LAS VEGAS – Jeremy Stephens made a successful debut at featherweight by dominating Estevan Payan from bell to bell.
Stephens not only earned a unanimous-decision win, but left the octagon canvas covered in blood after cutting Payan early with an elbow.
The featherweight bout opened Saturday’s UFC 160 event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It streamed on Facebook ahead of additional prelims on FX and prior to a pay-per-view main card.
After some heavy initial exchanges got him a stiff left hand to the head, Stephens, who’s spent the bulk of his career at lightweight, took Payan to the mat and opened a cut with an elbow. Payan attempted to retort with a pair of submission attempts as Stephens tried to stuff him to the mat, though he was unable to secure a finish.
Stephens switched back to striking and landed several right hands that stunned Payan late in the round.
Payan’s corner implored him to strike first leading into the second frame, but again, Stephens landed big with a right hand before taking the fight to the mat. The cut that opened in the first frame bled generously for Payan, and Stephens continued to do damage from top position.
In an attempt to free himself, Payan gave his opponent a prime opportunity to choke him out by exposing his back, but there was so much blood that “Lil Heathen” couldn’t secure any type of squeeze.
Stephens maintained control of striking exchanges in the third frame as Payan struggled to mount any sort of offense. Although he wasn’t able to finish, Stephens was in the driver’s seat until the final bell.
The judges’ final scores were 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27 in Stephens’ favor.
“(I’m) very happy with the win because it’s been a long time coming,” Stephens said. “I had to climb the ladder to get to this spot, and I prepared very hard to make the best of it. I knew I was going to be down at 145 pounds eventually, and even though I had a tough cut getting down, I felt great in there.”
Jeremy Stephens (21-9 MMA, 8-8 UFC) likely saved his octagon job after three straight losses at lightweight. His win percentage now stands at .500 inside the octagon. Payan (14-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC), a Strikeforce import, sees a seven-fight streak come to an end.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 160 results include:
- Jeremy Stephens def. Estevan Payan via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
For complete coverage of UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
John Morgan and Matt Erickson contributed to this report on-site in Las Vegas.