UFC Orlando Betting Preview: Finding Value in Emmett vs. Stephens
Kyle Terada / Perry Nelson – USA TODAY Sports
Power punchers go head to head in Orlando as two of the UFC’s hardest-hitting featherweights meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday.
Josh Emmett faces Jeremy Stephens in a bout that will propel the winner one step closer to a shot at the 145-pound title, but who has the edge in their pivotal clash?
We take a look at the key stats, trends and intangibles to preview the card’s main event.
Both men are on two-fight winning streaks in the featherweight division, but Emmett has the longer win streak overall.
The Team Alpha Male product has only recently switched weight classes, moving down from 155lbs to 145lbs last year following a split-decision loss to Desmond Green at UFC 210. Since dropping to featherweight, Emmett has gone 2-0, beating Brazilian Felipe Arantes by unanimous decision, then announcing himself as a legitimate threat to the division’s best with a stunning one-punch knockout of former title challenger Ricardo Lamas at UFC on Fox in Winnipeg last December.
UFC veteran Stephens is enjoying a career resurgence, having rebounded brilliantly from back-to-back decision losses to Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano with a pair of hugely impressive victories.
Stephens outpointed former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215 last September, then followed up with a devastating knockout victory over South Korean hot prospect Doo Ho Choi at UFC Fight Night in St. Louis last month. Now he’s back, making a quick turnaround as he appears in his second UFC Fight Night main event in successive months.
|Emmett vs Stephens||Win||Inside The Distance||Decision|
|Odds from 5Dimes via BestFightOdds.com on Feb. 22|
Stephens opened at -127 and has gradually shortened since to the point that his mean odds now stand at -165. When one man shortens, the reverse tends to happen to his opponent, and sure enough, Emmett’s mean odds have drifted from his initial -110 to +136.
The moves suggest the money is falling on the side of the more experienced, established fighter (Stephens), whose credentials are proven at a higher level of the sport.
Both men possess punching power — Stephens has recorded 10 knockdowns in his UFC career, tops among the promotion’s featherweights, and Emmett has registered five knockdowns (albeit in only five fights with the organization).
But Stephens’ fight-stopping ability is more proven at this level. He’s notched seven KO/TKO finish victories in 14 career UFC bouts (plus another 10 KO/TKO stoppage wins with other promotions). Meanwhile, Emmett has just one UFC KO/TKO finish in five UFC fights, and just four over the course of his entire 13-fight career. (And it must be noted that Emmett failed to make weight for the contest in which he earned his sole UFC KO/TKO; he came in 2.5 pounds over the 146lb non-title featherweight limit.)
Statistically, Emmett gets hit more frequently than Stephens, too. Emmett’s UFC stats show he’s absorbed an average of 3.64 significant strikes per minute during his UFC career, compared to 2.71 for Stephens. It’s also worth noting that Emmett’s numbers are for fights against lower-level opposition than Stephens has been facing for the past two or three years.
Beyond the Numbers
Both men like to force the pressure, so it’ll be very interesting to see who takes the center of the Octagon when they start throwing leather.
Stephens is the more overtly aggressive fighter, while Emmett likes to ease his way into range, then tee off once he’s found his timing. It’s hard to imagine Emmett will get too many free shots, with Stephens likely to either beat him to the punch or return fire instantly after receiving one.
The experience factor could also prove a difference-maker. While Emmett has an impressive record and is on the rise, Stephens has kept a higher class of company in his career.
Stephens boasts a knockout win over former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and decision victories over former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao and former Strikeforce lightweight title holder Gilbert Melendez.
He’s also gone the distance with current featherweight champ Max Holloway and former lightweight champions Frankie Edgar and Anthony Pettis.
That experience against so many championship-caliber opponents may well give Stephens the edge on fight night.
Main Event Pick
Emmett hits hard and is a solid prospect at 145lbs, but I can’t bet against Stephens here.
He’s fought a who’s who of top-level names and hasn’t been stopped by a single one. He’s also shown a more shrewd fight IQ in his recent career, using smart game-planning to position himself for heavy-handed assaults on his opponents. His win over Doo Ho Choi is the perfect example of this.
Watching tape of both men in action, I don’t think Emmett will outwork Stephens, and I don’t think he’ll outstrike him, either. Sure, Emmett has an excellent overhand right, but Stephens is a vicious striker with a wide arsenal of strikes with hands, feet, elbows and knees. In contrast, Emmett has a more basic striking skill set.
Stephens has the advantage in experience, quality wins and proven knockout power, while Emmett has shown to be easier to hit, and against lesser opposition, too. Stack it all up and the pick is clear.
PICK: Stephens to win @ -150 (BetDSI)
Main Card (Live on Fox)
|Josh Emmett||Jeremy Stephens||Featherweight bout|
|Jessica Andrade||Tecia Torres||Women’s Strawweight bout|
|Ovince Saint-Preux||Ilir Latifi||Light-Heavyweight bout|
|Mike Perry||Max Griffin||Welterweight bout|
Preliminary Card (Live on Fox)
|Renan Barao||Brian Kelleher||Bantamweight bout|
|Sara McMann||Marion Reneau||Women’s Bantamweight bout|
|Angela Hill||Maryna Moroz||Women’s Strawweight bout|
|Ben Saunders||Alan Jouban||Welterweight bout|
Preliminary Card (Live on UFC Fight Pass)
|Sam Alvey||Marcin Prachnio||Light-Heavyweight bout|
|Rani Yahya||Russell Doane||Bantamweight bout|
|Eric Shelton||Alex Perez||Flyweight bout|
|Albert Morales||Manny Bermudez||Bantamweight bout|
If you’re looking for a live dog this weekend, a look at the bantamweight bout between Renan Barao and Brian Kelleher might offer your best chance of an odds-against win.
Kelleher has upset top-level Brazilian opposition in the past (he notched a rapid submission of Iuri Alcantara in Rio in his UFC debut last June), and he registered an impressive late-fight victory with a third-round TKO stoppage of the all-action Pole Damian Stasiak at UFC Fight Night 118 in Gdansk last October.
He faces former bantamweight world champion Renan Barao, who has looked a shadow of the man who once dominated the 135lb division, yet is still the favorite for this encounter. But don’t be surprised if the underdog shows his bite and scores the upset victory in this one at odds of +133 (Pinnacle).
“Platinum” Mike Perry will be fired up to deliver a knockout finish fighting in his home state. He takes on the similarly aggressive Max Griffin, who I fear may be overmatched here. Take Perry to get the KO finish he craves.
Jessica Andrade is a big favorite against Tecia Torres in the night’s co-main event, but at +269 (SportBet), Torres may be worth a small bet. She’s as solid as they come, has supreme conditioning and has sound fundamentals. If she weathers the early storm, she might have the skill set to wear down the Brazilian in the second and third rounds.
Main Image: Josh Emmett (L), Jeremy Stephens (R)
Credit: Kyle Terada / Perry Nelson – USA TODAY Sports]