Jeremy Stephens used leg kicks consistently to batter Gilbert Melendez, knocking him off his feet multiple times en route to victory at UFC 215.
The featherweight bout between Gilbert Melendez and Jeremy Stephens was originally set to occur at UFC Kansas City, but Melendez was forced to pull out with an injury. Stephens stayed on the card, however, and took a loss against Renato Moicano, his second straight.
Jeremy Stephens has been a UFC staple for many years (since 2007) but does not have the prettiest record, going 12-13 in the Octagon. “Lil’ Heathen” moved down to featherweight back in 2013 and has gone 5-5 since then with notable victories over Dennis Bermudez and Renan Barao.
Gilbert Melendez had a storied career outside of the UFC, establishing himself as a top lightweight with both WEC and Strikeforce title reigns. Melendez is 1-4 in the Octagon, but has fought top 10 opponents in each of those losses.
Jeremy Stephens opened the fight up with a hard leg kick and landed a pair of hooks around the guard of Melendez following a few inconsequential exchanges. Early on, Stephens had a much higher activity level, flaring jabs and landing leg kicks.
Gilbert Melendez showed up with a hard right hand, but Stephens landed a huge leg kick that wobbled Melendez. “El’ Nino” stumbled backwards and fell to his back. Stephens allowed him to stand up and landed a heavy combination.
Melendez continued to push forward until Stephens nailed him with another leg kick, sending Melendez to the canvas. Stephens stood over him, landing a few leg kicks, then joining him on the mat to land ground-and-pound until the round came to a close.
The doctor gave Melendez the OK to start the second round. Melendez’s corner advised him to switch stances and that allowed Melendez to hang with Stephens until another low leg kick landed. Melendez crumbled again, but Stephens forced him to stand. Stephens varied up his strikes and landed a hard head kick.
Stephens pushed forward, threw a pair of punches up high, then went low with the kick and knocked down Melendez. Stephens followed him down and landed heavy ground-and-pound to end the round.
Gilbert Melendez stayed strong and took the best Stephens had to offer in the final round. Melendez fell to the canvas over three times due to the leg kicks and ate a few heavy flurries, but was never in a position to be stopped. As tough as Melendez was, it was a brilliant performance by Jeremy Stephens, his best in years.