The UFC returns to St. Louis when two precise featherweight strikers go head to head in the main event of the evening. Here are my picks and predictions for how all of the main card fights of the night will go down:
Here we have two guys who would love to (and more than likely will) score a knockout of the night. Kamaru Usman has been on a warpath as of late winning ten in a row with half of those wins being knockouts. Emil Meek on the other hand had an impressive debut against Jordan Mein when he was able to get a decision win in his opponent’s home territory. I expect Usman to get the win here with his pressure and right hand power against Meeks crazy swing-for-the-fences style. Since I see Meek getting hit a lot in the opening round, I expect one of those shots to put him away making it a quick night for the “Nigerian Nightmare.”
Predicted winner: Kamaru Usman via Knockout/Technical Knockout in Round 1
The hype train the is Paige VanZant moves up to the flyweight division where she takes on fairly new Jessica Rose-Clark. VanZant’s relentlessness will help he trough this fight as Rose-Clark is a great technical fighter who will make this a close fight. The way I see this fight going is VanZant using her cardio and takedown attempts to edge out a decision. Rose-Clark likes to throw down on the feet and only gets top position through reversals and sweeps when taken down. VanZant’s top control is good enough to help her grind towards a decision.
Predicted winner: Paige VanZant via Decision
Sadly Uriah Hall vs. Vitor Belfort had to be taken away from us due to Hall’s weight cutting dilemma (I even had to rewrite this prediction now). So instead Darren Elkins and Michael Johnson will fill in the main card slot. This is going to be another brawler vs. technical striker (similar to the Usman vs. Meeks bout above). The difference being Elkins constant takedown attempts he does in every fight. However, Johnson is a superb wrestler and more than likely stuff Elkins takedown attempts. Meanwhile, on the feet I expect Johnson to outstrike the ever tough Darren Elkins towards his first win in the featherweight division by a decision.
Predicted winner: Michael Johnson via Decision
Finally it is main event time as we see an extremely close matchup that the matchmakers have gifted us with here. I was leaning towards Doo Ho Choi to win this for the longest time but decided to go with the veteran in Jeremy Stephens to get the victory. His ability to pressure and counter at the same time has been so impressive. Choi’s striking has been good but has been hit too many times while on the back foot or when pressured (see his fight with Cub Swanson for example). Takedowns won’t be an issue here either as I expect both to stand and trade with one another. This will lead to a huge win for Stephens which may end in a knockout but I see a decision as the more likely since Choi has such a great chin.
Predicted winner: Stephens via Decision