MMA Record: 26-4
UFC Record: 8-3
Notable Wins: Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas
Notable Losses: Max Holloway, Conor McGregor
Last Fight: TKO loss to Max Holloway
Fighter Profile: The long-time UFC featherweight champion, Aldo has fallen on hard times as of late as he’s been knocked out in his last two fights and in three of his last four fights overall. At one point, Aldo looked completely unstoppable. His amazing takedown defense was useful in keeping his fights on the feet where he was able to pretty much dominate anyone he wanted with his vicious leg kicks and solid boxing. And there’s no doubt he’s the most accomplished featherweight of all time. But it’s also fair to say he’s on the decline, and all these knockout losses are going to add up. They may already have, and we’ll find out Saturday if so.
MMA Record: 28-14
UFC Record: 15-13
Notable Wins: Doo Ho Choi, Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez
Notable Losses: Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano, Max Holloway
Last Fight: TKO win over Josh Emmett
Fighter Profile: A long-time gatekeeper in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions in the UFC, Stephens has really come on strong in the last little while and he’s currently on a three-fight win streak with vicious knockouts over Emmett and Choi in hs last two bouts, plus a dominant win over Melendez before that. Stephens is one of the most powerful strikers we have ever seen at 145lbs and he seems to be peaking right now, making him a dominant fighter at the moment. His takedown defense has looked much improved in recent fights so he’s hard to take down, and his striking has never looked better. The UFC thinks so highly of Stephens right now that he almost got an interim title shot against Brian Ortega recently. If he can go out there and beat Aldo, he might get a shot at the real thing.
Fight Breakdown: I love this fight, but it’s crazy how much differently I think about this matchup now compared to what I would have thought about it a couple years ago. A few years ago, it would have been a no brainer to take Aldo in this fight. But MMA is a funny sport, and a few years changes thing. It was just a couple of years ago when Aldo was a champion and Stephens was a gatekeeper. But now, it’s Aldo who has lost two striaght fights by knockout while Stephens has quickly emerged as a featherweight contender. I have just been so impressed with the improvements Stephens has made in his game. While it’s true Aldo has only lost to Holloway and McGregor, it’s also true that he looked really bad in the Holloway fights, whereas Stephens has looked just incredible during his latest win streak. It’s hard to pick against Aldo but I have to lean towards Stephens here. I’ll take him to outstrike Aldo for the decision.
Prediction: Jeremy Stephens via decision