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One of the things that really gets stuck in my craw is when they pit a salty old veteran against a rising star in order to boost the rising star’s profile.  The UFC often does this with varying degrees of success. What comes to mind is Yair Rodriguez, a fine fighter with a bright future ahead of him. The UFC fed him BJ Penn back in 2016., a legend years past his prime who should have probably hung it up for good. It was his first time he faced a “Big Name” and he mauled Penn in a lopsided match. Penn hadn’t won a fight since 2010 but few will remember that, instead the W that Rodriguez has over him will a notable mark in his record.  It didn’t quite work out for him when he next fought Frankie Edgar. Most likely the UFC was hoping that a win against Edgar would add a nice touch to Rodriguez’s ascent up the ranks; well, nobody told Frankie that who instead delivered a wrestling heavy beat-down which prompted Rodriguez to change camps to Team Alpha Male where he is reconsidering his whole game plan.

The main event of UFC Fight Night St. Louis smells a little like a career-building attempt. Dooho Choi, currently ranked #13 faces #9 ranked Jeremy Stephens.  The last time we saw Choi was at UFC 206 in 2016 where Cub Swanson ended his three fight winning streak via a unanimous decision.  The fight was characterized by Choi’s iron chin and indelible hearta and along with Swanson’s tactical approach to striking was a fan-pleasing slugfest. Jeremy Stephens, 26-14, has been at the game forever, but his performance has been spotty over the last few years. He fought twice last year losing to Renato Moicano and defeating Gilbert Melendez. The Melendez fight featured some of the most brutal leg kicks that I’ve ever seen in an MMA fight and showcased the popular calf kick that seems to be creeping into the toolbox of a lot of fighters.

It’s a five rounder so I predict a lot of blood and guts. Both fighters are grinders with a lot of heart, however, I predict the contest will go the distance with Jeremy Stephens coming out on top. The first couple of rounds will be competitive with a lot of back and forth striking, maybe someone will get dropped, a few takedowns and some vicious elbows. It will be close, but I think Stephens still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The rest of the card is pretty fun. One of the bouts that I’m looking forward to is the main card lead off, Kamaru Usman versus Emil Meek. Usman is undefeated in the UFC and has been steadily, quietly working his way through the welterweight division. I believe that soon, he will be a household name. He combines superior wrestling with excellent athleticism and an innate killer instinct. Newcomer Emil Meek won his UFC debut way back at UFC 206 back in later 2016. He’s an exciting fighter, brings a wild style of MMA but I think he will fall short against Usman. Either way, it’ll be an exciting fight.

Another intriguing fight is Uriah Hall versus Vitor Belfort. Hall has forever been chasing his true potential. When he was in the Ultimate Fighter, it looked like he was going to be a dominant Middleweight. His Muay Thai / traditional Karate base was drawing comparisons to Anderson Silva but he was never quite able to get his head in the right place, wasn’t able to pull the trigger when it mattered. It’s no revelation to say that Vitor Belfort is well into the twilight of his career. He’s coming off of two losses and has on more than one occasion, talked about started a “Legends” division for old guys like him and Dan Henderson. With all of that said, he’s still one of the most dangerous strikers in the first 60 seconds of any fight.  I think, unless Belfort takes him down, this is Hall’s fight to lose. A win over Belfort will put him back on the map.

Michael Johnson makes his featherweight debut against Darren Elkins. I don’t know if this was by design, but Elkins is ranked 10th in the featherweight division and Johnson is ranked 10th in the lightweight division. Johnson is coming off two losses against two of the most brutal fighters at 155, Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov. After taking those beatings, he decided to try his hand at 145. Johnson is a good fighter and has fought out a rough schedule, but I don’t think that the book is closed on him at 155. Nonetheless, I’m interested in how he fares at featherweight. I’m going to pick him over Elkins by decision. Hopefully the weight cut is kind to him.


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It should be a fun card.