Those who engage Jeremy Stephens on his terms do so at their own peril. Add Doo Ho Choi to the body of evidence.
Stephens stayed relevant in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division, as he dispatched “The Korean Superboy” with punches and elbows in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 124 main event on Sunday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Appearing for the first time since his epic encounter with Cub Swanson more than a year ago, Choi bowed out 2:36 into Round 2.
A technical first round that favored Choi gave way to a second in which neither man offered much in terms of sound defense. Stephens walked through a front kick to the face and a stepping elbow, forced the South Korean prospect to fight going backward and let his power bridge the remaining gap. An overhand right floored Choi and left him susceptible to the avalanche of blows that followed, first punches and then elbows. Referee Keith Peterson, having seen enough, stepped in after a sustained beating.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Stephens vs. Choi,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Jeremy Stephens vs. Josh Emmett: Stephens has posted back-to-back victories since his split decision loss to Renato Carneiro in April, and his 14-13 record inside the Octagon can only be described as deceiving. While he may never be in position to challenge for the featherweight crown, the Alliance MMA mainstay remains a valuable piece of the puzzle at 145 pounds. If nothing else, he can help the UFC separate the wheat from the chaff. Emmett made the most significant move of his career on Dec. 16, when he knocked out perennial contender Ricardo Lamas with a wicked left hook in the UFC on Fox 26 co-main event.
Kamaru Usman vs. Neil Magny: His style may not please the masses, but no one can argue with Usman’s results. “The Ultimate Fighter 21” winner extended his run of consecutive victories to 11 with a one-sided unanimous decision against Emil Weber Meek in their welterweight feature. Usman cut through the overmatched Norwegian with takedowns, top control and ground-and-pound to a chorus of boos and now owns a perfect 7-0 record under the UFC flag. Magny last competed at UFC 219 on Dec. 30, when he cruised to a unanimous verdict over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Carlos Condit.
Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Mara Romero Borella-Katlyn Chookagian winner: Clark spoiled the flyweight debut of Paige VanZant in the co-main event, pocketing a unanimous decision against the Team Quest export. The Australian built a commanding lead on the ground and then held off a late surge from the injured VanZant, who appeared to break her arm with an errant spinning backfist in the second round. Clark, 30, has won two fights in a row since joining the UFC roster in November. Borella and Chookagian will square off at UFC on Fox 27 on Jan. 27.
Darren Elkins vs. Myles Jury: Stuck in a long line of featherweight contenders, Elkins has made himself impossible to ignore. The Team Alpha Male rep absorbed another beating, this time from Michael Johnson, before executing a takedown, scrambling to the back and cinching a fight-ending rear-naked choke in the second round. It was the 33-year-old Portage, Indiana, native’s first submission victory in nearly nine years. Elkins has pieced together a six-fight winning streak since his loss to Nova Uniao’s Hacran Dias in 2014. Jury last fought on Dec. 30, when he took a unanimous decision from former World Series of Fighting champion Rick Glenn at UFC 219.
James Krause vs. Gregor Gillespie-Jordan Rinaldi winner: Nothing about Krause jumps off the page, other than the fact that he does everything well and wins on a consistent basis. The Glory MMA and Fitness frontman improved to 6-3 in the UFC with his fourth straight victory, as he picked up a unanimous decision against Alex White in the featured lightweight prelim. Krause has won 13 of his last 16 bouts dating back to 2011 and figures to serve as an effective gatekeeper for the foreseeable future. One of the sport’s top prospects, Gillespie will lock horns with Rinaldi at UFC on Fox 27 on Jan. 27.