This Sunday (yes Sunday) the Octagon travels to St. Louis, Missouri for the first time. It brings with it the first card of 2018 and it looks to be a night of great fights. Without further ado, here are five reasons to spend your Sunday night with the UFC.
5 Reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 124
Darren Elkins vs Michael Johnson
The featured prelim bout sees 10th ranked lightweight fighter Michael Johnson move to featherweight. He meets Darren “The Damage” Elkins who sits at number 10 in the featherweight rankings. Many were surprised this was announced as a prelim. This is due to the status of the two fighters and the fact Johnson is fighting in his hometown. After two straight losses at lightweight, Michael “The Menace” Johnson is moving to 145 pounds. Many saw his last fight as the best fight of 2017, when he fought Justin Gaethje. Johnson will be looking to get off to a great start at featherweight.
The man who stands in his way is Darren Elkins. Elkins had a huge 2017 with one of the great UFC comebacks against Mirsad Bektic and a split decision win over Dennis Bermudez. Can Elkins fight through the precision power punching of Johnson and put his pace on him is the question going in. Both men are tough challenges for anyone at 145 and it will be interesting to see how Johnson looks at a smaller weight class.
Kamaru Usman vs Emil Meek
When this fight was pulled off of the end of the year card for 2017, fans were gutted. After waiting an extra two weeks, the fight is now here. At 170 pounds, top prospects Kamaru Usman (10th ranked) meets Emil Meek. The welterweight division was so exciting in 2017 due to its depth and this fight shows it. Kamaru Usman is a scary and phenomenal athlete. Since winning the 21st season of The Ultimate Fighter, Usman has won five straight in the UFC and now sits in the top 10 rankings. A big win here could set him up for a title eliminator bout.
Standing ready to halt the advancing Usman is Emil “Valhalla” Meek. Meek will be stepping into the octagon for the second time this Sunday. However, the level of competition he is facing shows the excitement around him. He is a Norwegian fighter who doesn’t only look the part, he fights like a warrior. Meek faces a huge test ahead of him in “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman. He would cause a big upset in the division if he does win. If there’s a man to get an upset over Usman, many see it as Meek. Having to wait a further two weeks for this fight has only let it build more.
Paige VanZant vs Jessica-Rose Clark
At women’s flyweight (125 pounds), 10th ranked Jessica-Rose Clark meets Paige Vanzant. Clark makes only her second walk to the octagon for this bout. She beat Bec Rawlings in her debut via split decision. Clark showed in the fight she isn’t to be taken lightly and already sits in the top 10 rankings.
She meets MMA golden girl Paige VanZant. VanZant, who was inactive during 2017, is coming off of a big loss to Michelle Waterson after she knocked out the formerly mentioned Bec Rawlings with a highlight reel switch kick followed by punches. Having headlined two fight nights before, VanZant is no stranger to being pushed by the UFC. At only 23 years of age, she seems to learn more and more every outing. With a whole year off, the question is will we see an improved VanZant? Clark is certainly not to be taken lightly however with her bigger name and flashier style, VanZant will be the one with the eyes on her. Can VanZant return in glory and rebuild herself as a top contender or will Clark steal the spotlight that VanZant brings? We find out this Sunday.
Uriah Hall vs Vitor Belfort
The co-main event sees ranked middleweights and dangerous strikers Uriah Hall and Vitor Belfort do battle. Uriah Hall is an exciting striker with power in his hands and an arsenal of kicks. He is coming off of a big knockout victory over Krzysztof Jotko after losing three straight. Hall was incredible on The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 where he lost the final to Kelvin Gastelum. He has since rarely reached the heights he did on TUF and at 33 years old, will be looking to build momentum off of the name of a legend.
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is an icon of the sport and is making his last walk to the Octagon this weekend. After losing to the previously mentioned Gastelum in Brazil, Belfort won a decision against Nate Marquardt. He looked like a more relaxed and refined fighter that night. Despite this, Vitor is always dangerous in a fight. If this is to be his last outing in the UFC, will be looking to end his run on a high note with a win over Hall. This would show he can still compete with the best at 185 pounds. The fight features two devastating, highlight-reel strikers. As usual, don’t blink. This one could be over before you know it.
Jeremy Stephens vs Doo Ho Choi
The main event of the evening sees ninth-ranked featherweight Jeremy Stephens take on 13th ranked Doo Ho Choi. It is a highly anticipated match-up. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Choi is “The Korean Superboy”. He has great movement, precision and power. His first three bouts in the UFC all ended in knockout wins. He then met Cub Swanson in the fight of the year in 2016. Since then, Choi has been on the sidelines due to injuries and was inactive throughout 2017. He returns, a fan-favourite after his last outing. His incredible ability to take a shot, seen in the Cub Swanson fight and his constant pressure makes him an immovable object.
Jeremy Stephens is a contract killer in the featherweight division. A veteran of the UFC of over 10 years, “Lil Heathen” has finishes via KO punch, head kick and flying-knee. In his last fight, he put on a very impressive and dominant performance. He chopped down the very tough Gilbert Melendez with leg kicks and winning a unanimous decision. This more calculated approach to striking is something fans of Stephens were very excited to see. Stephens thrives in violent fights and always comes to finish his opponent. This leaves the question will Stephens be able to finish the incredibly tough Choi? Just how good is Doo Ho Choi? Can Stephens keep up his momentum built by his last win? All of these questions will be answered this Sunday in St. Louis. This is a fight that cannot be missed.