Tag: Jeremy Stephens

UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi Punch Drunk Predictions

Here we go – once more into the breach for another year for UFC fight predictions.

The 2018 campaign kicks off with a familiar theme hovering overhead as fight week issues forced not one, but two bouts to be pulled from today’s line-up in St. Louis. First it was Zak Cummings slipping in the tub and splitting his head open and then Saturday, Uriah Hall was taken to the hospital without weighing in, scrapping his co-main event assignment and delaying Vitor Belfort’s retirement fight by a couple months.

Nonetheless, this is a solid show for a Sunday afternoon after football and the main card should be exciting.

Here’s who I think will emerge victorious.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Dooho Choi

As much as Choi is super-entertaining to watch and coming off his 2016 Fight of the Year battle with Cub Swanson, this is a terrible matchup for the talented South Korean featherweight. He doesn’t move particularly well and tends to deploy an “I trust my chin” style of defense in striking exchanges, neither of which are good things when you’re facing a seasoned heavy hitter like Stephens.

While he’s yet to put together the kind of winning streak needed to climb all the way into contention, the 31-year-old Stephens is coming off one of his most complete and professional performances to date – a three-round mauling of Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215 in Edmonton. The Alliance MMA product chopped at Melendez’ lead leg and beat him to the punch in most exchanges, remaining patient throughout even though he had the former Strikeforce champ hobbling around on a bad wheel.

Stephens has only been stopped by strikes once, so while Choi has excellent power, I’m not sure he’s going to be the man to drop and finish the 26-fight UFC veteran. Look for Stephens to press forward, beat up Choi’s lead leg and snipe home big shots similar to the approach he deployed against Melendez. Because he’s got a couple extra rounds to work with, I think he’ll get the stoppage late in the fight.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens

Paige VanZant vs. Jessica-Rose Clark

It feels like there are a lot of people who are writing off VanZant, which is odd to me because this is the time to be buying up her faded stock.

Look – I think the UFC has pushed her too quickly and spent too much time trying to convince people that she’s a contender when the results just haven’t been there, but the 23-year-old is moving up to a division where she is a much better fit physically and has shown the flashes of talent that justify her being viewed as a solid prospect. At the end of the day, her two UFC losses have come against the reigning strawweight champion and a former Invicta champ with much more experience and savvy.

Clark is a tough Aussie who has shared the cage with some familiar names, but she’s struggled against more skilled opponents and just squeaked by in her biggest wins. She’s gutsy and durable and isn’t going to be overwhelmed by suddenly being in the co-main event, however I’m not sure if she has the all-around skills to get the job done against someone like VanZant.

After a year working with Chael Sonnen’s crew in Portland, I think we see a more grappling-heavy style from VanZant, who has always been a good scrambler and opportunistic in her pursuit of submissions. Look for her to use her speed and movement to get inside, bring this to the mat and work Clark over from there, eventually finding a finish.

Prediction: Paige VanZant

Kamaru Usman vs. Emil Meek

Kamaru Usman is a different type of fighter, man.

You know the guy Colby Covington thinks he is? Kamaru Usman is that guy – a powerhouse wrestler who can also lay you out if the fight stays standing. While Covington talks all kind of junk, Usman simply puts in work and piles up wins, having collected six straight victories in the UFC and 10 consecutive wins overall heading into this one.

Meek is a dangerous brawler who showed he can go the distance in his UFC debut, but this feels like a fight where Usman shows he’s on a different level than the wild Norwegian. As much as I want to see these two stand and slug is out, I fully expect this to be a takedown heavy affair where Usman breaks Meek’s spirit before breaking him down physically and getting the stoppage.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman

Darren Elkins vs. Michael Johnson

I’m not sure what to make of this fight because on paper, Johnson is an intriguing addition to an already loaded division and has the power and hand speed to be a factor at featherweight. But he’s always been a guy with suspect Fight IQ to me and I’m not sure how much better he’s going to be dropping down in weight.

The one thing that I know for sure heading into this one is that Elkins remains criminally underrated and one of the toughest outs in the UFC. You don’t catch a beating like the one he took against Mirsad Bektic only to rally back and get a stoppage of your own in the dying seconds of the fight without having insane resolve, tons of heart and an unbreakable spirit.

Thinking about how this might play out, I keep going back to Johnson’s fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov and while Elkins isn’t the same kind of grappler as the unbeaten lightweight contender, he’s a very good wrestler and tenacious enough to eat some shots in order to get inside and take this to the floor. Plus, he’s a former lightweight as well, so it’s not like Johnson is going to be significantly bigger than him or anything.

As much as Johnson getting a win at home in St. Louis in his divisional debut would be a nice story, I think Elkins keeps his winning streak going by earning the kind of dominant victory that forces everyone to start thinking about him as a potential contender in this division the rest of the year.

Prediction: Darren Elkins

Preliminary Card Picks

James Krause def. Alex White
Matt Frevola def. Marco Polo Reyes
Irene Aldana def. Talita Bernardo
JJ Aldrich def. Danielle Taylor
Jessica Eye def. Kalindra Faria
Mads Burnell def. Mike Santiago
Kyung Ho Kang def. Guido Cannetti