Jeremy Stephens scored his second spectacular stoppage win of 2018 on Saturday night in Orlando, as he rendered Josh Emmett thoroughly unconscious with a vicious barrage of strikes in the second round of the UFC on Fox 28 main event.
The finish, however, was not without its controversy, as Stephens appeared to land several illegal strikes amidst the conclusive salvo.
Though Emmett came into the fight with just 4 KO/TKO wins on his 14-fight pro ledger, just one of which came inside the UFC octagon, his punching power was highly touted by the promotion in the wake of his sensational one-punch knockout win over perennial featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas in December. Emmett proved that this wasn’t false advertising, however, when he dropped the durable Stephens hard with a counter right towards the end of an opening round that he seemed to be losing up until that point. Emmett pounced and tried to finish Stephens on the canvas but ‘Lil’ Heathen’ recovered his wits to see out the stanza.
In the second, Stephens returned the favour, sending Emmett to the canvas with a clean and crushing left hook to the chin. Emmett tried to scramble back to his feet but he was met with a hail of elbows, some of which seemed to land on the back of the Team Alpha Male fighter’s head. Stephens also threw an illegal knee at a downed Emmett’s dome, although it did not make a solid connection. Referee Dan Miragliotta did not call a foul though and the onslaught continued. The strikes that ultimately put Emmett away – a pair of elbows – were legal, however, and savage.
The win was Stephens’ third straight since his loss to Renato Carneiro in April of last year but there remains a possibility that the result of this fight will be changed to a no contest. Shortly after the bout, Emmett’s team told Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting that they intended to appeal the result.
Emmett, who suffered three fractures to his orbital bone in the fight(per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto), drops to 4-2 in the UFC as a result of the defeat and 13-2 overall. He had won two in a row prior to Saturday night, ascending to fourth spot in the featherweight rankings. He will undoubtedly slide several spots when those rankings are updated in a few days time, however, as Stephens came into the fight as the division’s number eight.