Diggin’ Deep on UFC St. Louis: Stephens vs. Choi – Fight Pass preview

Outside of your typical Fight Pass exclusive event, I can’t remember the last time a card featured five contests on the Fight Pass portion…

By: Dayne Fox | 5 years ago
Diggin’ Deep on UFC St. Louis: Stephens vs. Choi – Fight Pass preview
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Outside of your typical Fight Pass exclusive event, I can’t remember the last time a card featured five contests on the Fight Pass portion of a card. Nonetheless, I can’t deny that I’m not excited about UFC St. Louis featuring that many online contests as it means less FS1 pacing. I understand the fights could end quickly and leave plenty of time for dead air, but I would rather take that than an assault of commercials repeated over and over and over and over… you get the idea. Sure, we’ll still have to deal with them for the televised prelims and the main card, but the less time we’ll have to watch those commercials, the better!

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT on Sunday.

Kalindra Faria (18-6-1) vs. Jessica Eye (11-6, 1 NC), Women’s Flyweight

Given the recent performances of Faria and Eye, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is looking forward to this contest. Faria in particular looked nothing like the fighter everyone knew her to be in her UFC debut against Mara Romero Borella. Granted, she didn’t have a chance to show off her striking prowess, but the assumption was that she would at least appear competent on the ground. Instead, her guard was passed like it wasn’t there and she was subbed in less than three minutes. The general consensus is that performance was an aberration as she took the contest on short notice.

That’s because Eye rarely looks to take the ground, preferring to play face-punchy with her opponents. Eye typically starts out confident, landing her punches often and with efficiency. However, her opponent either lands a hard shot or makes an adjustment to swing the momentum their way and Eye crumbles, giving away the fight. When she’s rolling, Eye can overwhelm with volume. Her offensive prowess is good enough that she could become a contender… provided she shores up her defense enough to maintain her confidence.

I don’t feel confident picking either fighter. Faria looked horrible against Borella while Eye perennially underachieves. That doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to pick either fighter. Eye fighting at flyweight should make her less prone to the takedowns – provided Faria tries to go that route – and Faria shouldn’t be judged by that one bad appearance. Faria is a very skilled Muay Thai practitioner with plus power, meaning this should be a competitive scrap. Regardless, I’m going with Eye based on her athletic edge and durability. Eye via decision

Talita Bernardo (5-2) vs. Irene Aldana (7-4), Women’s Bantamweight

Despite being touted as one of the better prospects at women’s bantamweight, Aldana has yet to pick up a win in two UFC contests. Granted, Leslie Smith and Katlyn Chookagian are solid opponents, but expectations were high for the native of Mexico. A skilled boxer, Aldana has ignored head movement and footwork as the basic pillars of a solid defense, which has been her downfall in her UFC career. However, the contests have been competitive as her power doesn’t exactly make a firefight a completely idiotic plan to attempt.

Bernardo filled in for an injured Germaine de Randamie back in September, giving Marion Reneau a run for her money with a ground game that challenged the skilled grappler on multiple occasions. An aggressive submission specialist, Bernardo will snatch whatever limb will leave available and attempt to elicit a quick tapout. It did get her into trouble at times against Aldana, but she also methodically worked her way out of sticky situations. Her striking leaves much to be desired, but Bernardo is also young in the sport and likely to make leaps and bounds in her progress.

Pretty much a striker vs. grappler, one of Aldana’s biggest strengths has been stuffing takedowns. That doesn’t bode well for Bernardo, who relied heavily on low kicks against Reneau for her striking arsenal. Unless she can secure a quick takedown, expect this to be a tough night for the Brazilian. Aldana via decision

Danielle Taylor (9-2) vs. JJ Aldrich (5-2), Women’s Strawweight

A true atomweight, Taylor pops a surprising amount of power in her tiny frame. Primarily an in-and-out striker, she’s heavily reliant upon her explosiveness to avoid return fire. She has developed great timing on her counters while her tiny frame makes it difficult for opponents to get under her hips and get her down to the ground. Taylor has also learned to supplement her lack of volume with low kicks. Well… at least that is what she did against Jessica Penne.

Aldrich’s approach is far more traditional. A combination boxer, Aldrich also showed better timing on her counters in her last appearance. However, she also had an opponent that defined aggression in Chan Mi Jeon. How will she react against a far more disciplined opponent in Taylor? Aldrich’s defense is lacking and she’s an average athlete at best. That doesn’t bode well for her ability to climb the strawweight ladder.

Aldrich is about as game as they come. She simply doesn’t have many plus physical skills to utilize. Despite her lack of size, Taylor possesses some special talents. Granted, her lack of size will prevent her from becoming a contender at 115, but it’ll be enough to dispose of Aldrich. Taylor via decision

Mads Burnell (8-2) vs. Mike Santiago (21-10), Featherweight

Taking a short notice contest against Michel Prazeres at lightweight for his UFC debut, the 23-year old Burnell was completely overwhelmed by the experienced Brazilian. Now fighting in his natural weight class with a full camp, look for Burnell to look much improved. It isn’t like Santiago is a walk in the park though. A tough veteran who has seen just about everything before finally making his own way into the UFC on short notice, Santiago’s pressure will be difficult for the Dane to overcome. Though he has secured almost half of his wins by submission, Santiago’s power has developed nicely as of late, putting together wicked punching combinations.

Burnell’s own striking is still developing and unlikely to hold a candle to what Santiago brings. Where Burnell has overwhelmed opponents is on the ground as his natural strength has allowed him to ragdoll some of his opponents on the European scene while being particularly effective at nabbing chokes from the front headlock position. However, he hasn’t faced any notable competition there and Santiago is very efficient on the ground himself. Given Santiago’s aggression, I’ll be surprised to see Burnell make it to the final bell. Santiago via TKO of RD2

Kyung Ho Kang (13-7, 1 NC) vs. Guido Cannetti (7-3), Bantamweight

You’re forgiven if you forgot about Kang as he has spent the last three years serving his mandatory military service for South Korea. It will be interesting to see how much cage rust affects the formerly fresh-faced prospect, though it should be noted fellow Korean Chan Sung Jung didn’t seem to have any negative effects upon his return. Then again, different strokes for different folks. However, Cannetti is also returning from a long layoff – two years – thanks to a USADA violation.

Kang relied heavily on scrambles and takedowns in his first UFC run. Proving difficult to takedown himself, Kang struggled with wily grapplers such as Alex Caceres and Chico Camus. Fortunately for him, Cannetti isn’t much of a wrestler or grappler, preferring to throw fisticuffs. Cannetti’s got more than a little bit of power, but he also tends to get himself into trouble due to his overaggressive nature. Though Cannetti’s takedown defense has looked good thus far, he hasn’t faced anyone known for their wrestling prowess yet. Expect Kang to get Cannetti to the ground and grab a submission before 15 minutes is up. Kang via submission of RD2

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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