Despite a hard-fought, bloodied effort, Renan Barao couldn't overcome the power punches and persistence of Jeremy Stephens Sunday Night at UFC Fight Night Vegas.
The judges saw a unanimous decision for Stephens with scores of 29-28 across the board.
Stephens controlled the fight with his effective uppercuts and right crosses, connecting with power shots several times throughout the fight. Barao took the shots well, and and was only briefly rocked by an uppercut and flurry of punches in Round 2. Barao also grew tired toward the end of the second round and most of third.
Stephens stuffed most of Barao's takedown attempts as the two locked up against the cage. Barao came out quick, throwing head kicks and landing a good right hand. Barao counter-punched effectively for most of the first round, but Stephens was pressing the action.
Stephens started to connect with right hands toward the end of Round 1 and by Round 2, he was beginning to dominate.
Barao finally got a takedown toward the end of Round 1, but Stephens quickly reversed it and stood up.
By the third round, both fighters were tired and Stephens' harder punches appeared to dictate the pace of the fight. When Barao grew tired of eating Stephens' right hands, he went for the takedown, where Stephens stuffed him and held him against the cage.
Despite the shove at the weigh-in, and some of Stephens' harsh words leading up to the fight, he was respectful of the former champion.
"My hat's off's to him," Stephens said of Barao in the post-fight interview. "He's a great champion. He will be back. I just don't think he should be here at 145 pounds messing with me."
Not too long ago Barao was regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Barao was 32-1 until TJ Dillashaw pulled off an upset knockout of him. Barao lost again to Dillashaw by knockout in a rematch.
(Image via MMAWeekly.com)