UFC Fight Night 124 - Previewing the St Louis Card
Date: Sunday 14th January, 3am (UK)
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Venue: Scottrade Center
Jeremy Stephens vs Doo Ho Choi
A veteran vs prodigy match-up headlines the main card in St. Louis, Missouri and what a clash it is. Jeremy Stephens has been fighting in the UFC for nearly 11 years and welcomes the 26-year-old Doo Ho Choi for his fifth UFC fight.
Although they are at contrasting stages of their career, they are both in the title picture and an impressive win at Fight Night 124 could propel them into the top five rankings. Stephens bounced back with a decision win over Gilbert Melendez after two hard fought losses to Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano whereas ‘The Korean Superboy’ Choi is coming off his first loss in 13 fights which was a decision to Cub Swanson.
Unfamiliar territory for the ‘Superboy’ but what wasn’t unfamiliar was the breath-taking show he put on with Swanson - earning both men the 2016 Fight of the Year award. The ‘Superboy’ has been exciting fans his entire career with a hair-raising style but don’t be fooled by his innocent and youthful appearance as he is an absolute killer with a granite chin. He has exceptional power in his hands and has a technique to match with 11 knockouts to his name.
However, one man more than seasoned in this approach is Stephens with 16 knockouts of his own. He too thrives in a brawl and usually comes out on top as one of the most powerful fighters in the featherweight division.
This fight has fireworks written all over it. Both men prefer to stand and bang, both backing their powerful hands to end the fight quickly. Although Stephens has a lot of miles on the clock, he has only suffered one knockout loss but the Superboy has the tools to seriously test that record.
The Korean is well-rested as he returns after a year out but he cannot afford to have a slow start. His combination of feints and power striking will be key to dismantling Stephens who will have to rely on his experience to battle the onslaught. The significant striking accuracy is the key stat as Choi has absorbed a lot of damage during his UFC fights and with both men possessing genuine knockout power, their accuracy could make all the difference.
Uriah Hall vs Vitor Belfort
Uriah Hall who is as talented as he is inconsistent has been granted his legend to battle against in the form of the Brazilian Vitor Belfort. If these electrifying middleweights turn up to St. Louis on their best form, this fight will be nothing short of spectacular for however long it lasts but they have struggled to form any kind of consistency inside the octagon.
Belfort is a true legend and has been a star of the sport almost since it began, making his debut for the UFC all the way back at UFC 12 in 1997 when he was only 19. He made his name with a plethora of brutal knockouts but since his ban for using performance-enhancing drugs, he has looked visibly different in his appearance as well as his displays inside the octagon, lacking any of the explosiveness and power that earned him wins over some the very best fighters in the world as well as the UFC light heavyweight title.
Hall is another fighter who has captivated the MMA world, using his phenomenal athleticism and skill to put opponents to sleep in a scary fashion. However, looking like a world-beater on his day, he has formed a habit of following up fantastic wins with disappointing losses. He recently suffered two knockout losses to Derek Brunson and Gegard Mousasi but replied brilliantly in his last fight against Krzysztof Jotko with a ‘Performance of the Night’ and a ninth knockout of his career.
So, what can we expect from Hall in this fight? Belfort is not the fighter he used to be but still has the predator mentality of hunting the knockout. So, this could unsettle Hall like Brunson and Mousasi did but it could also play into his hands. Possessing the physical attributes Belfort used to – Hall is an absolute beast and will use his speed advantage as well as his reach advantage to beat Belfort to the punch.
Paige VanZant vs Jessica Rose-Clark
These two women are helping to build the foundations of the new flyweight division but are more interested in fighting for gold which is proudly owned by Nico Montaño after winning The Ultimate Fighter tournament.
Paige VanZant, who has become very familiar with the spotlight after appearances on ‘Dancing with the Stars’, is also familiar with winning at the highest level of MMA. Only 23 years old, she has had six UFC fights already - winning four of them (Kailin Curran, Felice Herrig, Alex Chambers and Bec Rawlings). However, due to TV commitments and a string of injuries and illnesses, her last fight was over a year ago which was a loss to Michelle Waterson.
Hoping to regain some form, she takes on another young prospect in the shape of Jessica Rose-Clark who only made her debut in the UFC two months ago and marked the occasion with a narrow decision win over fellow Aussie, Bec Rawlings.
Rose-Clark knows a name like VanZant on her record is exactly what she needs to start her journey towards the title but VanZant knows a loss to a newcomer will severely derail her MMA journey. There is a lot to play for in what should be an exciting contest between two aggressive and talented strikers but if the fight edges towards another decision, the grappling could be the deciding factor.
Kamaru Usman vs Emil Meek
This fight has finally been scheduled for Fight Night 124 after previous attempts were scuppered due to visa issues for the Norwegian Emil Meeks. Thankfully, they have been resolved but nobody is more thankful than Kamaru Usman who has been loudly voicing his eagerness for a worthy opponent.
The welterweight division has rapidly grown as thick as Usman’s back, stacked full of special fighters gunning for Tyron Woodley’s belt. Usman has cruised his way to 10 straight wins and still isn’t ranked in the top 10, illustrating the talent-rich division.
The 2016 Nordic Fighter of the Year is more than worthy of sharing the cage with Usman and has all the skills to compete with the best. His last two fights include a vicious knockout finish over Rousimar Palhares to claim the Venator welterweight title and a decision win over Jordan Mein for his UFC debut.
However, this win was over a year ago and he will need to shake off any ring rust before taking on his fellow powerhouse. This will be Meek’s toughest test to date as Usman’s confidence is at an all-time high and has been dominating opponents with elite-level wrestling but has also showed off his improved striking - putting Sergio Moraes to sleep in his last outing.
Meek is a natural finisher and will seek the chin of Usman but the crucial factor in gaining the upper hand may well turn out to be Usman’s grappling which he’ll utilize to control the fight at a close distance.