Yves Edwards Breaks Down 3 Key Matchups at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi
As UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi draws closer, retired UFC veteran and current FOX analyst Yves Edwards will lend his expertise in studio this weekend ahead of the first card of the year for the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
While the upcoming UFC Fight Night card lost its original co-main event on Saturday with Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall being scratched, there are still plenty of intriguing matchups taking place.
At the top of the card, a featherweight slugfest is about to go down as heavy-handed striker Jeremy Stephens looks to stop the hype train surrounding Dooho Choi after his ‘Fight of the Year’ performance back in 2016.
Also on the card, Paige VanZant will make her long awaited debut at 125 pounds as she takes on veteran fighter Jessica-Rose Clark and finally Kamaru Usman looks to keep his undefeated UFC record in tact when he faces Emil Meek in a featured bout in the welterweight division.
Edwards gave his thoughts on those three fights and the biggest storylines surrounding each going into Sunday night.
WHO HAS THE BETTER CHIN?
In the main event, Stephens will look to hand Choi his second straight defeat after the young South Korean fighter suffered a loss to Cub Swanson back in 2016 before missing all of 2017 due to injury.
Choi looked unstoppable before he was tested by Swanson but Stephens truly believes he has the power to put him away. On that same note, Stephens has only been finished by strikes one time in his career, which means it’s going to be awfully hard for Choi to get the job done inside his first five round fight.
“They’re going to trade and you get five rounds of that,” Edwards said about the main event. “They both envision a knockout and you know they can both take a punch as well. Choi showed it in that fight with Cub [Swanson] and Jeremy has only been knocked out once in his entire career. This is a fight that’s going to be fireworks from beginning to end. I can’t wait.”
Stephens has said in the lead up to the fight that Choi has shown great promise but also received a ton of praise for his performance against Swanson yet he was eating far more shots than he was firing back in return.
If anything, Stephens believes that Choi’s ability to survive earned him the accolades for that fight as much as anything he did offensively.
Edwards agrees that Choi has shown incredible durability during his UFC career but so has Stephens and that’s why this fight may be determined by who can take the most punishment and still keep coming.
“We know Jeremy hits hard and I believe Jeremy hits harder than Cub Swanson. Can Dooho Choi take a solid shot from a guy like Jeremy Stephens?” Edwards said. “That we don’t know but at the same time, the only guy that Dooho Choi didn’t knock out in his UFC career is Cub Swanson. That’s because Cub rolls with his punches really well. He took some big shots and he did get hurt a couple of times in that fight but he stuck through it and I think that’s a tribute to his ability to roll with shots and being off the line and not taking shots straight down the middle.
“This fight, I believe is going to come down to who really has the better chin cause these guys are definitely gonna hit each other.”
IS THIS MAKE OR BREAK FOR PAIGE VANZANT?
Paige VanZant has been one of the most talked about fighters on the UFC roster since she first arrived in the promotion but she’s been unable to crack the top five rankings at 115 pounds with losses to both Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson.
Now VanZant will move up to flyweight after she struggled through a couple of brutal weight cuts to fight at 115 pounds and she believes this move will be a huge improvement for her career.
That being said, VanZant will be giving up size to some big opponents now cutting weight to compete at 125 pounds and she’ll face a stiff test from second time UFC fighter Jessica-Rose Clark on Sunday night.
While there will certainly be a lot of eyes on the fight, Edwards doesn’t see this as a do or die moment for VanZant even if she suffers a setback against Clark.
“I don’t believe it’s a make or break fight for Paige at 125 pounds,” Edwards explained. “She’s got bigger legs and sometimes it’s tough to get that weight off so I think that will help her not cutting as much weight at flyweight. She uses those legs well. We saw what she did with the switch kick against Bec Rawlings. She’s dynamic, she’s got those powerful legs and going up, she’s going to be stronger and she’s going have more energy. So I don’t believe it’s do or die for her at 125.
“I believe she’s going to be a lot more comfortable there and I think this is a great fight for her. I believe she’s going to be the faster athlete and if she can keep this fight on the outside and stay long, I think that’s going to be her best chance to win.”
BEST PROSPECT AT 170 POUNDS?
Former “Ultimate Fighter” winner Kamaru Usman will look to keep his undefeated streak in the UFC alive this weekend as he faces Emil Meek on the main card from St. Louis.
Usman has been considered one of the best prospects in the welterweight division and he walks into his fight as the biggest favorite on the entire card.
According to Edwards, the hype surrounding Usman is very real and perhaps the scariest thing about this welterweight prospect is that he keeps getting better with every fight.
“When I watch Kamaru Usman, every time he comes out there he shows a marked improvement,” Edwards said. “Whether it be some new skills or some of the skills he already had just sharpened. He’s a wrestler, he’s a wrestler at heart and he’s a wrestler to the end but his striking has consistently improved. His fight IQ is very, very high.”
Usman will definitely be tested but with a win he’s already said that he plans on asking the UFC to finally give him a higher ranked opponent for his next fight in 2018.
Can Usman pull off the win? Will VanZant get the job done in her flyweight debut? Whose chin will hold up in the main event? It all goes down on Sunday night at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.