Jeremy Stephens has worn many hats since he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster on his 21st birthday in 2007, from prospect to gatekeeper to journeyman. “Lil’ Heathen” has now added title contender to the list.
Stephens overcame an early knockdown to obliterate Josh Emmett with punches and elbows in the second round of their UFC on Fox 28 main event on Feb. 24 in Orlando, Florida. The longtime Alliance MMA rep drew the curtain on Emmett 1:35 into Round 2, as he recorded his third consecutive victory at 145 pounds. It was Stephens’ 28th appearance inside the Octagon, tying him with Jim Miller for second on the UFC’s all-time list. Afterward, the 31-year-old Des Moines, Iowa, native used the network-television platform to call for a featherweight title shot, though he figures to have to wait for scenarios involving Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega and undisputed champion Max Holloway to play out.
With his latest win, Stephens climbs to No. 7 in our 145-pound rankings, bumping the previously 10th-ranked Patricio Freire to the contenders list.
Stephens was not the only fighter exhibiting violent tendencies at UFC on Fox 28. Ilir Latifi choked Ovince St. Preux unconscious with a standing guillotine in the first round of their light heavyweight showcase. The 34-year-old Swedish powerhouse has rattled off back-to-back wins since his knockout loss to Ryan Bader in September 2016. Latifi leapfrogs Misha Cirkunov and moves to the No. 8 position at 205 pounds.
Finally, the ageless Marion Reneau registered perhaps the most significant victory of her career, as she bounced back from a horrendous start to submit 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann with a second-round triangle choke. Reneau, 40, owns a 3-0-1 record across her past four appearances, with all three of her wins coming by knockout, technical knockout or submission. After tapping McMann, she jumps to seventh on our women’s bantamweight list.
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