JEREMY STEPHENS kept his name in the running for a future shot at UFC featherweight gold, as he stopped “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi in spectacular fashion midway through the second round of their clash at the Scottrade Center in St Louis, Missouri.
Choi was returning to the Octagon for the first time since December 2016, when he lost a decision to Cub Swanson in an incredible fight, and he got off to a fast start in round one, snapping in kicks to the legs and mid-section, however the warning signs were there as Stephens began to time the right hand.
“Lil Heathen” who was making his 27th appearance in the UFC, got on the front foot in the second and pressed forward, sensing Choi was already beginning to feel the weight of his shots, the right hand now landing with alarming regularity.
Stephens continued on the offensive and landed a massive right which send Choi down to the canvas. The veteran jumped on his stricken opponent, getting through with more strikes on the ground, before the referee stepped in to save “Korean Superboy” from more punishment.
It secured a huge win for Stephens, who will now be looking to move further up the rankings at 145lbs, towards a potential shot at current champion Max Holloway, who defends against Frankie Edgar in March. A clash with Brian Ortega, who remains unbeaten, could be next on his agenda. As for Choi, mandatory military service back home should be next on his list.
In the co-main event, Paige VanZant attempted to begin her pursuit at flyweight gold, however Jessica Rose Clark had other ideas. The Australian dominated VanZant on the ground throughout the first two rounds to earn a deserved unanimous decision, 30-27 and 29-28 twice, on the cards.
VanZant appeared to suffer an arm injury and battled on despite it to hear the final buzzer, probably doing enough to take the third with an array of kicks, but this puts a huge dent in her and the UFC’s plans to put gold around her waist. Clark picks up her second win in the new flyweight division, which was formed back in December.
Kamaru Usman won for the seventh straight time in the welterweight division, dominating Emil Weber Meek over three rounds to win 30-27 on all three scorecards. Usman put on a grappling clinic to nullify any threat Meek possessed in the stand-up, much to the Norwegian’s frustration.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” became the latest name to call out outspoken welterweight Colby Covington after the fight, claiming he was only performing at around 30% and that the best is yet to come.
Darren Elkins continued his excellent run in the featherweight division, ruining Michael Johnson’s homecoming and debut in the division, as he moved down from lightweight, overcoming a tough first round to submit Johnson in the second via a rear-naked choke.
Johnson looked superb in the first, stunning Elkins with some sharp strikes, however you can never count “The Damage” out, as he proved in the second, securing the takedown and squeezing the fight out of “The Menace” to secure another come from behind victory.
On the preliminary card, James Krause won the battle of Missouri natives against Alex White, leaving St Louis with a unanimous decision win after their lightweight clash. White was his own worst enemy, failing to capitalise when he hurt Krause in the stand-up and allowing Krause to take him down and control the action on the ground to pick up the win.
Lightweight Matt Frevola came in with plenty of hype, however “The Steamrolla” lasted a minute before he was flattened by Marco Polo Reyes. Frevola elected to trade with Reyes and did well to last a minute before succumbing to a huge right hand, which saw Reyes earn a Performance of the Night bonus.
Women’s bantamweight Irene Aldana secured her first UFC victory, at the third attempt, with an excellent performance to beat Talita Bernardo by unanimous decision, 30-27 on all three cards. Bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang returned to action for the first time since 2014, due to military service, and wasted little time in snatching Guido Cannetti in his grasp, submitting him in the first by way of a triangle.
The Fight Pass portion of the card was headlined by Jessica “Evil” Eye getting the better of Kalindra Faria by split decision in their women’s flyweight battle. Eye was awarded the win by scores of 29-28, whilst the third judge saw it in favour of Faria by the same score.
JJ Aldrich potentially earned a place in the top 15 of the women’s strawweight division, beating Danielle Taylor by unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three cards, whilst Mads Burnell was a winner by exactly the same margin over Mike Santiago in a fight made at 150lbs, after the Dane missed weight the day before.