Last Updated: 2018-01-10
The city of St. Louis, Missouri will host its first UFC event with this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 124 that features a main event of Jeremy Stephens against Doo Ho Choi. Four women’s fights on the card, including a quality bout in the women’s flyweight division between Paige VanZant and Jessica Rose-Clark. In total, fight fans will be treated to 13 matches.
Our breakdown of the UFC Fight Night 124 card will highlight the main card, but we’ll also take a look at the five preliminary card scraps that can be seen on UFC Fight Pass and the four prelims on the Fox Sports 1 portion of the broadcast. Lines will be from our friends at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Kyung Ho Kang and Guido Cannetti get us underway. Kang is a big -335 favorite with a total of 2.5 (ov -115) in the bantamweight division. Kang has won his last two UFC fights, while Cannetti brings a 1-1 record to this fight. He hasn’t fought since UFC 190 when he beat Hugo Viana for his first career UFC win. The 38-year-old is giving up some size and athleticism here, hence the big line.
Mike Santiago is a -170 favorite for his bout against Mads Burnell. Burnell is +150 in his second career UFC fight after tapping out against Michel Prazeres back in September during his debut. Santiago lost his UFC debut to Zabit Magomedsharipov on that same card. Santiago has more experience and a better list of opponents, so he is the favorite, but Burnell could very well be live, since he has a strong ground game and Santiago does not.
Danielle Taylor and JJ Aldrich square off in the only women’s featherweight fracas of the night. Aldrich is a -130 favorite in a fight expected to go the distance with the juice on over 2.5 at -325. Aldrich is one up and one down in UFC, with a win over Chanmi Jeon in her last fight. Taylor is 2-1 in UFC with wins over Jessica Penne and Seo Hee Ham in her last two fights. She certainly feels live here.
Talita Bernardo will try for better fortunes in her second UFC fight as she takes on Irene Aldana. Bernardo fell six seconds short of going the distance with Marion Reneau on the same card that Santiago and Burnell fought on, which was back on September 2. Bernardo is a long shot dog at +190 against Aldana, who comes in at -230 off of consecutive losses. Aldana, who had a title shot in 2015 against Tonya Evinger in Invicta, is still looking for her first UFC win. She should get it here against a weaker opponent than her first two.
Kalindra Faria squares off against Jessica Eye in women’s flyweight action to finish up the Fight Pass portion of the show. Faria tapped out in her UFC debut at UFC 216 to the rear naked choke of Mara Romero Borella. She was a titleholder in Titan FC before making the leap to UFC. Eye desperately needs a win. She has fallen to 11-6 with four straight losses against Miesha Tate, Juliana Pena, Sara McMann, and Bethe Correia. Eye, who trains with next week’s main event fighter Stipe Miocic, should be desperate in this fight, but you can see how far she’s fallen in that she’s only a -115 favorite against a relative unknown with far less UFC experience.
Thiago Alves and Zak Cummings get us started on Fox Sports 1. Cummings is a -210 favorite for this bout at 170 pounds. The strength of Cummings’s ground game looks to be the difference here. He has never been knocked out and Alves wants to stand upright and strike. With Cummings likely to get this one to the ground, he’ll secure top control and have the upper hand. Alves’s win over Patrick Cote in April showed that he has something left in the tank, but who knows how much.
Polo Reyes finds himself a +190 underdog against Matt Frevola in the lightweight division. This is the UFC debut for Frevola and he walks into it as a -230 favorite, so somebody out there thinks very highly of the 27-year-old. Frevola showed well in RFC and won by unanimous decision in his only Titan FC scrap. He’s giving up some size and experience to Reyes, but this line is certainly high for a reason.
Alex White is +135 against favorite James Krause, who is -155, for the first of two welterweight scraps on the docket. White picked up a nice win over Mitch Clarke at UFC 215 in his last fight and has a pretty decent win over Artem Lobov on his resume. All three of White’s losses have come in UFC. He fought twice in 2017, which marked the first time since 2014 that he fought twice in a year. The 29-year-old is hoping to pull a nice upset over Krause, who has won three straight, but not over anybody notable. Both guys have quality ground games and this one is likely to go to the cards with the juice on over 2.5 at -175.
Featherweights Darren Elkins and Michael Johnson are going in opposite directions. Elkins has won five straight while Johnson has dropped four of his last five. Johnson has fought a much more impressive collection of opponents, which is why he is a -150 favorite. Elkins has needed all 15 minutes in four of his last five fights, so he doesn’t possess high-upside striking power. Johnson has lost to some heavy hitters like Justin Gaethje, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz, and Beneil Dariush. This looks like a confidence-building bout for Johnson, who really needs one.
Emil Weber Meek (+450) vs. Kamaru Usman (-600); Total: 2.5 (-135/115)
This fight was originally set for UFC 219, but some visa issues popped up for Emil Weber Meek and the fight was pushed back to UFC 220. With a loaded card already in place for that event, the fight was moved up a week to January 14. Meek won his UFC debut over Jordan Mein with a unanimous decision win all the way back at UFC 206. The 29-year-old Norwegian won the Venator title and then got signed to UFC. This will be Meek’s first fight on US soil, hence the visa issues. He missed a lot of time in 2017 with an injury, so we’ll have to see how quickly he knocks off the cage rust…or if he can at all.
