Jeremy Stephens made Doo Ho Choi swerve first.
In what amounted to a high-stakes game of chicken between two of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s hardest-hitting featherweights, Stephens put away the South Korean prospect with second-round punches in the UFC Fight Night 124 headliner on Sunday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Choi (14-3, 3-2 UFC) succumbed to blows 2:36 into Round 2.
Not all went swimmingly for Stephens (27-14, 14-13 UFC). Choi maintained his desired distance throughout much of the first round, carving up the Alliance MMA standout with leg kicks and quick two-punch combinations. Stephens ate a front kick to the face to start the second, touching off a firefight. Perhaps emboldened by his early success, Choi chose to trade punch for punch in the exchanges that ensued. Stephens marched forward and blasted him with everything from jabs and leg kicks to thudding right hands. An overhand right sent Choi to the canvas, where he was met with a standing-to-ground right hand and a volley of elbows that forced referee Keith Peterson to act.
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Australian Clark Decisions VanZant
Invicta Fighting Championships veteran Jessica-Rose Clark used a discernible size and strength advantage to take a unanimous decision from Paige VanZant in the three-round co-main event at 125 pounds. Clark (9-4, 2-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the judges.
VanZant (7-4, 4-3 UFC) struggled to get anything going, as Clark countered effectively on the feet and bullied the Team Quest representative on the floor. To make matters worse for VanZant, she appeared to suffer a broken right arm when an errant spinning backfist careened off the Aussie’s skull early in the second round. Even wounded, the 23-year-old tried valiantly to compete. VanZant did her best work in the third round, where she used a variety of jumping knees and flying switch kicks to keep Clark at bay. However, the finish she needed was nowhere to be found.
Clark has rattled off three straight wins.
Usman Dominates Overmatched Meek
Repeated takedowns, a crushing top game and damaging ground-and-pound carried “The Ultimate Fighter 21” winner Kamaru Usman to a clear-cut unanimous decision over Emil Weber Meek in a three-round welterweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it 30-27 for Usman (12-1, 7-0 UFC).
Meek (9-3-1, 1-1 UFC) was not afforded much of a chance to probe potential weaknesses on the feet. Usman used textbook level changes to close the distance, get in on the Norwegian’s hips and score takedowns. Meek’s frustration level steadily increased during the 15-minute encounter, as he had no answers for the Hard Knocks 365 fighter on the ground. Usman opened multiple cuts with short elbows, bottled up his bearded counterpart and kept him far away from his comfort zone.
Usman, 29, will ride an 11-fight winning streak into his next appearance.
Elkins Choke Submits Johnson
Team Alpha Male’s Darren Elkins submitted Michael Johnson with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Elkins (24-5, 14-4 UFC) brought it to a close 2:22 into Round 2, as he posted his sixth consecutive victory at 145 pounds.
Johnson (17-13, 9-9 UFC) picked apart the notoriously durable Portage, Indiana, native with punches throughout a lopsided first round, cutting loose in multi-strike bursts and body-head combinations while employing an effective sprawl. Elkins delivered a takedown inside the first minute of the middle stanza, chipped away with elbows from half guard and ultimately scrambled to the back. He secured his position with a body triangle, cinched the rear-naked choke and forced the tap.
The 31-year-old Johnson has lost three fights in a row, all of them finishes.
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