Jeremy Stephens scored the biggest victory of his career on Sunday night, giving Renan Barao a rude welcome to the featherweight division at UFC Fight Night 88 in Las Vegas.
Barao is the former UFC bantamweight champion and was ranked No. 2 in that division, but after failing to regain the championship, he decided to make the move to featherweight.
While neither was afraid to begin throwing from the opening bell – both landed some solid kicks – Barao’s hand speed quickly became apparent. As the round wore on, Barao landed several punch combinations, while Stephens kept swinging wide with power, but missing a lot.
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In round two, it appeared that Barao’s first-round speed was withering. Stephens adjusted his approach, not swinging with wide punches so much, and instead going straight up the middle and quickly started to land his powerful punches. Stephens staggered Barao several times with a leaping uppercut, while moving straight forward into his Brazilian foe. But as hard and as often as Stephens hit Barao, he wouldn’t go down.
Barao showed his speed again at the beginning of round three, but Stephens took the wind out of his sails, again firing up the middle and landing some staggering shots. Still, he was unable to drop the former bantamweight champion.
Stephens nearly let things slip away when he started swinging wide and missing, but settled down as Barao had him in trouble with two minutes left in the fight. Barao got Stephens to the mat and nearly took his back, but Stephens remained calm and slipped out as the fight returned to standing.
As the clocked ….View full article