Just a few years ago, Jeremy Stephens (28-19, 1 NC) was looked at as a top contender in the UFC. Stephens began his career with an impressive run in the lightweight division, but was really moving up the latter at 145 pounds.
Lil Heathen had a shot against former UFC champion Jose Aldo back in 2018 that could’ve earned him a title shot. Instead, the Aldo fight was a tipping point in the wrong direction for Stephens.
Starting with the Aldo fight back in 2018, Stephens was 0-4, 1 NC in five fights leading into UFC Vegas 31. Now, Stephens had only lost to guys who were near the top of the division at featherweight.
After that stretch, Stephens decided to return to lightweight. On Saturday night, he took on Mateusz Gamrot (19-1, 1 NC) on the main card. This was supposed to be a good fight for Stephens to get back in the swing of things.
Instead, at UFC Vegas 31 Stephens was steamrolled by Gamrot. Gamrot secured a takedown just seconds into the fight. Just over one minute into the opening frame, Gamrot locked up a kimura and Stephens was forced to tap.
What’s next after UFC Vegas 31?
With the loss at UFC Vegas 31, Stephens is now just 0-5, 1 NC in his last six fights. In reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some internal discussions about letting Stephens go at this point. However, it doesn’t appear that the UFC will cut Stephens just yet.
That said, I think his next fight might be do-or-die. With that in mind, who should the promotion pair him against? Well, I’m still a fan of the UFC rebooking the fight between Stephens and Drakkar Klose (11-2-1).
The two were supposed to fight this summer, but a pre-fight shove from Stephens caused the fight to be scrapped. Stephens has said he didn’t want the fight to be rebooked, but I think it’s a fun storyline for the UFC to run with.
If that’s not the direction they go, perhaps a fight with Clay Guida (36-20). Guida is fighting Mark O. Madsen next month and win or lose, I think Guida would be a good opponent for Stephens.
If you want someone that’s virtually in the same position as Stephens, pair him with Michael Johnson (19-17). The former top contender has lost four in a row and the loser might get cut. There are definitely some entertaining options out there for Jeremy Stephens.
Sound Off: Who should Jeremy Stephens fight next?