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No. 8 ranked featherweight Jeremy Stephens kicked off the UFC 215 main card with a dominating performance against former lightweight title challenger Gilbert Melendez.

Stephens’ leg kicks were the story of the fight. He landed them hard and often. Midway through the opening round Melendez’ lead leg was badly swollen on the shin. Stephens continued to attack the legs of Melendez causing Melendez to fall to his back twice. Prior to the start of the second frame, the referee called in a doctor to check the leg. Melendez said he could continue and was allowed to.

In the second round, Melendez switched his stance to avoid taking more damage to his left leg. He pressured Stephens, but the leg kicks kept coming. Melendez would fall to the canvas twice in the second round due to leg kicks.

In the final round, Melendez had no movement left and Stephens picked up the pace. He delivered hard hooks to the body and continued to attack Melendez’ legs. Three times in the frame Melendez fell to his back after absorbing leg kicks.

Stephens dominated Melendez in Melendez’ promotional debut at 145-pounds. One of the judges scored the fight 30-25.

“No offense but Gilbert Melendez has been around a long time and I just don’t think he’s evolved. He’s got a real wide boxing stance. (Edson) Barboza, one of the nastiest leg kickers in the game at 155 put an end to him,” said Stephens following the fight. “I’ve got great leg kicks. People worry about my hands so much they forget about my leg kicks.”

The leg kicks were part of Stephens’ game plan. Leg kicks can open a fighter up to being taken down, but Stephens was worried about being put on his back.

“We weren’t worried about the takedowns. You take me down 15 times, I get up 16 and I keep (expletive) coming. That’s what we do baby,” he said.

Stephens snapped a two-fight losing streak with the win. The loss was the fourth consecutive defeat for Melendez.

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