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Jeremy Stephens picked up a big win in the UFC's first headliner of 2018

The ninth-ranked featherweight stopped Doo Ho Choi in the second round of last night’s main event.

PA-32732963 Jeremy Stephens was victorious at UFC Fight Night 124 (file pic). Source: JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press/PA Images

JEREMY STEPHENS ONCE claimed in a press-conference exchange with Conor McGregor to be the hardest-hitting fighter in the UFC’s featherweight division.

McGregor may have embarrassed him at the time with his “Who the fuck is that guy?” retort, but Stephens showed in the main event at UFC Fight Night 124 that there may have been substance to his boast regarding his punching power.

As the UFC kicked off its 2018 schedule last night in St Louis, Missouri, Stephens picked up his second successive victory — which took his professional record to 27-14 — by stopping the highly-regarded Doo Ho Choi in the second round of the headliner.

Stephens had found the target several times before eventually putting his South Korean opponent down with a ferocious overhand right. The 31-year-old American followed up with punches and elbows while in Choi’s half-guard and the fight was swiftly stopped.

The bout also delivered a second ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus in a row for both men. Stephens went into last night’s card on the back of his entertaining unanimous-decision victory over Gilbert Melendez back in September.

Choi (14-3), who’s set for a lengthy lay-off as he prepares to complete his mandatory two-year military service in South Korea, has now suffered back-to-back losses. The 26-year-old, ranked 13th in the 145-pound division prior to last night’s defeat, lost to Cub Swanson 13 months ago in what was widely selected as ‘Fight of the Year’ for 2016.

Elsewhere on last night’s bill — which drew an attendance of 10,052 to the Scottrade Center in St Louis — there were significant main-card victories for Jessica-Rose Clark, Kamaru Usman and in-form veteran Darren Elkins, who took his win streak to six.

Despite being dominated in the opening round of his meeting with Michael Johnson, who was making his featherweight debut, Elkins rallied in the second frame and eventually submitted Johnson via rear-naked choke after scoring an early takedown.

Tenth-ranked Usman made a strong statement in the welterweight division by dominating Norway’s Emil Weber Meek. The unanimous-decision win took the Nigerian’s UFC record to 7-0 (12-1 overall in MMA) since his July 2015 debut.

A tough week for Clark ended on a positive note as she got the nod from the judges at the expense of Paige VanZant, who complained at the end of the first round that she had broken her arm. It was a third win in a row for Clark, with the Australian flyweight revealing earlier in the week that burglars killed her cat and stole $30,000 of goods from her Las Vegas home while she was in St Louis for the fight.

On the prelims, perhaps the most impressive performance came from Irene Aldana. The Mexican bantamweight utilised her precise striking to get the better of Brazil’s Talita Bernardo over three rounds.

UFC Fight Night 124 results

  • Jeremy Stephens def. Doo Ho Choi via TKO (punches and elbows) after 2:36 of round two
  • Jessica-Rose Clark def. Paige VanZant via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Kamaru Usman def. Emil Weber Meek via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Darren Elkins def. Michael Johnson via submission (rear-naked choke) after 2:22 of round two
  • James Krause def. Alex White via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Polo Reyes def. Matt Frevola via KO (punch) after 1:00 of round one
  • Irene Aldana def. Talita Bernardo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Kyung Ho Kang def. Guido Cannetti via submission (triangle choke) after 4:53 of round one
  • Jessica Eye def. Kalindra Faria via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • JJ Aldrich def. Danielle Taylor via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Mads Burnell def. Mike Santiago via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

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Paul Dollery

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