by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Tuesday announced that Jeremy Stephens would step in to face Joe Lauzon in a lightweight bout at UFC Fight Night 17. The two will meet in the main event on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla.

Stephens steps in on less than two weeks notice. He will fill the slot vacated by Hermes Franca, who had to withdraw from the bout on Monday due to a torn ACL.

Last competing at UFC 91 in November, Stephens makes his first start of the year against Lauzon. He defeated Rafael dos Anjos by knockout in the third round of their meeting in Las Vegas at UFC 91, improving his overall record to 14-3.

Lauzon makes his return to a Fight Night main event, having lost his first headliner bout to Kenny Florian in April of 2008 in Broomfield, Colo. He scored a win over Kyle Bradley at UFC Fight Night 15 last September in Omaha, Neb. The bout against Stephens will also mark his first of the year.

Stephens had already been scheduled for a bout against Ultimate Fighter Season 8 lightweight winner Efrain Escudero at UFC Fight Night 18 on April in Tennessee. Sources informed MMAWeekly.com that the April bout is also expected to take place regardless of the outcome of Stephens’ bout with Lauzon, of course, barring injury.

UFC Fight Night 17 takes place on Feb. 7 at the Sun Dome and will air live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.