UFC Fight Night 124 tips: Best bets for Choi v Stephens
We make our pick for the featherweight showdown in St Louis, plus the other fights on an exciting card.
Jeremy Stephens v Doo Ho Choi
Sunday night marks Choi’s return to the ring, a year after his decision defeat to Cub Swanson at UFC 206 – the UFC’s 2016 Fight of the Year.
‘The Korean Superboy’ lost that fight but improved his reputation as he showcased his exciting striking and incredible chin, which will come in handy against a banger like Stephens.
The 31-year-old is known for being one of the biggest punchers in the division, although he’s struggled over the past few years with five defeats in his last eight five.
Stephens’ power has clearly waned, but he’s still a tough fighter and has only been stopped once in his professional career.
The American’s durability is clear, with eight of his last nine fights going the distance, and it’s hard to see Choi ending this one early, even though it is scheduled for five rounds.
The 26-year-old Korean is still the fighter to back on Sunday, though, and a decision win is a nice price at .
Uriah Hall v Vitor Belfort
Having knocked out Kryzystof Jotko in his last fight at UFC Fight Night 116 in September, Hall can climb back into the middleweight top 10 with a win on Sunday night.
His opponent, Belfort, is also coming off a win, having earned a decision against Nate Marquardt – who has since retired – back in June.
The 40-year-old’s career is clearly coming to an end, though, as that bout followed three successive TKO defeats, the last of which was overturned only because Kelvin Gastelum tested positive for marijuana.
Belfort has said he will retire after Sunday night if he is not offered a lucrative new contract, and it’s hard to see him going out with a win against the younger, fitter Hall, who remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the division.
The Brazilian has struggled to get inside and do damage to his opponents as he has aged, and his chin has deteriorated after 40 professional fights.
A KO win for Hall is Sunday’s likeliest outcome.
Paige VanZant v Jessica-Rose Clark
Making her flyweight debut after two defeats out of her last three in the strawweight division, VanZant is in desperate need of a win on Sunday night.
She’s in for a tough fight against Rose-Clark, who upset the odds to beat Bec Rawlings in Sydney in November.
The Australian is a technical boxer and should have a size advantage, having competed at bantamweight for much of her career.
VanZant’s busier style could prove crucial, though, in what looks to be a really close fight.
Neither of these opponents are KO or submission specialists, and, with the fight likely to go the distance, VanZant is the one who will be pushing the pace.
That should get her the nod from the judges for a decision victory.
Kamaru Usman v Emil Meek
Unbeaten in his last 10 fights, the 10th-ranked welterweight Usman can set up some big bouts in 2018 by winning – and impressing – against Meek.
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has all the tools to be one of the best fighters in this decision, and, in truth, his biggest danger on Sunday night is taking victory for granted with an eye on big-name opponents like Colby Covington and Rafael dos Anjos.
An excellent wrestler and athlete, Usman knocked Sergio Moraes out cold in the first round of his last fight and is a huge danger to Meek, who’s lost by stoppage twice in his 12-fight career.
The Norwegian is a solid all-round fighter but will likely struggle to keep Usman at bay for the entire 15 minutes, and another KO win for the 29-year-old is certainly worth backing.