Powerful featherweights Josh Emmett and Jeremy Stephens will lock horns in an eagerly anticipated battle when UFC Fight Night lights up Orlando on Saturday. Both men are coming off spectacular knockouts, as Emmett stopped Ricardo Lamas in December and Stephens annihilated Doo Ho Choi last month. That left Emmett as the fourth-ranked fighter at 145lbs, and Stephens is now seventh, so whoever wins this one could well land himself a title shot against reigning champion Max Holloway in the future. There will be plenty at stake and it should prove to be a gripping fight between two ferocious competitors.
Make sure to check Bovada for odds on the fight and you will see that Stephens is the clear favorite to win this contest at -165 on the outright lines. Lil Heathen is now 31 and has had a long and intriguing career since making his MMA debut 11 years ago. He has won 27 fights, 18 of them by knockout and plenty in UFC, but also lost 14. He lost back to back contests against Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano, but then bounced back with victory over Gilbert Melendez on September 9, 2017.
He then stepped into the octagon to take on Choi, who had just delivered a contender for Fight of the Year against Cub Swanson, at Fight Night 124. Stephens was brutal in the demolition job he performed on the highly rated striker. He became the first man to TKO Choi, dropping him to the mat with a powerful right and finishing him off with a battering on the ground in the second round of the fight. It made it two Fight of the Night bonuses in a row for Stephens, so there is a great deal of excitement surrounding his match this weekend.
Emmett, the +140 underdog, is a year older than Stephens, but far less experienced as a pro. He has had just 14 bouts since he made his pro debut in 2011 and won 13 of them. However, only the last five have been with the UFC, where he is 4-1. He lost via a split decision against Desmond Green, and beat Jon Tuck, Scott Hultzmann, Felipe Arantes and Ricardo Lamas. While Stephens has taken on some of the very best this division has to offer, including Hollaway, Emmett’s experience is comparatively limited.
His victory over Lamas was a great spectacle though. Lamas was the number three ranked fighter in the division and Emmett was the +200 underdog, but he landed a ferocious blizzard of attacks on his vaunted foe and smashed his way to success. Towards the end of the first round, Emmett threw 38 blows at Lamas, and landed 10. The final one knocked him out cold, with 17 seconds remaining on the clock.
That catapulted Emmett up to fourth in the division and he will be knocking on Holloway’s door if he wins on Saturday night. But it also makes Emmett a great scalp to claim, and Stephens is determined to pull it off. He is the favorite to do so thanks to his superb counter striking, aggressive pace, and strong punching power. He is the taller fighter in this fight and has greater experience.
However, there are plenty of things in Emmett’s favor too. He hits in a more aggressive fashion and he is a better grappler. This fight could well be won on brief clinch exchanges and if it goes to the mat Emmett will come into his own. For that reason, many fans are backing Emmett to win it at the longer odds, but it looks like an extremely close one to call and it should make for an enthralling event on Saturday night. Both fighters made weight and if last week’s Fight Night is any indication of what this week’s fights will hold, grab the popcorn, sit back, and let’s enjoy the fireworks.