Let’s be honest here, Joe Stevenson is an exciting fighter who rarely has a boring fight. He’s pocketed award money for Fight of the Night on three times since becoming The Ultimate Fighter season 2 champion. He fought for the UFC Championship two years ago and now has to wonder, what’s really at stake Thursday night in Kentucky at UFC on Versus 3.
Joe Stevenson began fighting professionally at the early age of seventeen, and despite his vast experience and record of 31-12, he’s only 28 years old. He has a surplus of time remaining in his career, but his UFC career could now have a shelf life of one week. Coming into this fight with Danny Castillo at UFC on Versus 3, live from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY, he is likely in a win or go home predicament. It’s a possibility that many wouldn’t have dreamed possible coming off of his loss to BJ Penn in 2008, but having dropped two in a row and four of his previous six, you don’t need a magic 8-Ball to know what happens if he loses Thursday night.
When Joe lost in his effort to become UFC Lightweight Champion, he immediately got back into the win column by beating the massive 155′er, Gleison Tibau at UFC 86. After that he dropped his next two contests to Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez, but despite the second consecutive loss, he was cheered passionately as he and Diego had put on the Fight of the Night. Joe however knew losing three in a row would be a big problem and in his next contest, he defeated Nate Diaz, again taking home Fight of the Night honors. After that fight, he put together another great win, stopping Spencer Fisher.
Joe was back on track!
Things were back where they belonged, he’d won two in a row and most people had forgotten the fact that he’d lost the previous two. However, the UFC is the home of the best talent in the world, and it is damn tough to keep winning streaks going. In his next fight, he lost via decision to George Sotiropoulos, but again, for the third time in four fights, he took home Fight of the Night. Then came a fight with Mac Danzig, and Joe Stevenson was stopped by brutal KO, something that hadn’t happened since his third MMA fight way back in 1999. That night, Jens Pulver pulled the trigger.
Stevenson, who has been on the main-card for every one of his previous UFC fights, and has been in the Main Event three times, finds himself on the undercard for the first time. How will that affect the Joe? Does it alleviate some pressure? Does it add some? These questions will be answered Thursday night when Stevenson steps into the Octagon for the fifteenth time.
He now finds himself at a crossroads; win and he will be able to chase his dreams in the biggest organization in the world. Lose, and he could well be on the outside, looking in. Across the cage from him will be a hungry young lion by the name of Danny Castillo. He too has split his last four fights; he too longs to keep his career going inside the fabled Octagon; only he makes his UFC debut Thursday night. What better way to announce his entrance than to cause Joe’s exodus?
Danny Castillo has been a Zuffa employee, fighting for WEC for the past two plus years and will get a mammoth opportunity to fight against a veteran the caliber of Joe Stevenson. Joe has a massive experience edge and comes into the fight three years the younger of Castillo. Castillo signed a four fight deal with the UFC but he knows just like everyone else does, that he can be gone after any fight. There is never a lack of motivation in the UFC. For Joe Stevenson, the motivation is clear. He needs to win to keep his job.
Note: The UFC announced today that this bout along with one other will be shown live on Facebook.