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Rivalries: Josh Emmett

Injury interruptions and ill-timed defeats have kept Josh Emmett away from title contention in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division. Even so, the 37-year-old appears to have at least one more surge left in him.

Emmett will attempt to buoy his stock at 145 pounds when he toes the line against Calvin Kattar in the UFC on ESPN 37 headliner this Saturday at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas. The Team Alpha Male rep enters the Octagon on the strength of a four-fight winning streak. He last appeared at UFC 269, where he was awarded a unanimous decision over Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Dan Ige in their three-round pairing on Dec. 11.

As Emmett makes final preparations for his high-stakes showdown with Kattar, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Emmett kept his perfect professional record intact and made a successful promotional debut when he escaped with a split decision over the Guamanian grappler in their UFC Fight Night 87 lightweight prelim on May 8, 2016 at the Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Ben Cartlidge and Maciej Motylewski for Emmett, Andreas Gruner for Tuck. A short-notice replacement for the injured Nick Hein, Emmett perplexed his counterpart with his aggression and movement for the better part of two rounds. The overhand right was his weapon of choice, as he paired it with the occasional leg kick. In the third round, Tuck uncorked a wheel kick that caught the former West Coast Fighting Championship titleholder on his left hand. The impact resulted in a compound fracture to Emmett’s ring finger and forced him to retreat until the final bell. Tuck pursued him with head kicks and knees but could not author the finish he needed.

The former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder touched down in the Ultimate Fighting Championship when he eked out a split decision over Emmett as part of the UFC 210 undercard on April 8, 2017 at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. Judge Dave Tirelli scored it 29-28 for Emmett, while Douglas Crosby and Sal D’Amato saw it 29-28 and 30-27 for Green. Emmett was effective in spurts, particularly with lunging right hands and leg kicks. Green countered with straight and sharp punching combinations, sprawled out of takedowns and mixed in a clean right jab when the situation called for it. The Henri Hooft protégé did his best work in the second round and then secured a takedown on the overaggressive Emmett in the third, short-circuiting his momentum. It remains one of only two career losses on the Phoenix native’s resume.

Emmett knocked out the perennial Top 10 contender in the first round of their UFC on Fox 26 co-main event on Dec. 16, 2017 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A replacement for the repurposed Jose Aldo, the Team Alpha Male standout brought it to a close 4:33 into Round 1 and announced his arrival as a major player at 145 pounds. Faced with a size and strength disadvantage, Lamas employed low and high kicks with both legs in a bid to keep the powerful Californian at bay. The upset-minded Emmett had other ideas. He countered a leg kick from Lamas with an errant overhand right and then sent a picture-perfect left hook sweeping behind it. The Chicago native was out cold upon impact, his head bouncing violently off the canvas to add insult to injury.

The Alliance MMA export resurfaced in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division when he knocked out Emmett with punches and elbows in second round of their UFC on Fox 28 headliner on Feb. 24, 2018 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The end came 95 seconds into Round 2. Stephens, however, was the first man to hit the deck. Emmett countered an ill-advised uppercut from “Lil’ Heathen” with a right hook in the first round. It resulted in a knockdown, but Stephens quickly cleared the cobwebs, escaped to his feet and drew the Team Alpha Male rep deeper into the fight. Early in Round 2, he sat down Emmett with a left hook, followed with a series of elbows and unsheathed a knee strike that appeared to glance off the grounded Californian’s head. Referee Dan Miragliotta did not flag Stephens for the apparent foul, and the barrage continued. Emmett fell to his back, where a crushing elbow turned out the lights and saddled him with the first stoppage loss of his career.

Emmett continued to gain momentum at 145 pounds and did so in scintillating fashion when he took a unanimous decision from the hyperaggressive Team Tiger Schulmann product in the UFC on ESPN 11 co-feature on June 20, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27, the 15-minute encounter providing non-stop action from start to finish. Emmett suffered a knee injury—he was later diagnosed with a torn ACL—in the first round but put the pain aside and relied on sweeping hooks from both hands to keep the New York native at bay. He left his mark on the match in the third round, where he twice floored Burgos with left hands, the second knockdown nearly leading to a finish. The two featherweights combined to land 255 significant strikes against one another.

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