Due to the controversial nature of the finish, Jeremy Stephens wasn’t able to completely enjoy his victory over Josh Emmett at UFC on Fox 28 without answering some questions.
Stephens defeated Emmett via knockout at the 1:35 mark of the second round in Saturday’s headliner at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., punctuating his victory with two vicious elbows on the mat. It’s what led to that moment, however, that has prompted some debate in the aftermath.
Stephens initially floored his opponent with a counter left hook, and he followed Emmett to the ground, where he unloaded a series of elbows. When the Team Alpha Male product attempted to rise, Stephens appeared to land a glancing knee to his head. Referee Dan Miragliotta allowed the action to continue, and “Lil Heathen” shoved Emmett to his back and finished the contest moments later.
According to Stephens, Miragliotta had informed him that his actions were within the boundaries of the new unified rules of MMA, which have been adopted in Florida.
“The referee, Dan Miragliotta, came in the back. He said this is the new unified rules, that if two hands are down, you can lift one hand up to knee,” Stephens said on Fox Sports 1. “That’s OK. So if he’s on his knees and one hand is up, it’s OK to throw a knee.
“I’m not a dirty fighter. I never have been my whole life. I saw an opportunity. I was looking for it. I don’t even think I landed the knee. It was the left hook that dropped him.”
It appears that Stephens might have misunderstood the rules. A fighter can knee his or her opponent if they are standing with one hand on the ground. However, if the opponent has one or two knees on the mat, they are still considered a downed fighter. Emmett had one hand on the ground, but was on his knees – not his feet. It isn’t the first time there has been some confusion regarding the new unified rules – and it probably won’t be the last.
Stephens believes it his knee didn’t land, regardless.
“No, I didn’t [land the knee]. I’m in the moment right there,” he said. “Dan Miragliotta came in the background. He told me the rules and exactly what to do. If two hands are on the ground, you can lift the one hand up to knee him. That’s the new rules, that’s in this specific state.”
What was clear, however, was Stephens’ intent. He thought the attack was legal, and he tried to take advantage of the opportunity to throw a knee.
“I saw exactly what he was gonna do. He was rocked, he was two hands. He lifted his hand up. I saw the moment and that’s when I threw the knee,” Stephens said. “I don’t think the knee even landed. It’s not what hurt him. There was a lot more damage after that. He was even rocked before that. But he did lift his hands and I waited for that hand to lift. I just tried to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Stephens has now authored an impressive three-fight winning streak at 145 pounds that also includes triumphs over Doo Ho Choi and Gilbert Melendez. In the aftermath of his win over Emmett, the 28-time Octagon veteran called for a title shot, directing his request at UFC President Dana White. For Stephens, the controversy that accompanied his most recent victory isn’t that much of a negative.
As of [Sunday], the money will hit my bank account,” he said. “I am not worried. The more people that are talking, the more you’re making my name hot, so keep it up.”