Kicking off UFC Fight Night 79’s main card is an exciting featherweight contest between Doo Ho Choi and Sam Sicilia. This is the UFC’s third attempt at putting this fight together, as Choi withdrew from the first two scheduled matchups due to injuries he sustained while training. Doo Ho Choi (12-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC, -240 favorite) Choi, a native of South Korea, makes his second trip the Octagon after an 18 second knockout of Juan Manuel Puig in November of 2014. The hyped prospect was actually scheduled to face Sicilia in May of 2014, but had to pull out due to injury. Following his win over Puig, the two were then rebooked for UFC Fight Night 71 in July. However, Choi again pulled out due to injury and Sicilia ended up fighting Yaotzin Meza. The 24 year old racked up a 6-1 record while competing for Deep, a promotion that is based in Japan. Choi is a potent striker that works at a quick pace and utilizes a great shot selection. He works quickly in the pocket, often throwing blistering combinations that can overwhelm his opponents. Choi’s 1-2 combination is potent and he throws it often. Additionally, the South Korean employs well-timed uppercuts, straight right hands, and knees. While he is not an overwhelming power striker, his shot selection, accuracy, and pace lead to him getting a lot of knockouts. Choi usually has enough takedown defense to stifle his opposition, but it is not by any means infallible. Off his back he is aggressive and often goes to the armbar/triangle/omoplata series. Trip takedowns from the clinch are sometimes utilized by Choi, but he usually prefers to work on his feet. The South Korean has not faced the toughest opposition, so it is hard to say how high his ceiling actually is, but he is a hyped prospect at the moment. