This Saturday’s UFC card in St. Louis might be “just” a Fight Night, but the world’s biggest MMA promotion is making sure its first event of 2018 is brimming with explosive potential.
Headlining the event is South Korea’s Doo Ho Choi. The last time the 26-year old graced the octagon, he authored ESPN’s 2016 Fight of the Year with an absolute slobberknocker against Cub Swanson. Opposing Choi will be Jeremy Stephens, who is every bit as willing to trade.
In a middleweight tilt, Uriah Hall and Vitor Belfort will lock horns – and each man has a highlight reel filled with ridiculous flash knockouts. Also on the card is women’s strawweight star Paige VanZant, a scrapper with a swarming style that’s always a good watch.
We’ve also got Kamaru Usman, a powerhouse wrestler whose just starting to discover his KO power. Pairing “The Nigerian Nightmare” with hulking puncher Emil Meek is just great matchmaking by Sean Shelby.
Finally, we’ve got Darren Elkins, fresh off winning Upset of the Year, against Michael Johnson, who was one half of 2017’s Fight of the Year.
That’s some serious fight cred just on the main card alone. And there’s a ton of great bets to make here, with heavy underdogs and compelling props. Let’s get to it, using the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu – head on over to the sportsbook at any time to place your bets.
Doo Ho Choi -160 vs. Jeremy Stephens +130
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -245, under +205
Because both dudes are easily baited into brawls, there’s a good chance that this scrap devolves into a mano-a-mano slugfest. In that case, all bets are off and this becomes close to a 50-50 proposition. That gives you a good reason to take Stephens as these odds, with a 130% return on investment.
And while Choi is a true one-hitter quitter, Swanson exposed a lack of depth in his offensive approach. There didn’t seem to be a gameplan beyond marching forward and throwing leather, and Cub’s dynamic craftiness came through in the end. While Stephens isn’t quite as tricky, he’s got more than 10 years and 26 UFC fights on his resume – he’s about experienced as they come.
Choi’s current money line is propped up with his knockout power and the assumption that he’s made some very necessary adjustments. But how much can he improve with one training camp with an unknown fight team? Stephens is worth a small play here.
Our Pick: Small bet on Stephens to win at +130
Uriah Hall -300 vs. Vitor Belfort +240
Over/under 15. rounds, over +150, under -170
Belfort is 40 years old and hasn’t been able to use TRT for years. That puts him at a deficit against pretty much every top-10 middleweight. But Hall is ranked No. 11 and mired in a 1-3 slump, so this does appear to be a winnable fight for the Brazilian. Don’t be tempted by the odds though – this is Hall’s fight to lose.
The current version of Belfort still has fast hands, but his cardio is shot and so is his chin. He’s got maybe one or two blitzes in him, but preserving his energy is priority that caps his winning potential. As long as the younger, more explosive Hall stays aggressive and focused – which is also a risky thing to rely on – the Queens native should be able to win a majority of the exchanges.
Take Hall to win, and if you’re thinking the line is expensive, use it as a parlay booster. The other choice here is Hall to win by KO/TKO, as Belfort has been starched in three of his past four.
Our Pick: Hall to win by KO/TKO at -147
Paige VanZant -105 vs. Jessica Rose-Clark -125
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -290, under +245
How much time has PVZ actually spent improving her game? The 23-year old has plenty of raw talent, but she’s also been tied up with TV opportunities for most of the past year. It’s going to take a lot for her to evolve into more than a swarmer, and we doubt that it happens in a single fight camp.
Clark happens to be a solid counterstriker, making this a poor matchup for the aggressive PVZ. Plus, Clark is moving down from bantamweight and VanZant is moving up from strawweight. VanZant doesn’t fare so well when she can’t bully her opponent, and that’s likely not happening here. In a standup battle, we’re taking the more polished Clark.
Our Pick: Clark to win at -125
Michael Johnson -155 vs. Darren Elkins +125
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -200, under +170
Johnson’s easily the better striker, but Elkins is by far the better grappler. Whoever can dictate where this fight takes place is the man you want to back. In this case, we lean towards Elkins. Johnson – for all his talent – can be broken by an iron-willed fighter like Elkins. And when Elkins is able to get on top, he’s basically a poor man’s Khabib Nurmagomedov – a name that probably still gives Johnson nightmares.
However, we can’t blame you if you’re wearing about picking a winner – Johnson is the superior athlete and talent. You don’t maintain a top-10 ranking at lightweight for years – with wins over Dustin Poirier and Edson Barboza – without the ability to beast. That makes the safest play the rounds over, as this looks to be a long, drawn out dogfight.
Our Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -200
Emil Meek +425 vs. Kamaru Usman -550
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -135, under +115
This could be a showcase fight for Usman, but if he’s not careful it could end very, very badly. Meek looks like a monster and hits like one too. But “The Nigerian Nightmare” is also finding his striking groove under Henri Hooft – a scary thought since he was already a powerhouse wrestler to begin with.
There’s a very good chance that the faster Usman could win a boxing match with a one-dimensional puncher like Meek, but the reason why he’s such a big favorite here is that he can fall back on his wrestling. Usman to win is an easy play, and a strong enough one to use as a parlay booster. The rounds over offers a better payout, and takes Meek’s toughness into account.
Our Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -135
Check out the latest UFC Fight Night 124 betting odds.