UFC on Fuel TV 3: Cerrone vs Stephens
Donald Cerrone (17-4) vs. Jeremy Stephens (20-7)
In a lightweight scrap with "Fight of the Night" written all over it, the red-hot 2011 Breakthrough Fighter of the Year tries to return to his winning ways against the heavy-hitting 27-fight veteran Stephens.
Cerrone, 29, was riding high after joining the UFC, finishing Paul Kelly, Charles Oliveira and Dennis Siver before dropping a hard-fought decision to Nate Diaz this past December.
During his WEC run, Cerrone dropped two fights to current UFC lightweight kingpin Ben Henderson, while earning wins over Anthony Njokuani, Danny Castillo, Rob McCullough, Jamie Varner and Chris Horodecki.
The Colorado-born Greg Jackson student is a dynamic mixed martial artist who utilizes a strong kickboxing base with a high-level guard and Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. "The Cowboy" is a true finisher at 155 pounds, who, despite losing his last fight, remains an elite contender in the talent-rich 155-pound category.
Stephens, 25, has been a UFC staple since 2007. The Victory MMA and Alliance MMA product dropped a close split decision to former WEC champion Anthony Pettis last October, ending a two-fight winning streak over Marcus Davis and Danny Downes.
Stephens' UFC run has seen him notch wins over Cole Miller, Rafael dos Anjos and Sam Stout, while dropping bouts against Melvin Guillard, Gleison Tibau, Joe Lauzon and Spencer Fisher.
The Iowa native's record simply doesn't do justice as he possesses the tools to upset any lightweight on any given night. If Cerrone makes the fatal mistake of underestimating his opponent, Stephens could capitalize on the opportunity to catapult up the rankings.
But Cerrone is too mentally strong and he's focused on returning to the title mix. Putting Stephens away is easier said than done, but Cerrone should light him up with crisper and more technical strikes over the course of 15 minutes, coasting to an impressive win on judges' scorecards.
Verdict: Cerrone via decision