Javier Vazquez (above) will meet a good friend in Joe Stevenson. | Photo: D. Mandel
Joe Stevenson (31-13, 8-7 UFC) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-5, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Former lightweight title challenger Stevenson meets the talented Vazquez in a bout likely to involve a lot of subtle ground work. Stevenson is also following Tyson Griffin’s lead here, dropping down to featherweight after long campaign at 155 pounds. He started his UFC career as a welterweight in 2005, winning Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Stevenson has dropped off in recent performances, perhaps showing the mileage of a lengthy career and the expectable wear and tear. Vasquez is an outstanding grappler and very durable, and doubts remain about whether or not Stevenson can make the drop to 145 effectively, especially this late in his career.
Even if Stevenson succeeds in losing the pounds, Vazquez’s excellent sweeps and dynamic jiu-jitsu will be a handful. Unbeaten featherweight contender Chad Mendes stifled Vasquez in a unanimous decision at WEC 52 in November, but he could barely score on the ground and had his hands full staying clear of submission attempts. Stevenson’s best chance is to land something early, but that seems a long shot at best.
The Pick: All signs point to Vazquez here, and he takes it by decision.
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