by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Taking a page from UFC welterweight Josh Koscheck’s playbook, Jeremy Stephens will take the chance of fighting on short notice against Joe Lauzon while still planning for a fight just two months later in April against Efrain Escudero. Why? Because it’s what fighters do.
Stephens is no stranger to tough competition and stepping up to face Lauzon was actually a pleasure for the veteran fighter. The Iowa native was actually working with Lauzon’s original opponent, Hermes Franca, to help him prepare for the Feb. 7 bout at UFC Fight Night 17 in Tampa, Fla.
“I took this fight, Hermes is like my brother and Joe Lauzon was talking a lot of trash, talking down on Hermes. Hermes is not the type of dude to talk trash and I’m the same way,” Stephens told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I just want to go in there and kick ass.
“I didn’t want nobody else stepping in. I felt like I should definitely step in and take this fight.”
Working with Franca and also fellow Fight Night participant Josh Neer gave Stephens plenty of training to get ready for this fight. He believes he has the answer to the problems Joe Lauzon presents.
“Hermes is a lot like me, has very heavy hands, and he’s got good jiu-jitsu. I’ve been working my jiu-jitsu, and as you know I’ve got heavy hands and looking at Joe Lauzon’s record, he’s been TKO’d,” said Stephens. “I’m not talking trash, but when you get TKO’d you kind of fold a little bit and I’m going to make sure he feels what Hermes likes to say, ‘he’s going to feel the Brazilian pressure,’ and I’m going to bring that kind of pressure to the table and try to get him to fold.”
Stephens has no easy test ahead of him in Lauzon, who currently sports a 4-1 record in the UFC with his only loss coming to top lightweight contender Kenny Florian in April 2007. While confident in his own gameplan, Stephens already knows what Lauzon is thinking heading into the bout.
“All my fights have been the same way. Guys don’t want to stand; they only want to take me down. It’s not like I’m facing anything new,” Stephens said of his opponent. “He’s a great grappler. He’ll want to box a little bit, but like they all do, they try to take me down. I’ve faced like 19 or 20 opponents now, they’ve all tried to take me down, so nothing’s new to the situation.”
Because of the nature of his opponents’ tendencies to go for the ground against him, Stephens says he’s concentrated a lot of time working with world class grapplers like Franca, Dean Lister, and Diego Sanchez to get him accustomed to the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling.
“I think jiu-jitsu’s the way of the world. For me to be a champion, I’m going to have to beat guys like Sean Sherk, who can get you to the ground and hold you there, and work his game, Tyson Griffin, all those good guys,” commented Stephens. “I’m always trying to improve my jiu-jitsu any way I can. I’ve been working with a lot of great black belts and I’m just trying to soak up the jiu-jitsu knowledge.”
If Stephens understands his opponent’s potential gameplan then what about his own? Well, he has no secret is sharing that either.
“I’m just going to go in there for the whole 15 minutes, I’m going to try to hurt you,” said Stephens. “I’m going to stuff his game, and fold him over.”