Since making the transition from the lightweight division down to the 145-pound weight class, Jeremy Stephens has been flawless. He’s put together a three-fight winning streak and is one win away from a title shot.
After suffering three losses in a row as a lightweight, the change of weight classes has reinvigorated the 28-year-old fighter’s career.
“I feel like I’m really putting things together. Everything is working for me. I’m comfortable wherever the fight unfolds. I mean I can wrestle. I can ground and pound. I can rip your arm off. I can do it all at this point, and I’m just getting better and better each day,” Stephens told The Great MMA Debate Podcast. “To be honest, I feel like I’ve rejuvenated myself.”
Stephens has always felt that he could compete with the top fighters in the world and that it was just a matter of putting it all together on fight night.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to be at this level and be the world champion. I just had to put it together mentally and just get things right upstairs, and then just putting my whole game together,” he said. “Even in that downtime where I had three loses in a row, I was putting together things in the gym. I just wasn’t showing in my fighting.”
With a title fight hanging in the balance, Stephens doesn’t feel any added pressure heading into the UFC Fight Night 44 main event bout against Cub Swanson.
“I’ve fought some of the best guys, and the move down to 145 pounds has really got me rejuvenated. And I’m prepared for everything. I feel like I really have it all together right now. I don’t put any added pressure (on this fight). It’s still the same fight to me,” said Stephens. “Every fight is kind of like the same. To me it’s just a schoolyard fight, whether it be Cub Swanson, Jose Aldo or Chad Mendes. It’s still like a schoolyard fight to me. The only difference is the cameras and the media.”
Swanson is a versatile striker with a sneaky ground game, but Stephens believes that everything Swanson does, he does just a little bit better.
“I think me and Cub Swanson could be a title fight, just the way we perform. We’re two great athletes. We’re two stand-up guys that go for broke, and we have it all together. I just feel that everything he’s good at, I’m better at. I’m really putting my game together. It’s just my time now,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m really pumped up for this fight. I couldn’t ask for a better match-up, a better opponent. I’m ready. I think this is going to be a great fight for the fans.”
Stephens was complimentary of Swanson as an opponent, but feels there are holes in Swanson’s game that he’s going to exploit.
“Cub is a great opponent. He’s a guy I watched back in the WEC days. He’s exciting. He’s unpredictable. He goes for broke. He fights to excite the fans. He does a lot of good things good. He’s got great boxing skills. He’s got great footwork. I believe he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He does a lot of stuff. He’s a great athlete. I still feel there are a lot of holes in his game. There are areas that he slacks at. There are a lot of good things to say about him. I know I can beat this guy,” said Stephens.
“I have a set game plan to beat Cub Swanson. This is going to be a great fight, and I couldn’t ask for a better opponent. It’s going to be an exciting one. I’m pumped. It’s never an easy task, but I’m going to get the job done. I’m going to go in there and earn it,” he added.
Swanson is ranked No. 4 in the UFC’s bantamweight division, while Stephens sits just outside of the top ten in eleventh. Beating the fourth ranked 145-pound fighter in the organization will put Stephens in contender status.
“I’ve been a man on a mission at 145 pounds. There’s still work to be done, and guys to take out. Me fighting Cub Swanson puts me right there, right where I want to be,” he said.