The UFC heads into a pivotal 2018 with its first card of the year from St. Louis, Missouri.
This is a card filled with fun fights, that mean little for the overall rankings and acts as a placeholder for UFC 220. I’ve picked my top 2 fights on the card and given my thoughts with 5Dimes, as always, providing the odds.
Hall v Belfort:
When Uriah Hall first appeared in the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter he was hailed as the 2nd coming. It was a moniker that didn’t last as he limped past a few jobbers, coming up short against anyone with even a hint of ambition. The one exception to this rule was when he beat Gegard Mousasi. It’s a sentence that I still have trouble writing because I don’t really understand how it happened. Mousasi rectified the imbalance in the force, handing Hall his third consecutive loss. A win over Krzysztof Jotko in September putting him back in the Win column.
Vitor Belfort makes, what could be his final appearance this weekend. It’s a statement I have been writing for the last three years, and probably for another three. Since the UFC changed their position on TRT, Belfort has been a shadow of himself, physically and figuratively. In his pomp he managed to string together wins over two soon-to-be-champions in Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, while ending the only fighter in the division older than him, Dan Henderson, twice. Losses to Weidman, Jacare and Mousasi followed, and were extremely brutal. Another brutal loss to Kelvin Gastelum was overturned into a No Contest before he achieved his first win in two years over the reanimated corpse of Nate Marquardt. It was little to get excited over.
This fight goes one of two ways. Either Vitor wins in the opening minute, or he loses. Belfort has a gas tank for around 60 seconds when he needs to get the job done or he is toast. Hall should be able to keep him at range with his kicks long enough to survive the onslaught, and then finish Belfort at will. If it goes to a decision then may the lord have mercy on your soul, you’ll need it.
Recommendation: Hall Wins Inside the Distance – 2 units at -155 (20/31) @ 5Dimes
Stephens v Choi:
You must feel for UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens. While his record inside the octagon is nothing to get too excited over, 26 fights (13-13) at this level really shouldn’t be ignored. And yet, his most famous moment in MMA was when Conor McGregor famously proclaimed, “Who the Fook is that guy?” and a meme was born. Thirteen losses don’t really tell the whole story though, as they have come against a murderer’s row of opponents; Lauzon, Tibau, Guillard, Pettis, Cerrone, Edwards, Swanson, Oliveira and Edgar, to name but the best. It cements his position as a solid #11, but not really any higher than that. Stephens is a gatekeeper, and a pretty decent one at that. He tends to talk about his knockout power, and how people stay down when he hits them, three KO/TKO wins in seven years casts some doubt on the claim.
Doo Ho Choi, ‘The Korean Superboy’ started his UFC career on a 3-0 roll before Cub Swanson handed him his first loss in the promotion, and only the second of his career. As fights go, it was an absolute barnstormer and my pick for Fight of the Year in 2016. It was a fight that came at a price as Choi sat on the bench for almost 13 months. While he may look like a strong wind may blow him over, Choi is a fighter who can really pack a punch. He has 8 consecutive wins by KO/TKO, with an 86%-win rate coming inside the distance.
When reviewing this fight, I really wanted to back Stephens, I really did. While Choi lost to Swanson, Cub isn’t known as the hardest hitter in the division and he was very nearly finished on more than one occasion. If Stephens connects then it could be game over, but I feel that Choi will have too much movement for this to be of any real concern. There isn’t a huge upset to taking a prop on Choi inside the distance, so I’ll play safe and bet him on the outright win. If it goes the distance, it is likely to be Fight of the Night, if not Fight of the Year material once again.
Recommendation: Doo Ho Choi – 2 units at -155 (20/31) @ 5Dimes