If you’re one of the Americans who are fortunate enough to have the day off on this coming Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, then you’re in for a rare Sunday night treat of live UFC fights.
The main event pairs one fighter who was a part of what was widely considered the “Fight of the Year” in 2016, Doo Ho Choi, and a fighter who’s always capable of putting on the “Fight of the Night,” Jeremy Stephens. This featherweight main event may go a long way in determining who might challenge for the UFC featherweight title in the future.
Strengths: Stephens is known as one of the hardest hitters in the UFC. He battered a former champion in Gilbert Melendez in his last fight and has stood and traded with some of the best strikers around, including Max Holloway, Cub Swanson, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Melvin Guillard and Rafael dos Anjos. Stephens has shared the Octagon with some of the toughest guys in the UFC and is plenty battle-tested.
Stephens has excellent takedown defense as well, stuffing roughly two-thirds of the attempts made against him. Stephens always presses the action and forces his opponents to engage – sticking and moving and playing angles isn’t really his thing. Stephens is one of the more entertaining fighters in the UFC that not many people talk about, and he has a dance partner who is more than willing to oblige him.
Weaknesses: Even though Stephens is willing to trade blows with anyone and is known as a tough striker with heavy hands, he only has six total knockouts in his UFC career, which spans more than 10 years and a total of more than 20 fights. His last knockout came in 2015, so even though he likes to exchange strikes, it doesn’t often appear to result in a finish.
Most of Stephens’ losses in the UFC have also come against fighters considered the “elite” of the lighter weight classes, so it might be fair to wonder if he has already reached his peak as a fighter. Is Choi considered an “elite” fighter? How Stephens fares against him in this fight could go a long way toward answering that question.
Doo Ho Choi
Strengths: Choi’s first three UFC fights couldn’t have really gone much better. He has fought three times, won three times and all of those wins came by first-round knockout. In fact, the last time Choi didn’t win a fight by knockout? Back in 2011, and he wasn’t yet a member of the UFC. Choi has 11 total knockouts out of his 14 overall wins, so it’s a safe bet that none of his fights from here on out will go the distance.
Weaknesses: Despite Choi’s striking prowess, he doesn’t appear to have much of a ground game. He only has one win via submission and has only landed 20 percent of his takedown attempts. Stephens’ experience in the Octagon has made him one of the more well-rounded fighters in the UFC. Despite his proclivity for striking, Stephens’ best chance for victory might be to get Choi to the mat and try to secure a submission.
For a “Fight Night” card on a Sunday, you could do a lot worse than this main event. As we saw in Choi’s last fight against Swanson, he’s not afraid to mix it up with the best around. I see no reason why this bout won’t also deliver for fans. Stephens is as tough as they come and should test the still-young Choi to truly see what he’s made of. But we’ve already seen that Choi can hang with the best, and I think his knack for knockouts means he catches Stephens at some point in this fight for the upset win.
Winner: Choi by TKO
Image Credit: MMA Junkie