MMA Review: #634: UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens

-This was another weaker effort for a show on ‘big’ Fox although it was much better than January’s effort at least. I still don’t get why they’re putting such weak main events on Fox given this is the year the TV deal comes up though. Anyhow, it didn’t look like a bad card on paper by any means, just short on name value.

UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens

02/24/18
Orlando, Florida

-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier.

Welterweight Fight: Mike Perry vs Max Griffin

This was clearly the UFC’s attempt to give Perry a bounce-back fight following his loss to the Ponz in December, as Griffin was 1-2 in the UFC with his only win being over Erick Montano. It wasn’t a lock by any means as Perry still comes off as a bit of a limited fighter, but I was expecting him to deliver a knockout here anyway.

Fight begins and Perry pushes forward and the crowd are RED HOT for him. Griffin stays bouncing around on the outside and he’s got Perry cut early on with some nice punches. Couple of really good counterpunches get through for Griffin actually. Takedown attempt from Perry and he drives Griffin into the fence, but he can’t get him down and they break off. More counter work gets through for Griffin and he goes to the legs and body with some kicks too. Really smart fighting from Griffin. Perry’s just finding it hard to get into range to land his big shots. Couple of kicks glance for him but he’s being outstruck here. Nice combination lands for Griffin on the counter. Seconds to go and Griffin continues to land before hitting a takedown off a missed kick. Perry reverses though and gets a takedown of his own, taking Griffin’s back, but he can’t capitalise before the round ends. 10-9 Griffin.

2nd round and Perry again comes out swinging, but he looks stiff and Griffin clips him with a right hand that clearly hurts him. Couple of good leg kicks land for Perry but Griffin stays on his bike and continues to land from the outside. Perry just can’t deal with the movement at all. ‘Corner Cam’ shows Perry’s girlfriend in his corner telling him to “break his leg” which is pretty shoddy advice to say the least. Low kick from Perry is caught and Griffin gets a takedown off it, landing a couple of shots as Perry stands. Perry’s face is a mess. Both men land big shots but Griffin smartly circles away rather than trade. More nice counterpunching follows for Griffin as Perry follows him around the cage. Couple of lefts get through for Perry, but he leaves himself open and a BIG RIGHT-LEFT COMBO sends him down! Big shots follow up for Griffin but Perry does well to grab hold of him to survive. He gets back to his feet but he’s badly hurt. Griffin plays it smart though and doesn’t charge in before landing a combo to end the round. 10-8 round for Griffin due to that bad knockdown.

3rd round and Perry eats a combo in the opening moments, but lands a heavy right hand on the counter that hurts Griffin. Perry looks to follow it up, but Griffin’s movement allows him to stay out of range. Takedown attempt from Perry and he spins and takes the back, but Griffin shrugs him off and lands a head kick as they stand back up. Couple of nice low kicks connect for Griffin. Clean right hand counter also lands for him. Big left hook over the top connects for Perry and he sends Griffin flying with a right hook, but Griffin does a good job of circling out of danger again. Perry tries taunting Griffin to draw him into a brawl, but it doesn’t work and Griffin continues to counter and circle, counter and circle. Perry keeps on pushing forward and swinging, and he lands a head kick that hurts Griffin, but can’t follow it up well enough. Crowd go crazy as Perry tries to land a haymaker, but he can’t catch Griffin cleanly and he goes for a takedown instead. Griffin defends it but the round ends with Perry managing to force him down. Perry’s round so I’d go 29-27 for Griffin overall.

Official scores are 29-27, 29-27 and 30-27 all for Max Griffin. Big win for him and credit to the guy for sticking to a smart gameplan and pulling it off perfectly really, but I don’t think this really moves him up the ladder too far as I think it tells us more about Perry’s limitations than anything else. The guy just couldn’t deal with the movement and speed of Griffin and I think he needs to move camp ASAP and work on more than just his power punching or he risks becoming the next Phil Baroni, which wouldn’t be terrible as Baroni was a star, but he never truly reached his potential. Fight was fun, largely due to the question of whether Griffin could keep up the plan to beat Perry. Good opener.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ilir Latifi vs Ovince St. Preux

This was initially meant to be part of the previous Fox card in January but got moved here when one of the fighters suffered an injury, I can’t even remember which to be honest. It sounded like a decent fight on paper at least although I did worry about it becoming a bit slow like Latifi’s fight with Gian Villante had been.

