Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens put the bad blood behind them after a controversial end in their first fight to put on an instant classic in the UFC on ESPN 6 co-main event.
An accidental eye poke brought their last meeting to an end in just 15 seconds but this time the featherweights gave each other everything they could handle over 15 minutes. Ultimately, it was the strong start for Rodriguez including a devastating knockdown in the second round that helped him secure the unanimous decision victory with all three scorecards reading 29-28 in his favor.
“This is just business,” Rodriguez said to Stephens after the fight as they embraced following a three round war.
Before they were hugging it out, Rodriguez wasted no time getting the action started by launching a flying side kick at Stephens after he rocketed out of the corner. While that didn’t land, Rodriguez was able to settle down into a rhythm where he was unleashing a series of nasty kicks to the body and keeping Stephens on the end of his strikes.
In return, Stephens was looking for the knockout with every punch thrown, which left him open to the diverse offensive flurry coming from Rodriguez.
As Stephens rushed forward trying to catch Rodriguez, he caught a counter jab that dropped him to the mat just briefly. While it appeared the punch clipped Stephens when he was off balance, it was still a strong statement from Rodriguez.
The attacks that went from head to toe throughout the first round paid off huge in the second when Rodriguez blasted Stephens with a kick to the body that he just didn’t see coming. As soon as Stephens crumbled to the ground, Rodriguez unloaded machine-gun like fire with his punches trying to get the finish.
The sound of that strike! How did Stephens survive!?#UFCBoston pic.twitter.com/MRcXWZfWOz— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2019
Miraculously, Stephens found a way to survive and he actually managed a brief comeback before the horn sounded when he trapped Rodriguez against the cage and fired off a few punches and knees before walking back to the corner with a smile on his face.
With one round to go, Stephens knew he needed a finish and he was throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Rodriguez trying to put him away. Stephens eventually opted for a takedown as he looked to punish Rodriguez on the ground but he couldn’t put together the kind of strikes that would lead to a stoppage.
As the fight came to an end, Stephens extended a hand to help Rodriguez back to the feet as the fighters embraced, putting the rivalry to bed.
With the win, Rodriguez continues his climb up the featherweight rankings as he moves to 13-2 in his career while honing his reputation as one of the most exciting fighters on the entire UFC roster. As for Stephens, he has now dropped three straight, although he seems to put on a show every single time he sets foot in the Octagon.