Jeremy Stephens

Jeremy Stephens reportedly to sign with PFL after 14-year run with UFC

One of the most vicious knockout artists this sport has ever seen, Jeremy ‘Lil Heathen’ Stephens has been released from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he will likely be picked up by Professional Fighters League (PFL) in his free agency.

This has been confirmed via Ariel Helwani.

PFL has been signing some really interesting, big names lately, and it couldn’t be more exciting to see.

Stephens’ release would be the result of a six-fight winless streak, including five defeats, three of which he was finished in.

That doesn’t take away from the brute power Stephens possesses, or skill for that matter, and in an organization like PFL, we can only assume, and hope, this tenure works out better for him than the latter part of his time with UFC.

‘Lil Heathen’ made his UFC debut with a 12-1 record on his 21st birthday believe it or not, back in 2007, and took a defeat to MMA legend Din Thomas, who submitted him in the second round. He was then cut, before coming back one fight later, following a first-round knockout victory.

Since then, Stephens had a pretty back-and-forth career, picking up stunning wins, some of which over some of the best in the world, whilst losing a good deal of them as well.

When you fight guys like Din Thomas in your debut, Rafael dos Anjos, Joe Lauzon, a prime Melvin Guillard, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, and many, many more, that’s how it goes sometimes.

That’s five world champions right there out of just ten opponents mentioned, and there are a number of others.

Stephens does hold victories over dos Anjos, who he KO’d viciously, he beat former bantamweight king Renan Barao (UD), and his latest win streak, stretching just half a year’s time, showed him victorious over former multi-time Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, Doo-Ho Choi (TKO), and Josh Emmett (KO).

He came into the Melendez fight with a record of 25-14. Whilst never having the prettiest record, since his departure from the lightweight division at the end of 2012 at least, you can’t deny he’s an incredibly talented fighter.

Once moving down to featherweight, he also secured three-straight victories. There was a point in time we though he’d be fighting for the world title in a short period of time, but he ran into former featherweight king Jose Aldo.

Most picked Stephens to handle Aldo, but that’s not at all what happened.

Defeats to Zabit Magomedsharipov (UD), Yair Rodriguez (UD), Calvin Kattar (TKO), and Mateusz Gamrot (Kimura) would follow his victory over top contender Josh Emmett however, and his title implications never came about.

Stephens does however have a chance to right that wrong in the PFL; he lost a split decision to Anthony Pettis back in 2011, a bout he could’ve easily gotten the nod in. It was such a close fight.

Pettis being the former WEC champion at the time, as well as being the bigger name, the judges awarded it to him.

On the contrary, Pettis went 0-2 in PFL last year, with many believing he should’ve went 2-0, or at least 1-1 due to unfortunate judging. Nonetheless, Stephens could have a very bright future here in this quickly rising promotion.

At this point in time, Stephens is tied with perhaps the greatest of all-time, Anderson Silva, for most knockdowns in UFC history at 18. He’s also the only man to finish a fight via knockout with a punch (many), elbow (Josh Emmett), knee (Dennis Bermudez), and head kick (Rony Jason).

Here is a list of PFL lightweights he could potentially face:

  • Stevie Ray (23-9) – UFC vet
  • Don Madge (10-3-1) – UFC vet
  • Darrell Horcher (14-5) – UFC vet
  • Raush Manfio (15-3) – PFL 2021 lightweight champion
  • Natan Schulte (21-3-1) – two-time PFL lightweight champion
  • Loik Radzhabov (15-4-1) – PFL lightweight title challenger
  • Marcin Held (27-8) – UFC vet, Bellator title challenger
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier (13-5) – UFC vet, 2-0 in PFL
  • Clay Collard (20-9) – UFC vet, defeated Anthony Pettis in 2021

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