Round One begins and St. Preux stalks forward early with Latifi looking pretty tentative on the outside. Barely any action follows as St. Preux lands some glancing strikes from the outside with Latifi not doing much at all. Big head kick narrowly misses for OSP. Couple of punches come up short for Latifi, but suddenly he uncorks a BIG LEFT HAND that sends OSP down! HUGE PUNCHES follow it up as OSP stumbles to his feet, but he looks about done here. Another left hook puts him down again, and this time Latifi locks up a standing guillotine and squeezes until OSP goes unconscious. Really poor ref job as he totally missed OSP tapping, too.

Best performance of Latifi’s UFC career? Pretty easily I’d say as OSP was ranked top five coming into this and just got steamrolled. Post-fight Latifi calls out Daniel Cormier for a title fight but evidently nobody’s told him about the whole Miocic/Cormier fight in the summer I guess. I wouldn’t be against Latifi having a title eliminator fight though if they want to put that together, it’s a thin division and this was a huge win for him. Awesome finish from Latifi.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Tecia Torres vs Jessica Andrade

When the UFC announced a Rose Namajunas/Joanna Jedrzejczyk rematch then this fight made perfect sense to decide the next challenger, as Torres had beaten Michelle Waterson in December and arguably should’ve had a win over Namajunas already, while Andrade bounced back from her own failed title shot to beat up former top contender Claudia Gadelha. Tough fight to pick but I was pulling for Torres as it’d mean a fresh contender for the title.

Round One and Torres tags Andrade with some early punches including a pair of hard right hands. Andrade pushes forward but she walks into a couple more nice counters from Torres. Takedown attempt from Andrade but Torres manages to block it despite taking a right. Lot of movement from Torres and it allows her to land some more decent punches. Torres is looking good thus far. Couple of clubbing shots do get through for Andrade but Tecia seems okay. More of the same follows with Torres landing clean counter shots, but Andrade keeps on wading in with power hooks. Looks like Torres just doesn’t have the sheer power to really hurt the Brazilian. Andrade manages to walk through some punches to get to the clinch, but Torres breaks free. Andrade keeps on wading in and she’s landing more now, but Torres is still countering well. This is turning into a bit of a brawl now. Big knee to the body lands for Andrade. Round ends with a violent takedown from Andrade. 10-9 Torres but Andrade ended the round stronger.

Round Two and Andrade again comes forward swinging berserker hooks, Wanderlei-style basically. Torres keeps on trying to counter but she’s definitely taking more shots at this stage. Wild left hook sets up a clinch for Andrade and she drops for the takedown. Torres works hard to defend it, but ends up slammed anyway and they land in north/south. Inverted triangle attempt follows for Torres but it doesn’t look locked up correctly and Andrade works free into side mount. Another try at the triangle fails and Andrade settles into top control before Tecia kicks her away. Andrade stays on her and looks to drop some shots from above, but Torres pops back to her feet. Nice overhand right connects for Torres. Another one follows but Andrade comes back with some more wild hooks. Torres just doesn’t have the power to really hurt Andrade. Takedown attempt from Andrade sees Torres try to swing over and take her back, but Andrade slams her down and lands on top. Torres spins again and works to her feet, but Andrade stays on her and hits another slam. This time she lands in the full guard, where she drops some hammer fists and elbows. Armbar attempt from Torres is avoided and Andrade looks to drop some more shots, but eats a hard upkick on her way down. Triangle attempt follows but Andrade lifts her up and slams free. Reversal from Torres allows her to her feet, but Andrade forces her back down. Torres reverses again though, but can’t take Andrade down as the round ends. 10-9 Andrade but this is a great fight.

