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Stevenson Doesn’t Care For Underdog Label

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Before a big fight, lightweight Joe Stevenson is
normally in a relaxed, joking mood. A fighter by trade and comedian by
nature, the 26 year old rarely tense and relies on his calm, fun-loving
demeanor to carry him through a tough training camp.However,
heading into a pivotal bout against Kenny Florian at UFC 91,
Stevenson’s pre-fight approach has been drastically altered. As he
prepares to fight Florian in a bout that may very well determine the
number one contender to the lightweight title, the nine-year pro is
angered by negative comments he has read on the internet, and
regardless of where the comments are rooted, Stevenson said the fight
on November 15 is now personal.“I haven’t felt this upset since
I fought Melvin Guillard,” Stevenson said, referring to comments made
by Guillard prior to their bout last year. “I made excuses for Melvin
because he was young and ran his mouth about me and had a lot of strife
in his life. I understand why he did that. But this is different. This
is personal.“I am a little pissed off,” Stevenson continued.
“I’ve been reading some of the internet stuff and people think I’m the
underdog. People are making it sound like he’s going to run through me.
I have no idea why they think I’m the underdog. Maybe it’s a popularity
contest. Maybe Kenny’s face looks better on television. Not taking
anything away from him, but people have taken something from me by
making me the underdog. So I’m going to take it away from him. It’s
personal now.”On top of being declared the underdog by some,
Stevenson (34-8) had issues with Florian’s recent proclamations that he
“finishes fights.” The father of four believes that Florian has no
chance of stopping him and feels his opponent’s declarations are
growing old. Simply put, Stevenson thinks that Florian is talking a
game that he can’t back up.“He talks about finishing fights,”
Stevenson, who has stopped four out of his last six opponents, said.
“That upsets me. If you look at my record, I finish fights and I finish
good people. Maybe I should have been more vocal like him. But it gets
on your nerves to hear him say that. He can’t knock me out. He can’t
submit me. I don’t know what he thinks he can do.“Kenny isn’t
saying anything too negative directly about me, so I’m not so upset
with him,” Stevenson added, mentioning that his only issue with Florian
is that he thinks he can win the fight by knockout or submission. “I’m
more upset with the things surrounding it. I’m upset that people are
counting me out. I’m going to have to take Kenny out. He likes to say
that he finishes fights, but who has he finished? I finish fights. Look
at my record, I finish fights.”Anger and frustration aside,
Stevenson plans on leaving emotions behind on fight night and being
completely prepared for the task at hand. He understands that Florian
will have a ton of confidence given that he has stopped four out of his
last five opponents. Moreover, “Joe Daddy” knows that even the smallest
loss of focus or conditioning could spell problems against a versatile
opponent like Florian.“Kenny is a well-rounded fighter with
good attributes everywhere,” Stevenson said. “He always comes prepared
in good cardiovascular shape. He’s got some momentum and that makes him
mentally tough to break. He’s a good grappler and has good standup. He
has awesome heart. That makes him even more dangerous.”After
watching Florian’s last bout against Roger Huerta at UFC 87, Stevenson
knows that the Bostonian will look to display his vastly improved
boxing technique at UFC 91. Having struggled in the stand-up game when
he fought BJ Penn at UFC 80, Stevenson understands that “KenFlo” may
want to capitalize by keeping the fight on the feet. Still, he argues
that it may be a miscalculation on Florian’s part.“My standup
has continued to improve,” Stevenson said. “However, I don’t know if he
(Kenny) had great standup (in his last bout) or if Roger made him look
good because he was frustrated by getting taken down. Roger was really
focused on defending the takedown and his standup suffered.“In
this fight, honestly, I have got to hit him hard everywhere, whether
it’s on the feet or on the ground. I have to be careful of his striking
ability and his grappling. He is talented. But I don’t think he has
fought a guy like me. Except for Sean Sherk, he hasn’t fought a guy who
will put him on the ground and keep him there.”Whether on the
feet or against the cage, the Stevenson-Florian bout will also feature
two fighters who love to throw elbows. For Florian, the preferred elbow
strike is often the “hellbow,” an offensive assault that comes on the
feet when two fighters separate out of a clinch. Stevenson, on the
other hand, likes to mash opponents with elbows in the guard.
Considering both have trademarked devastating elbow strikes, Stevenson
is out to prove that his are more potent.“The difference between his elbow and my elbow is that I’m going through him with mine,”Stevenson
said. “I don’t try to cut people to get wins. I try to break whatever I
hit. I try to finish people with my elbows. My elbows are sore for
weeks after a fight because I throw them that hard. I literally spend
weeks before a fight conditioning my elbows and working on my ground
and pound.“I’m definitely cautious of his elbows, but getting
cut only happens when you sit there and hold him. If I’m on the bottom,
I’m looking to grapple and get up. And if we’re standing, I’m going to
be hitting him. He’s not going to be able to push away and hit me with
an elbow. He’s not going to be able to time those shots.”In the
end, Stevenson reiterates that he is none too thrilled with the idea of
being an underdog. While some fighters relish the thought of being
overlooked or underrated, Stevenson believes his accomplishments inside
the Octagon warrant more respect.Boasting a 8-2 record in the
UFC, he’s clearly not a rookie, nor is he an inexperienced fighter.
Thus, the underdog status does not sit well with Stevenson. On November
15, he plans on showing that he deserves another shot at BJ Penn. And
he plans of displaying all of the reasons why he should have been
considered the favorite against Florian.“I’m training with
better strikers, better grapplers, and cardio machines,” said
Stevenson, who trains at the Cobra Kai facility he owns in Victorville.
“I’m not saying that they are or aren’t more well-rounded than Kenny,
but I’ll definitely be prepared. It has to be an impressive win. I’m
looking to finish him in each round and make a point.”

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5/23/2018 4:55:37 PM UTC