Jeremy Stephens earned the biggest win of his 12-and-a-half-year MMA career Sunday, beating former bantamweight champion Renan Barao by decision in the FS1 co-main event. Stephens also got back in the win column after losing three out of his previous four bouts.
Still, he proved too powerful and durable for Barao, who moved up in class to make his featherweight debut. In the first round, Barao looked quick, using effective head-movement, kicks and takedown attempts.
In the second round, however, Stephens' big punches hurt Barao, badly. Stephens stunned Barao with a jab, and then wobbled him with uppercuts and hooks to the head.
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Barao survived and eventually recovered enough to score a takedown near the end of the period. In the third round, a bloodied Barao stormed back with body punches, a takedown and left hooks to the head.
Stephens fought with him, strike for strike, however, and once more hurt the Brazilian, this time with a straight right. In the end, the judges saw it Stephens' way.
Scores were 29-28 in Stephens' favor, from all three judges. "I feel amazing," he said, afterwards.
The loss dropped Barao's excellent record to 35-4-1 overall, and improved Stephens' to 25-12. The American wasn't surprised that Barao was able to stand up to his power punches, but said that Barao should've known better than to take him on at featherweight.
"I'm not surprised at all," he continued.
"Barao is a true champion ... he will be back. I just don't think he should be here at 145 pounds, messing with me."