Round Three and Torres lands a couple of low kicks, but a big flurry from Andrade seems to wobble her and the Brazilian takes her down off that and looks to set up an arm triangle choke. Torres avoids that and reverses to her feet, but she remains on the back foot. Nice right from Torres but Andrade hits another slam takedown. Torres pops back up, but Andrade stays on her and drags her down with a single leg into half-guard. Good punches land from the top for Andrade and she looks to work into side mount. More ground-and-pound follows as Andrade just looks dominant now. Just over a minute to go and Torres tries to escape from the bottom and manages to get to her feet, but Andrade forces her back into the fence and gets another takedown. Torres somehow reverses and takes the back, but Andrade works to shake her off and end up back on top. Round ends with another Andrade takedown after Torres stands. 10-9 Andrade and 29-28 Andrade for me.

Judges have it 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Jessica Andrade. Fantastic fight as Torres never quit for a second, but the difference was that she just didn’t have enough power to hurt Andrade with her strikes and eventually, her footwork just wasn’t enough to keep Andrade at distance and prevent those slams, hooks and ground-and-pound. Basically the whole fight made the performance of Joanna Jedrzejczyk against Andrade last year even more remarkable. Clearly Andrade deserves the next title shot and I’d guess she’d rather face Rose, but yeah, it should be a hell of a fight whoever she ends up facing. And Torres will bounce back too and I wouldn’t be shocked to see her get a title shot some time down the line. This was awesome.

Featherweight Fight: Jeremy Stephens vs Josh Emmett

Despite both men coming off big wins – Stephens over Doo Ho Choi just a month earlier, and Emmett over Ricardo Lamas in December – this just didn’t feel like a big Fox main event. Not that it was a bad fight – I was expecting an exciting stand-up war to be honest – but yeah, it still felt like a step down given what we’d had on Fox in the past. My pick was Emmett mainly because I wanted to see a new contender at 145lbs.

Round One begins and Stephens takes the center of the cage as Emmett circles on the outside. Both men come up short on early strikes before Stephens lands decently with a counter combination. Low blow lands for Emmett and ref Dan Miragliotta calls time. They restart and continue to exchange, with both glancing on blows but not really hurting the other man. Slip from Stephens sees him go down for a second but he pops up to land a combo. Emmett is really winding up with some of his shots. Big combination lands for Stephens but Emmett takes it well. Big right from Stephens but Emmett counters with a HEAVY right hand and Stephens goes down! Stephens manages to tie Emmett up, but he still eats a few hard elbows before reversing back up. He looks okay and pushes forward, but Emmett glances with a flying kick and then showboats a little to end the round. 10-9 Emmett largely for the knockdown.

Round Two and Stephens again presses forward with Emmett circling on the outside. Lot of feints being thrown by both men here. Wild swings miss for Stephens. Nice combo from Emmett and he dodges a spinning backfist. Big right misses for Emmett. Wild exchange follows and Stephens DECKS EMMETT WITH A LEFT! He pounces looking to finish – and delivers two blatantly illegal elbows to the back of the head, as well as an illegal knee to the head – but Miragliotta ignores both and allows Stephens to SMASH THE FUCK OUT OF HIM to knock him stone dead.

Holy shit that was a violent finish. Probably shouldn’t have been legal but I mean, you can’t blame Stephens for acting on instinct. Quite what Miragliotta was doing to allow that final barrage though I’m not sure. Whether it made a difference, well, I don’t think it did because Emmett was likely doomed from the knockdown anyway, but it muddied the waters when it really didn’t need to. At any rate this was a hell of a fight and another great finish for Stephens. Don’t see it as enough to get him a title shot, but it should definitely move him into contention of sorts. Controversy aside this was a fun main event.

-Show ends with everyone debating the Stephens knee, naturally.

Final Thoughts….

In terms of an action card this delivered hugely – Torres/Andrade was a tremendous fight, Latifi pulled out a sick finish as did Stephens, and Perry/Griffin was a fun opener too. Not the best ever Fox show due to the lack of name value but it’s definitely a thumbs up from me.

Best Fight: Andrade vs. Torres
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com