UFC Vegas 68 marks the return of The Korean Superboy, Doo Ho Choi for the first time since 2019. Coming off a prolonged break, Choi is in desperate need of a victory having dropped his last three fights. If Choi is going to stay relevant at 145lbs, it’s time for him to go back to his previous form. Without a win since 2016, it’s time to look at whether his hall of fame winning, legendary battle with Cub Swanson actually hurt his career.
Lead up to the Swanson bout
Entering the UFC, Choi was a hot prospect. He was enjoying a nine-fight winning run, of which seven came via TKO/KO. He debuted, ironically, on the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson. Little did we know then that the man who was the first fight on the card would go on to have a legendary fight with the man who headlined the show. He finished Juan Puig on the night in just 18 seconds and announced himself quickly.
He was then matched with Sam Sicilia and again, the fight didn’t last long. He finished things in 93 seconds this time and earned a performance of the night bonus for his efforts.
At 2-0 in the UFC and having spent 111 seconds in the octagon, Choi was then matched with Thiago Tavares. At the time, Tavares was a 17-fight UFC veteran and held wins over Manvel Gamburyan and Clay Guida. He was also enjoying a string of three back-to-back post-fight bonuses. Choi would extend this one longer than any of his previous UFC bouts, however, the outcome would remain the same. 2:42 is what it took to get Tavares out of there.
Then came the Swanson fight.
Let’s set the scene. It’s UFC 206, live from Toronto, Canada. The card prior to the Swanson vs. Choi fight was good, but nothing to get too excited about. Lando Vannata‘s wheel kick knockout seemed long ago.
Taking into account that Swanson and Choi was a three-round fight, the fact that they threw a combined 396 strikes is astonishing. A total of 209 strikes landed, of which 188 were significant. Three takedowns, two men out there to put it all on the line and one legendary scrap.
Swanson constantly landed big on Choi, who didn’t go anywhere. Choi reacted by slugging it out with Swanson whenever and wherever he could. Cartwheel kicks, flying kicks, spinning elbows, wild exchanges, this fight truly had it all. Swanson appeared to be the first person in the UFC that could handle Choi’s power.
The image of Swanson in Choi’s guard with his hands up at the end of the fight will go down in history.
Just last year, Choi vs. Swanson at UFC 206 was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and rightfully so. It’s Choi’s ‘post-Swanson’ form which is concerning for fans of The Korean Superboy, however.
Having only lost via decision twice and coming off the back of his epic fight with Swanson, Choi took over a year out. He was matched with Jeremy Stephens in a main event slot. Unfortunately for Choi, he succumbed to Stephens’ power like many others before him. Lil Heathen was able to finish things in the second round, becoming the first man to finish Choi.
Next for Choi came a slight drop in competition facing Charles Jourdain. Jourdain at the time was 0-1 in the UFC. Jourdain, like Stephens, was able to finish Choi via knockout. 4:32 in the second round, Jourdain landed a short left hand followed by a right hook that sent Choi crumbling to the ground.
So, after never being knocked out before, we have to ask whether the Cub Swanson fight took away Choi’s ability to take a shot. It’s hard to argue that it didn’t. Having never been finished, since the Swanson fight, he’s been finished twice. It was a legendary fight, there are no questions about it but we have to wonder just how effective and dangerous Choi could have been if he didn’t go to war with Swanson.
At UFC Vegas 68, Choi takes on Kyle Nelson. Nelson isn’t known for his knockout power, with five TKO/KO finishes in 18 fights. He’s finished one fight via TKO in the UFC and if he’s able to finish Choi, we have to confirm that the Swanson war took too much out of him and arguably hindered his career in the long run.