The UFC is back this Sunday night with their first card of 2018. It’s a Fight Night card that is taking place in St. Louis, Missouri, and it is actually a very solid card for a Fight Night event with around 6 fights that are very interesting with well known fighters. I’m a little bit surprised that Doo Ho Choi vs Jeremy Stephens is the main event considering Vitor Belfort, Paige VanZant and Kamaru Usman are all on this card as well, but that shows the depth of the main card.
As I mentioned above, this card is taking place on Sunday with the main card taking place on Fox Sports 1 at 10pm EST. The prelims will be on Fox Sports 1 as well at 8pm, and the early prelims will be on Fight Pass, likely starting at 6:30pm EST.
All of the odds are taken from BetOnline.ag, our top rated betting site for MMA. Here’s our full BetOnline review for you to check out if you’re interested in opening an account and placing some bets.
Doo Ho Choi vs Jeremy Stephens
The Korean Superboy is finally back in action after his fight of the year candidate back in December of 2016. It’s been over a year since his last fight, but it was an absolute war, so I think it was a smart decision to take his time before coming back after his first loss in 6 years. Let’s not forget that Choi is still only 26 years old and should be moving towards his prime. I would not be surprised if he has improved significantly since his last outing.
Stephens is a strong opponent, but you know what you’re going to get with him. He’s 31 years old and he wins fights by moving forward and throwing with everything he has. He put together a very smart game plan to beat Gilbert Melendez in his last outing by utilizing leg kicks, which Melendez has shown throughout his career to have no answer for. Stephens is 3-5 in his last 8 UFC fights, but he’s been taking on the best in the division and has earned his place as a high end gatekeeper that isn’t an easy fight for anyone.
That said, I’m going with the Korean Superboy in this fight. He has the more technical striking and I expect he learned a lot from his loss to Swanson. Choi is also fairly big for the division, so I don’t expect him to be bullied by Stephens and I give him the edge on the feet in terms of having the more dangerous strikes. Everyone talks about how Stephens has this amazing knockout power, but it’s actually his kicks or knees that have earned him finishes in the past. He hasn’t won a fight with a knockout punch since January 1st of 2011, and I think Choi should be able to handle his power well. On the flip side, Stephens also has an iron chin and has not been finished since 2012, losing via decision to high level opponents such as Edgar, Holloway and Swanson. That said, I think there is a greater chance that Choi is able to end his streak of not being finished, than Stephens is able to end his streak of getting a finish with his hands.
Choi is the more athletic and dangerous fighter. This is another crack and one of the top guys in the division and I don’t expect him to fail twice in a row.
Play: Choi -155
Uriah Hall vs Vitor Belfort
Belfort is definitely a shell of himself, but this is actually a very winnable fight for the Brazilian legend. Belfort showed a lot more patience in his recent fight with Nate Marquardt and he may finally be adjusting his style to avoid completely gassing himself after an initial first minute flurry. Hall is also a very slow paced fighter on the feet, so Belfort should be able to dictate the pace in this fight. Add in the fact that Hall has been knocked out himself a couple times over the past year and I think Belfort definitely has a punchers chance at the knockout, as well as a decent shot at winning a decision based on activity.
Hall is definitely the rightful favorite, but at these odds I see some value on Belfort.
Play: Belfort +205
Jessica-Rose Clark vs Paige VanZant
I’m surprised VanZant isn’t a favourite in this fight. Yes, she’s been extremely overrated and over hyped throughout her career, but her only losses in her MMA career have come to high level fighters. VanZant is 7-3 in her career and her losses have come to Tecia Torres (top contender), Rose Namajunas (the champ), and Michelle Waterson (former top contender).
She was definitely overrated, but now it seems like people have completely switched sides and are fading her even when she has a favourable match-up, which is what this fight with Clark is.
VanZant is not a good technical fighter, but she will be the far superior athlete in this fight and she should be able to bully Clark and grind out a win, which is how she has gotten wins over lower level opponents. I’m a little bit worried she will try to outstrike Clark on the feet similar to her style against Bec Rawlings, which ended with a lucky switch kick KO for Paige, although she was clearly losing the fight to that point. If she fancies herself as an elite striker now she will likely lose this fight, but if she goes back to her grinding, bullying style she should easily be able to get Clark to the mat and grind out a win.
Let’s not forget that the UFC has a lot invested in VanZant having success. They will have set her up with the most favourable match-up possible in order to allow her to get a win and potentially give her a title shot at 125 pounds. Don’t be surprised if after a dominant performance she gets the nod against Nicco Montano, who she will probably be the favourite against as well. That’s how things work in the UFC and you have to understand these fundamentals and apply them to your betting strategy.
Play: VanZant +110
Emil Meek vs Kamaru Usman
Usman is a big favorite in this fight, and rightfully so. Yes, Meek was a highly touted prospect who looked decent against Jordan Mein in his UFC debut, but Usman is one of the top contenders in the welterweight division and a massive step up for Meek. In his UFC debut against Mein, Meek was taken down 3 times by a guy in Mein, who was really a shell of his former self. I did not think the performance against Mein was really impressive at all, and I think stylistically Usman should have a very easy go in this fight.
Usman should be able to get this fight to the mat with ease and I actually think he may be the better stand-up fighter as well, after his impressive knockout of Sergio Moraes in his last outing. Whether it’s grinding out Meek for 3 rounds on the mat and up against the fence, or finding a way to get another finish, I fully expect Usman to get the job done and finally earn a shot at one of the top guys in the division.
Play: Usman -575