tendency to slow down in fights will likely be his downfall here. Stephens has been tested by much better competition overall and has only been knocked out once in a 41 fight career. Stephens is the heavier puncher and his hands will have a greater effect as Emmett starts to slow down in the second round. Once Emmett starts to fade, look for Stephens punches to gain even more traction. Given that this is a five round fight, that’s a long time for Emmett to survive in the cage as Stephens is landing power punches. Look for Stephens to end Emmett’s run up in the rankings with a knockout win and to earn himself a number one contender fight in his next outing. Stephens by knockout is a prop worthy of consideration once lines are released. From a moneyline perspective, anything under -150 is a great bet on the more experienced, more durable, and harder hitting featherweight.