After a weekend off, we are back to our regularly scheduled programming of what seems to be an UFC event every weekend. This week's offering is interesting for multiple reasons:
It's a Sunday night card on FS1. I love when the UFC has fights on Sunday nights because I can just chill out at home, watch the fights alone, and really concentrate on what's happening. Don't get me wrong, I love getting together with my crew once a month for pay-per-views to shoot the shit and hang out, but sometimes it's hard to concentrate on an undercard fight while you are trying to order pizza on your laptop for 8 people.
This card has more women's fights then any card I have ever seen outside of Invetica. Out of the 13 fights on the card, 4 will feature women, including 3 on the FightPass prelims and 1 on the main card.
One of the contenders for the worst tattoo in MMA is on the card, The Damage Darren Elkins! I mean look at this fucking thing, it's like he went into a tattoo shop and said, "I want my MMA nickname on my chest, but draw it like it's made out of tapeworms!"
All joking aside, Elkins had one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history last year at UFC 209 and I am looking forward to seeing him vs. Michael Johnson. This will be Johnson's first time back in the cage after his loss to Justin Gaethje last year.
All right, let's get into UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis Missouri.
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Kalindra Faria vs. Jessica "Evil" Eye 125lbs
The Fight Pass main event pits 18-6-1 Faria against 11-6 Eye, but the story goes way beyond the record. Faria was on a 3-fight win streak when she got the call up to the big leagues at UFC 216 and was promptly submitted by Mara Romero Borella with a rear-naked choke. Octagon jitters are a real thing, and it's not unusual for a fighter to lose his or her first fight when transitioning onto the biggest stage in the sport. Across the cage from her will be Jessica Eye, who has hit a major rough patch in her career. Before entering the UFC she was 10-1, but currently she is 1-5 in the Octagon plus a No Contest against Sarah Kaufman. I am going to blame this all on her training in Cleveland and therefore the Browns' cursed luck is rubbing off on her. Both of these women need this victory, but if Eye doesn't get a win here, she maybe packing her bags and headed back to the minor leagues.
Thiago "Pitbull" Alves vs. Zak Cummings 170lbs
Part of getting older for me is I no longer have of a concept of time until I sit down and do the math. While doing my research for this card, I looked up Thiago Alves' record and realized that he has been fighting in the UFC for 13 years now. The even crazier part is he is only 34 years old. After going on a career-high 7-fight win streak from 2006 to 2008, Alves' career has been a mix of winning 2 fights here and then dropping a fight, thus resetting his progress and keeping him out of big money title fights. Zak Cummings is coming to that point in his career where he has a name among the hardcore fans but needs to start collecting wins against fighters that have an established name, and thus you get this fight. This should be a fun fight, but in the grand scheme of things, unless there is a huge highlight reel knockout, this fight won't be a career changer for either guy.
FS1 Main Card
Music That Makes Me Want to Watch People Get Punched in the Face
Deftones "Back to School"
"12 Gauge" Paige Van Zant vs. #10 Jessica-Rose Clark 125lbs
PVZ is coming off arguably the biggest loss of her career by getting choked out by Michelle Waterson. Jessica-Rose Clark is coming off a decision victory over Bec Rawlings that was less than impressive. I get that the UFC wants Paige to be one of the faces of women's MMA because she is hotter then the sun and would have a lot of crossover appeal into pop culture markets. Unfortunately, those opportunities won't happen unless she can get it done in the cage. "Jessy Jess" is still young, and this will only be her second fight in the UFC. Size could come into play in this one, as Clark is bigger than PVZ and should look to press that advantage. On the flip side, Paige should be the faster, more mobile fighter in this one. I am not leaning hard either way on this one, but I feel like there is more of an upside if PVZ gets the victory.
#11 "Prime Time" Uriah Hall vs. #12 "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort 185lbs
It's the end of an era in the UFC. Vitor Belfort has announced this will be his last fight. How long has Vitor been fighting? He made his UFC Debut at UFC 12. That isn't a typo — the man has actively been competing for over 200 UFC PPV cards now. That is just fucking insane. Sure, you can argue that his career has been extended by TRT, but it's still amazing to think that he has been landing Spinning Headkicks for Cheezits, bro for that long.
Uriah Hall, on the other hand, is a guy who just never lived up to the hype. Back in the day, he was separating souls from bodies on TUF 17 but then lost a decision in the finals to Kelvin Gastelum. Since then, he has stayed in the UFC with minimal amounts of success. He is 1-3 in his last 4 fights and is a good match up for Vitor for his swan song. On paper Hall should win because he is the younger fighter who has taken far less damage, but a motivated Belfort could get his hand raised a final time.
No matter what happens, Vitor, thanks for all of the great fights and enjoy retirement. You've more then earned it.
#9 "Lil' Heathen" Jeremy Stephens vs. #13 "The Korean Superboy" DooHo Choi 145lbs
While it's not the biggest main event in UFC history, I'll watch any fight that features DooHo Choi. You might remember DooHo Choi from such fights as him vs. Cub Swanson in one of the greatest fights of the decade.
DooHo Choi has a chin that would make old school Chuck Liddell wiggle his painted toenails in appreciation. Before losing that decision to Swanson, he was on a 12-fight win streak and is looking to get back on the winning track. Look for Choi to try to turn this into a fire fight from the opening bell.
Straight up, I am not sold on Jeremy Stephens. Granted, he did get a decision victory over Gilbert Melendez, but he is a guy who has been around for a long time and has around a .500 record in terms of wins and losses in the UFC. On the plus side, Lil Heathen is more then happy to stand and bang with anyone that wants to do the same, and he is also known for being able to absorb a ton of damage. His grappling game is OK, but he hasn't scored a submission victory in over a decade, so I don't see him trying to take it to the ground. If everything pans out like it should, this is going to be a helluva slugfest that likely won't go all 5 rounds. In short, these two guys are going to step into the cage, swing on each other, and one will be walking out and the other is going to be carried out on his shield. I want Choi to win, but no matter who gets the W, it should be an fun fight.
What are your thoughts and opinions on the first UFC event of 2018? Head over to the Craft Brewed Sports Facebook Group and let me know.
Finally, next week not only will I be writing my preview for UFC 220, but I'll also be live in studio with Mike and Scott on Craft Brewed Sports this coming Friday night, January 19th at 9:30PM to talk about pay-per-view. So get your questions ready, call in, and let's talk Stipe vs. Ngannou on the Mothership, daddy!