The Turning Point: Stephens vs. Davis

By Chris Nelson Jan 5, 2011
Ten minutes into his fight with Marcus Davis at UFC 125, things weren’t looking great for Jeremy Stephens.

There was no doubt that he had lost the opening round. Davis started well, if cautiously, drifting just outside of Stephens’ range in the southpaw stance. As Davis bounced and circled, the newly-minted lightweight flicked his jab into Stephens’ face, using sharp angles and footwork to make the “Lil’ Heathen” airmail punches. When Stephens (Pictured) initiated a clinch against the fence and tried to drill knees inside, Davis reversed the position and tripped him to the mat. A late overhand left bounced off Stephens’ temple, putting him on rubbery legs and allowing Davis to control the final minute of action.

“He was winning,” Stephens said in a post-fight interview on UFC.com. “I was clinching up a bit, but I wanted to wear him out. He was strong. You know, he has old man strength.”

The 37-year-old Davis utilized that strength again in the second round. Stephens began finding his rhythm and scoring on the feet in the early going, attacking Davis’ lead leg with kicks and countering his telegraphed left hands. But Davis again used Stephens’ own clinch to score a takedown and mash from top position. Stephens offered slightly less resistance this time, having set up a kimura while standing, but the hold bore no fruit.

The middle stanza had gone better for Stephens -- in fact, two judges saw fit to award him the round -- but not well enough for the liking of the Lil’ Heathen or his team.

“That third round, man, I was pissed. I knew I had to f--kin’ end it,” said Stephens, who had seen split decisions in his previous two outings. “My coaches [said], you know, ‘This is it.’ I started thinking, ‘I don’t wanna lose a job.’... I promised [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva yesterday that I’d bring out the heat, so I had to bring it. That third round meant everything to me.”

Twitching and fuming, Stephens rushed out of his corner to begin the final frame, swinging ill-intentioned haymakers at Davis’ head. The “Irish Hand Grenade” was still moving well and showing only minor signs of fatigue. Davis’ frustrating punches were coming with less volume, but still finding their mark. However, when Davis landed the same solid overhand left as he had in the first round, it had noticeably less effect on Stephens.

Emboldened, Stephens stalked forward. Davis put a left straight on Stephens’ nose, but Stephens kept coming, seemingly waiting for a window. Davis pumped a sloppy right jab and ducked, barely avoiding the business end of a Stephens one-two. Stephens grazed Davis with a right hand, making the Mainer swing wildly with a jab-overhand combination and stumble backwards.

The final three seconds of the fight looked like something out of a video game. You could almost see Stephens’ power meter rise as he reared back. With Davis still off-kilter, a fully-charged Stephens launched a right-handed fastball that caught his man square on the jaw. Davis lobbed a simultaneous right of his own, but it never had a chance.

Davis fell to the canvas, unconscious before he touched the mat, and Stephens went airborne with a devastating follow-up right cocked and loaded. That one found its mark as well, but it was academic, only serving to sink Davis further into the void. Referee Kim Winslow rescued a senseless Davis at the 2:33 mark of the third frame.

“I got power, but my whole goal was to be light on my feet, in and out, chase these guys down,” said Stephens. “You know, I gotta be a tiger. I gotta hunt my prey.”

For 12 and a half minutes, Jeremy Stephens alternated between being the hunter and the hunted. But when he saw his opportunity, like any good predator, he pounced.
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