Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens has been one of the UFC’s most exciting knockout artist’s for a very long time. Making his promotional debut with the UFC in 2007 against ATT mastermind Din Thomas, Stephens has consistently proven himself with four ‘Fight of the Night’ awards and a highlight reel of spectacular knockouts. He has already had a fantastic UFC career spanning 26 fights and is still only 31-years-old. Out of all the crazy wars that this man has been in, there are three that really stand out as the best of his career.
3. Jeremy Stephens vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Coming in at the third most impressive performance of Stephens’ UFC resume is his devastating first-round knockout of the former lightweight champion and welterweight contender Rafael dos Anjos. This fight took place all the way back at UFC 91 in December 2008 and was at a very early stage in both fighters’ evolution. This however, was the performance that saw Jeremy Stephens’ first true eye-catching knockout.
Happening just 33 seconds into the first round, we saw “Lil Heathen” throw a wild overhand right that was blocked but forced dos Anjos’ back onto the cage, then after he unleashed an absolutely destructive uppercut that flattened RDA and saw an immediate end to the fight. After the referee stepped in to finish the fight, Stephens rushed full speed head-first into the cage and chucked his mouthpiece into the crowd. This moment is still played in Jeremy Stephens’ highlights today and was a true landmark performance for him.
2. Jeremy Stephens vs. Dennis Bermudez
The second most impressive performance of Jeremy Stephens’ career is none other than his crazy third round knockout win over the well-rounded and durable Dennis Bermudez at UFC 189.
The fight kept fight fans engaged throughout with both men having their moments. In the first round, both Bermudez and Stephens came out throwing heavy leather and both landed significant blows. Midway through round one, Bermudez landed a takedown and controlled Stephens much of the time. With about a minute left, Stephens got back up and landed more heavy blows before the round ended. In round two, we saw much more of a stand-up brawl with Stephens landing a beautiful left uppercut that dropped Bermudez and nearly ended the fight. Bermudez regained his composure and was landing strikes of his own but was clearly hurting from Stephens’ leg kicks which did a lot of damage.
At this point, the fight was scored one round each heading into the final round. In round three, both hugged at the beginning and continued their war. Just 25 seconds into the new round, Bermudez shot in for a takedown and Stephens completely anticipated it and threw a devastating jumping knee that landed perfectly to end the fight.
This performance was so impressive because it was against a top #10 featherweight in Bermudez and showed that Stephens is dangerous at any point in the fight. Also, the display could have easily won ‘Performance of the Night’ or ‘Fight of the Night’ honors if it wasn’t for the co-main and main event which are regarded as some of the best fights in UFC history.
1. Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez
The single most impressive performance of Jeremy Stephens’ illustrious UFC career is also his most recent against former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
In this fight we saw a very measured and mature approach by Stephens where in the past he may have been a little more reckless. His most utilized technique against Melendez was the calf kicks which proved to be such an effective strategy. If there is one weakness that you can clearly measure against Melendez and his training partners such as the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields is their tendency to put a lot of weight on their lead leg and their inability to successfully deal with leg kicks.
From the opening bell, Stephens made it clear what his primary strategy would be and Melendez did not have an answer to this. It was evident within the first couple minutes that the damage inflicted by the calf kicks would severely lower Melendez’s chances for victory. Dropping Melendez multiple times during the fight with these kicks, Stephens coasted to a unanimous decision victory.
This fight, in particular, stands out as Jeremy Stephens’ most impressive because of his calculated and measured approach and how much better he looked than a legend in the sport like Gilbert Melendez. A showcase like that is exactly what Stephens needed after two consecutive losses and has set him up for the main event showdown vs. Doo Ho Choi at UFC Fight Night 124 taking place this weekend.
What’s your favorite Jeremy Stephens moment?