“The last time Doo Ho Choi walked into the Octagon was 13 months ago against Cub Swanson. A lot of hype was behind him. He was on a 12-fight winning streak, 10 of which were knockouts. He was 3-0 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and all three of his wins were first-round knockouts. Even though he was ranked 11th in the official UFC rankings and Swanson was fourth, Choi was still the favorite. Choi was a promising prospect, an exciting fighter from a region ripe with potential. Swanson was a fairly known commodity who increasingly fit the bill as a featherweight gatekeeper, boasting the most wins in World Extreme Cagefighting-UFC featherweight history but having suffered losses to the division’s elite more often than the opposite. An exciting standup affair was expected, and it looked as if a memorable win against a top-five opponent was in the cards for “The Korean Superboy.” All the stars were aligned for a coming-out party. The fight was indeed spectacular, but the result was not what was expected: Choi lost a competitive decision in one of the year’s best fights.
Choi returns in the UFC Fight Night 124 main event against Jeremy Stephens on Saturday in St. Louis. The specifics have changed, but the general idea is the same. Stephens is ranked higher at No. 9, but the 13th-ranked Choi is the favorite, albeit with narrower odds. Stephens is looking more and more like a tough gatekeeper to weed out the weak from jumping in the deep-end of the division, and the style matchup of two heavy-hitting standup specialists should result in an exciting fight. Especially since the Swanson loss did little to derail his hype, the stars have once again aligned for Choi to make a jump to the next level.
Regardless of the outcome, however, Choi faces an even larger, more insurmountable foe on the horizon: compulsory military service in the South Korean army…”