UFC Vegas 24: Stephens vs Klose
By; Clint MacLean
The co-main event of UFC Vegas 24 is one I never expected. UFC mainstay and fan favorite Jeremy Stephens is moving from 145 back up to 155 and taking on Drakkar Klose, who was on a roll before his devastating KO loss to Beniel Dariush. One of these men is about to become a gatekeeper.
Jeremy Stephens (-125)
34 years old
28 – 18
75% finish rate
19 wins by KO/TKO
Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens has fallen on hard times. Once heralded as the hardest hitter at 145, now the only thing that remains is Mcgregor’s “Who the fook is that guy?” meme. Stephens is on a 0-4-1 run, and it has become more than obvious that Stephens will never touch UFC gold. For years the fighters Stephens had to watch out for were the ones who could out-class him and out-savvy him. Stephens needs to force a brawl and rely on his power to win him the fight, but now his chin may be failing him, and that is the worst-case scenario. At 155, Stephens might have more power and durability, but the opponents hit hard. The risk-reward trade-off is one that concerns me.
Drakkar Klose (+100)
29 years old
11 – 2
36% finish rate
4 wins by KO/TKO
Drakkar Klose has been a decision machine in the UFC, and the one time he decided to get into a firefight, it did not end well for him. Klose is looking to right the ship of a bad KO loss and has switched gyms. Generally, when a fighter hits rough times, I think switching gyms up can be a benefit, but Klose refuses to leave Arizona and has either left or been asked to leave every major gym in the area and is now training out of a small unknown gym without elite training partners. Klose is not an elite-level fighter, and I am very concerned with where he is mentally right now.
(Check out James Lynch’s interview with Klose for more insight!)
This fight is an exciting matchup between the old guard and the new guard. More so than normal, this is a spot where you might expect a changing of the guard here. The older, more experienced fighter might be technically better, but he is busted and may not be able to go 15 minutes. The younger and fresher fighter you would expect to have a huge advantage and be more new-age. The only problem is I just don’t know that Klose is that good.
This is a fight where the UFC has granted a savvy veteran a rare step down in competition, and generally speaking, we see the veteran fighters excel in these spots. They finally get a break from elite competition, and they show the world what they can do. The X-factor here, though, is Stephens switching weight classes after a knockout loss. I don’t know that Klose wants to brawl after the last performance that ended in him being knocked dead, and I don’t know if he wins that brawl with Stephens. Stephens is a fighter who is looking to get back in the win column, and he really doesn’t know how to fight if he isn’t in a brawl. I think that Jeremy will look to push the pace here, and Klose is going to get back to his “just win” strategy and rely on his size and ability to control his opponent against the cage.
This fight might be long and frustrating, and Stephen’s return to 155 may not be the party we are all looking for, but I do think we have a decent spot with the over. If Klose can take the early heat from Stephens, I believe he can control the pace here. If Klose is in the driver’s seat, the Stephens won’t have the space to get off the way he wants to, and fighting a bigger, more durable fighter, that power may not go as far. I think this fight might be headed for the judges’ cards, and if you must bet it, I would look to the over.