A renewed Jeremy Stephens emphatically stated his case for a featherweight title shot with a devastating second-round knockout of Josh Emmett, stopping him at 1:35 after dropping him with a left hook at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
Stephens’ third consecutive victory will be clouded by several potential illegal strikes he threw in going for the finish. After dropping Emmett with a left hook during an exchange, Stephens threw a knee at Emmett while Emmett was still grounded, a violation of UFC rules.
Fox replays were inconclusive, though Emmett’s head did not appear to move after the knee, which happened with referee Dan Miragliotta watching intently only a few feet away.
After missing the knee, Stephens also dropped several elbows on Emmett, a few of which appeared to land on the back of the head. But Miragliotta did not call the elbows illegal.
That overshadowed a continued resurgence by Stephens, who won for the third consecutive time and then dropped to his knees in the middle of the cage and pleaded with UFC president Dana White to give him a shot at featherweight champion Max Holloway.
“Dana, give me my title shot!” Stephens bellowed. “There’s only three guys in front of me. Please, please give it to me. I’ve done everything for the company, baby, always putting on a show.”
It was quite a show against a high-level opponent. Emmett entered the fight with a 13-1 record and was coming off of a first-round knockout of Ricardo Lamas.
And Emmett showed that was no fluke, standing toe-to-toe with Stephens and exchanging powerful shots. He dropped Stephens during one of those exchanges in the first.
“And now we know who the hardest-hitting 145er is,” said Stephens, who is now 28-14 overall in MMA and 15-12 in the UFC. “Hey, Josh Emmett put me down on my butt and I had to get my wits back underneath me. You cannot break me. I’m unbreakable, baby. That’s what’s up!
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career but that’s a testament to never give up.”