will pit two exciting and striking-centric lightweights in the 3Donald Cerrone vs. Jeremy Stephens match up. The main card kicks off on Fuel TV at 8:00 p.m. ET and is captained by a featherweight bout between Chan Sung Jung and Dustin Poirier to determine Jose Aldo's next challenger.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (17-4) was a staple in the WEC and heralded for his sizzling medley of Muay Thai and BJJ. Cerrone's losses are about as respectable as it gets: his last was to now-top contender Nate Diaz by decision, champion Ben Henderson accounts for a pair and the only non-lustrous loss was a split decision to Jamie Varner that many thought "Cowboy" deserved to win.
The Jackson's MMA product has won 4 of 5 in the Octagon and also earned a bonus check in 4 of his 5 UFC fights: "Fight of the Night" against Paul Kelly (submission win) and Diaz, "Knockout of the Night" for his destruction of Charles Oliveira and "Submission of the Night" for his rear-naked choke on Dennis Siver.
More UFC on Fuel TV 3 Dissections
Jeremy Stephens (20-7) is, in my opinion, and oft-overlooked lightweight who's continually put on gritty and ever-improving performances. Though he has 3-times the Octagon experience of Cerrone, Stephens is also the proud owner of 4 fight night bonuses: 3 "Knockout of the Night" awards (Rafael dos Anjos, Justin Buchholz and Marcus Davis) and a "Fight of the Night" honor for his split-decision victory over Sam Stout.
Stephens came into the UFC as a raw talent but has gradually rounded out his game with wrestling and takedown defense while harnessing his striking into a more efficient package. While Cerrone holds the #12 position in the consensus lightweight world rankings, Stephens is inexplicably absent from the top-25 even though his last 2 defeats (Melvin Guillard, Anthony Pettis) were tight split decisions that could've gone either way.
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The betting lines have Cerrone as a hefty favorite at anywhere from -250 to -300. For as under-appreciated as I feel Stephens is, it's hard to dispute this. Cerrone's best attributes are his height (5'11"), length (73") and the dual-pronged devastation of his Muay Thai and BJJ.
Stephens is a bit smaller (5'9" tall, 71" reach) and, while he's made incremental leaps in other departments, his striking is clearly his most dangerous tool. He's an absolutely vicious kickboxer with quick hands and ferocious power. Cerrone, despite being a Muay Thai talent, has but a single stoppage via TKO (with 13 submissions), so Stephens will definitely have the edge in punching heft. They're both game scrappers, but I'd give Stephens the edge in raw toughness.
"Lil' Heathen" has beefed up his wrestling
The checklist for this match up is a landslide for Cerrone, even though I think Stephens will be a handful for him and almost any other 155er on the roster. Cerrone's wrestling has also gotten better and I just see too many options for "Cowboy" and not enough for Stephens.
My Prediction: Donald Cerrone by submission.