Two power heavy featherweights clash in the main event of UFC Fight Night St. Louis, as Jeremy ‘Lil’ Heathen’ Stephens faces promising contender and fellow heavy hitter, Doo Ho Choi in a five-round match.
Stephens recovered in spectacular fashion from two consecutive defeats to outstrike former Strikeforce champ, Gilbert Melendez, displaying an incredible calf kick technique to disrupt the movement and output from ‘El Nino’. South Korea favourite Choi last competed in December 2016 in a decision defeat to Cub Swanson, with the UFC 206 meeting earning the UFC Fight of The Year accolade.
With 40 professional mixed-martial arts contests, Stephens is undoubtedly one of the most experienced contenders at 145lbs today, and certainly one of the most dangerous. With 26 victories and 14 losses, the 31-year-old has faced some of the most elite lightweights and featherweights in UFC history. With wins over the aforementioned Melendez, former Team Alpha Male coach Justin Bucholz, Brazil’s Rony Jason, former UFC bantamweight interim kingpin Renan Barao. He beat the tough Darren Elkins and career standout knockouts over Dennis Bermudez and Rafael Dos Anjos, via a flying knee and a huge looping uppercut respectively. Noticeably, Stephens has been quite difficult to finish throughout his 13-year career, with only Joe Lauzon, Yves Edwards and Din Thomas stopping the Iowa native, something that may frustrate the one dimensional Choi.
At just 26 years of age, Gumi fan favourite Doo Ho Choi exploded onto the Ultimate Fighting Championship scene back in 2014, going 3-0 with three consecutive first round KO’s, stopping Juan Puig, Sam Sicilia and Thiago Taraves before running into the well rounded Cub Swanson.
Choi was briefly linked to bouts with Renan Barao and then Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili, originally declining the bout with ‘The Baron’, and subsequently citing an injury, and was removed from the card. Choi’s ability to take and absorb a shot was on full display during his three round back and forth with ‘Killer’ Cub, with his main offence stemming from his heavy hands. WIth good movement and cutting of angles to create openings, this matchup may come down to which striker can land first and cleanest.
Expect Stephens to utilize those damaging leg kicks once more, and his explosive yet technical striking should set up a stoppage victory.
PREDICTION: Jeremy Stephens via knockout.