UFC Fight Night 124 will be touching down in St. Louis, Missouri, on January 14th and it’s a card that should provide a lot of pop for MMA enthusiasts.
In the main event, Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens takes on the “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi in a featherweight fight that should be full of non-stop action. Both men love to throw down and leave it all in the cage. The violence keeps on coming when Vitor Belfort goes nose-to-nose with Uriah Hall in the evening’s co-main event. This should be a doozy of a scrap that may not even get out of the first round. The rest of the card has been booked with fun and truculence in mind, and it will be worth checking out on UFC Fight Pass.
With hard-hitting action on the horizon, you need a hard-hitting preview for your betting needs. Below is my breakdown of the main event between Stephens and Choi along with my value pick for the fight.
If you’re keen to wager on the rest of the card, be patient. I’ll take a closer look at the other bouts in the coming days.
Jeremy Stephens (+150) vs. Doo Ho Choi (-170)
This isn’t a main event that will get casual fans excited, but trust me, it could deliver some big fireworks as both these combatants love to bang.
Jeremy Stephens (26-14) has split his last 12 fights but is coming off an impressive win over Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215. That victory aside, inconsistency has been the story of “Lil Heathen’s” career so you never know what you’re going to get the next time he enters the Octagon.
Well, maybe in some ways you do.
Stephens lives and dies by the sword. His style consists of throwing bombs, taking a ton of punishment, and letting the chips fall where they may. It’s a tack that will earn you a few Fight of the Night bonuses, but also tarnish your record with several setbacks and do a number on your long-term health.
When the 31-year-old veteran makes his way into the cage at Fight Night 124, he will be facing South Korean Doo Ho Choi (14-2), a man who has not fought in over a year and is coming off a loss to Cub Swanson back in December of 2016.
You have to wonder how the long layoff will affect the 26-year-old Korean standout, who was riding a five-fight win streak before succumbing to Swanson. Although he has won 79-percent of his fights via knockout, the confident striker will have his hands full against an unpredictable and savvy Stephens. Any ring-rust could prove costly.
In terms of style, Choi loves to throw punches in bunches; he averages 5.58 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy of 52.4-percent. Meanwhile, Stephens averages 2.99 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 40.6 percent. Surprisingly, given his fighting style, he has only been knocked out once in his career.
When it comes to takedowns, Stephens has the edge, averaging 1.22 takedowns per fight with a success rate of 36.4-percent, versus 0.77 per fight for Choi at a 20-percent success rate. But taking the fight to the mat is neither man’s first choice.
Stephens may want to make it his first choice in this battle, though. He’s a good grappler who has has shown he can hold his own on the canvas despite only having one submission victory in over a decade. Getting the fight to the canvas would be a good way to neutralize Choi’s power, and given how solid Stephens’ chin is, taking a couple punches while shooting for the takedown likely wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Right now, the bookies have Choi as the favorite and, although that makes sense based on their records, styles make fights, and stylistically, this is a bad matchup for Choi. Stephens should be able to hold his own on his feet and absorb Choi’s power shots; plus, even if he’s getting the worst of it in the standup game, he should be able to dictate where the fight goes, pushing Choi into uncomfortable areas. Over the course of five rounds, Stephens should wear Choi down and grind out a decision.
Currently, sportsbooks have Jeremy Stephens’ moneyline at +150, which is a fair price to take. I see the fight going the distance and, currently, the scheduled five-rounder has an over of 1.5 rounds (-185), which I think is a prop worth playing too.
Jeremy Stephens (+150)
Over 1.5 rounds (-185)