Kicking off the main card at UFC 215 was a clash between Jeremy Stephens and Gilbert Melendez that many fight fans thought would be the sleeper of the event.
Both men are known for their brawling styles and both were desperate to get the win: going into this one, Stephens had lost three of his last four fights while Melendez had lost three in a row so victory here was absolutely crucial to both fighters careers.
In fact, the fight was so important to Stephens that he even postponed his wedding in order to take part. Speaking to reporters beforehand, the Iowa native explained how he got the permission slip signed by his Mrs.
“I got the call and I said, ‘alright, who’s the opponent?’ They said ‘Gilbert Melendez,’ and I said ‘hang on, let me call my fiancée real quick’ and see if she’s willing to do it,” Stephens recalled.
“Of course, she supported me 100 percent. And you know, it may cost a little bit more for the wedding, but this is something I definitely wanted to do.”
Coming into this one, Stephens said that he was a fan Melendez but felt he had the advantage due to being younger and the fact that his opponent was making his featherweight debut.
“He knows what he’s getting. It’s not like you have to look this up through YouTube,” Stephens said. “We’ve both been around a long time, he’s been a fan of me, I’ve been a fan of him, we’re great exciting fighters. I feel like I’ve evolved with the new age, I’ve adapted to these top guys at 145 pounds. He’s in new territory and he’s gotten older.”
With three losses on the bounce, Melendez could have been forgiven for changing up his game plan and just focusing on victory but he explained that the most important thing to him was to fight like a warrior.
“I want a historic fight,” Melendez told MMAjunkie beforehand. “I want to go down in this sport as a warrior, as a legend. I want people to look back at my fights. I was looking down my Facebook feed the other day, and there’s this highlight video of (my fight with) Diego (Sanchez at UFC 166), and it has like 48 million views. It doesn’t matter about records, Diego’s record, there’s 48 million views on that frickin’ video, because we’re warriors and we put it out there. I’m looking to do that.
“In my opinion and to my community and all the people I roll with, I think that’s more respectable than any sort of championship, is going down in history as a warrior. It’s an opportunity for me to have another epic fight with another warrior out there.”
From the opening bell, Stephens opted to attack the front leg of Melendez, with mass swelling opening up within the first two minutes of the fight. Melendez’ legs constantly buckled, dropping him to the floor, so he was forced to up his attack and walk down Stephens.
Moving forward, he was able to land some good strikes, but Stephens was far too creative and powerful, winning the fight comfortably.
See the leg kicks here: