UFC Fight Night: Rodriguez vs. Stephens Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Mexico City.
Updated: Sept. 18, 2019 • 11:15 AM ET
Jeremy Stephens is looking to show off his knockout reputation on Saturday.
The UFC will return to Mexico City this Saturday with a main event featuring a featherweight fight between No. 7 Yair Rodriguez and veteran Jeremy Stephens at Mexico City Arena.
Rodriguez hasn’t fought in nearly a year, but is coming off what many consider the best knockout of 2018 against Chan Sung Jung in November. Rodriguez finished Jung via a no-look upwards back elbow with just one second left to go in the fight. The Mexican was likely behind on the scorecards, so the much-needed move earned him a victory; and he proved that he can endure a back-and-forth war.
The Ultimate Fighter Latin America featherweight tournament winner, Rodriguez is 7-1 in the UFC. The 26-year-old is considered by many to be a real title threat in the featherweight division, if he can put all his skills together. His Taekwondo background provides him with a fan-pleasing style, as he has already collected six post-fight bonuses in his young career.
Rodriguez isn’t a stranger to fighting in Mexico City, as he won a split-decision over Charles Rosa in 2015 in just his seventh professional fight. After that fight, he won four straight bouts with victories over Dan Hooker, Andre Fili, Alex Caceres and BJ Penn. His only loss in the UFC came to Frankie Edgar via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at UFC 211 in May 2017. A win over Stephens could land him a fight with someone in the top 5 of the rankings and within one more victory of a title shot.
The No. 8 ranked Stephens (28-16, 21 finishes) will try to rebound from two straight losses to former champion Jose Aldo and rising contender Zabit Magomedsharipov. He was on a three-fight winning streak entering the Aldo fight and was getting as close to a title shot as he has come in his long career.
The 33-year-old Stephens has suffered decision losses to some of the best names in the UFC, but he has also defeated some of the very best, as well. In a UFC career that’s spans back to 2007, Stephens has key victories over Rafael Dos Anjos, Darren Elkins, Dennis Bermudez, Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez, Doo Ho Choi and Josh Emmett.
Stephens has an aggressive style that sometimes results in him taking as much damage as he inflicts, but it has paid off. He has won nine post-fight bonuses, but needs a win to stay relevant in the 145-pound title picture. Defeating a young and promising fighter such as Rodriguez would keep him in the mix.
Saturday’s co-main event will be a strawweight fight between No. 8 Carla Esparza and No. 9 Alexa Grasso.
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Esparza won the inaugural strawweight title against Rose Namajunas in 2014, dominating the fight from start to finish. She lost the belt, however, in her first defense to long-reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Esparza has traded wins and losses ever since, but is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Virna Jandiroba in April.
Grasso (3-2 in UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 238 in June. The Mexico native entered the UFC undefeated, but now sits at 11-2 with losses to Felice Herrig and top contender Tatiana Suarez. The 26-year-old Grasso, who made her professional debut in Mexico in 2012, will undoubtedly have the crowd on her side this weekend, which could provide her with the biggest victory of her career.
The rest of the main card on ESPN+
Flyweight bout - No. 9 Brandon Moreno vs. Ask Askarov
Women’s bantamweight bout - No. 10 Irene Aldana vs. Vanessa Melo
Featherweight bout - Martin Bravo vs. Steven Peterson
Bantamweight bout - Jose Quinonez vs. Carlos Huachin
Featherweight bout - Marco Polo Reyes vs. Kyle Nelson
Women’s strawweight bout - Ariane Carnelossi vs. Angela Hill
Flyweight bout - No. 5 Sergio Pettis vs. No. 13 Alex Perez
Light heavyweight bout - Vinicius Moreira vs. Paul Craig
Women’s bantamweight bout - No. 14 Sijara Eubanks vs. No. 15 Bethe Correia
Lightweight bout - Claudio Puelles vs. Marcos Mariano