Kamaru Usman is a bad dude. He has dictated the pace and tempo of most of his UFC fights, but his first-round knockout of Sergio Moraes in his most recent fight was the first time that we’ve really been able to see the raw power. Each of his previous four fights went the distance, but he won them all by unanimous decision. Usman won TUF 21 with a submission win over Hayder Hassan and is perfect in UFC to date. Usman’s terrific wrestling background has been an asset for him and the reason why he has been in control of so many fights.
Pick: Kamaru Usman
That should be the case here as well. There isn’t much meat on the bone in terms of price, so this fight really doesn’t have a whole lot of betting intrigue, but Usman’s ground game will be too much for Meek, who hasn’t seen many fighters with this level of wrestling proficiency.
Jessica Rose-Clark (-125) vs. Paige VanZant (+105); Total: 2.5 (-280/240)
Jessica Rose-Clark is the preferred fighter in the betting market in the lead-up to UFC Fight Night 124. The Australia native won her UFC debut over Bec Rawlings via split decision, marking her seventh straight fight to go all 15 minutes. The 30-year-old won that fight in Sydney, so it had to mean a lot to her to pick up that first UFC win. Making weight has been a problem for Rose-Clark, as she missed weight in that fight and also missed weight in TTF back in 2015.
The line move and the preference of the betting market does make some sense here. It’s fair to wonder how much longer Paige VanZant does MMA. She’s done a lot of other appearances and modeling work. She was also the runner-up on Dancing With The Stars not that long ago. She hasn’t fought in over a year, when she lost by first-round submission to Michelle Waterson. VanZant isn’t as invested in MMA as she used to be and it showed in that fight. On the other hand, she’s not that far removed from beating Bec Rawlings by knockout on August 27, 2016.
Pick: Jessica Rose-Clark
VanZant’s all-or-nothing style could present a problem for Rose-Clark, whose fights are a lot more methodical in nature. Each of the last four fights for VanZant has ended in some sort of stoppage. Rose-Clark goes the distance a lot. This line suggests that this fight will, but VanZant may not allow that to happen. Gambling on the under 2.5 at +240 might be worthy of a play.
Vitor Belfort (+250) vs. Uriah Hall (-300); Total: 1.5 (140/-160)
Fireworks are expected in this fight between Vitor Belfort and Uriah Hall with heavy juice on a quick finish. The 40-year-old Belfort has had a storied UFC career and his win over Nate Marquardt at UFC 212 is a sign that there’s still something left. This is the last fight on Belfort’s current contract, so we’ll see if he fights for pride or if he fights for another deal. A good showing here would certainly help his future earning potential, but it could also allow him to ride off into the sunset on a high note. Belfort’s win over Marquardt came via decision, however, so how much is left in the tank is still up for debate.
That debate isn’t there about Uriah Hall. Hall got a much needed win over Krzysztof Jotko back in September after losing three straight fights. Hall took a beating in the first round and managed to stay upright long enough to turn the tide of the fight in his favor. Perhaps he gets a little bit of a bounce from that one. That being said, the 33-year-old has one win in the last 2.5 years and he’s a -300 favorite over a very experienced, very technically sound fighter.
Pick: Vitor Belfort
The value in this line is on Belfort. Hall hasn’t really shown the ability to put too many fighters away. The caveat is that Belfort is no longer on the level of guys like Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson, or Robert Whittaker, but he’s still enough of a competitor that this line looks a little bit too high.
Jeremy Stephens (+135) vs. Doo Ho Choi (-155); Total: 1.5 (-235/195)
Fresh off of a big win against Gilbert Melendez, Jeremy Stephens finds himself in the underdog role for the main event at UFC Fight Night 124. Stephens will face off against Doo Ho Choi at 145 pounds in his 41st professional fight. Stephens is looking to build his profile back up and this is a fight that he needs to win in order to do that. There is no shame in losing to guys like Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar, but his Fight Night loss in April to Renato Carneiro in what was supposed to be a bounce back fight did hurt.
It will be interesting to see how Doo Ho Choi responds to his first loss in 6.5 years. Choi lost to Cub Swanson by unanimous decision to end a long string of KO/TKO victories. He is 3-1 in his UFC career with two performance of the night bonuses and a fight of the night bonus for that loss to Swanson at UFC 206. Choi spent most of 2017 recovering from injuries and now returns to the cage looking to take advantage of Stevens’s recent slide.
Pick: Doo Ho Choi
The striking power of Choi really stands out here. Stephens has 17 knockout wins, but hasn’t had one since July 2015. He has only been knocked out once, but Choi is a pretty heavy hitter for this weight class and could inflict some early-round damage that will dictate the rest of the fight. Obviously Stephens has a more impressive resume and a pretty good chin, but Choi is a big favorite for a reason and should take care of business as his career continues to progress.
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