Jeremy Stephens made a little magic of his own in the shadows of the Magic Kingdom.
The resurgent Alliance MMA export emerged as a dark horse title contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division, as he knocked out Josh Emmett with second-round punches and elbows in the UFC on Fox 28 headliner on Saturday at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Emmett (14-2, 4-2 UFC), who had never before been finished, met his end 95 seconds into Round 2.
Stephens (28-14, 15-13 UFC) was first to hit the deck. Emmett countered an ill-advised uppercut from “Lil’ Heathen” with a counter right hook in the first round. It resulted in a knockdown, but Stephens quickly cleared the cobwebs, escaped to his feet and drew the Team Alpha Male rep deeper into the fight. Early in Round 2, he sat down Emmett with a left hook, followed with a series of elbows and unsheathed a knee strike that appeared to glance off the grounded Californian’s head. Referee Dan Miragliotta did not flag Stephens for the apparent foul, and the barrage continued. Emmett fell to his back, where a crushing elbow turned out the lights.
The 31-year-old Stephens has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since he suffered consecutive defeats to Frankie Edgar and Renato Carneiro.
“I’m unbreakable,” Stephens said.
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Overpowering Andrade Overwhelms Torres
Repeated takedowns, stifling top control and punishing ground-and-pound carried Parana Vale Tudo cornerstone Jessica Andrade to a unanimous decision over Tecia Torres in the women’s strawweight co-main event. Andrade (18-6, 9-4 UFC) earned nods from all three cageside judges: 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Torres (10-2, 6-2 UFC) enjoyed some early success with counter left hooks off the back foot and clubbing overhand rights. However, Andrade slowly seized control and overpowered “The Ultimate Fighter 20” quarterfinalist. She executed multiple takedowns in the second and third rounds, moved to advantageous positions and piled up points with short punches, forearm strikes and elbows from the top.
Likely next in line for a title shot at 115 pounds, Andrade has rattled off five wins in six outings.
Latifi Guillotine Sleeps St. Preux
Onetime Superior Challenge titleholder Ilir Latifi choked Ovince St. Preux unconscious with a standing guillotine choke in the first round of their featured pairing at 205 pounds. Latifi (14-5, 7-3 UFC) brought it to a close 3:48 into Round 1, as he won for the fifth time in six appearances.
St. Preux (22-11, 10-6 UFC) never got in gear. After a tepid start, Latifi sent the former University of Tennessee linebacker tumbling backward with a short left hook. He followed up with right hands as St. Preux returned to his feet, sat him back down with another left hook and then clamped down on the guillotine. St. Preux struggled briefly to free himself, tapped out of view from the referee and then went limp.
The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak for St. Preux.
Griffin Upends Favored Perry
Former Tachi Palace Fights champion Max Griffin recorded the most significant victory of his career, as he took a unanimous decision from Mike Perry in a three-round welterweight showcase. Griffin (14-4, 2-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-27, 29-27 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
Perry (11-3, 4-3 UFC) saw his aggression counteracted by clean, efficient punching. Griffin opened multiple cuts on the Florida-based Michigan native and remained calm under unnerving pressure, playing the matador to Perry’s bull. He floored and nearly finished Perry in the second round, where he connected with a beautiful straight right-left hook combination. Once it became clear a stoppage was not in the offing, Griffin circled out of danger and returned to the approach that served him well throughout the fight.
Perhaps sensing he was behind on points, a battered and bloodied Perry pressed the issue in the third round -- and it almost paid off. He buzzed the tower with an overhand right, a left hook-right hook combination and a head kick, to no avail. Griffin staggered and backpedaled but managed to keep his head clear enough to ride out the decision.
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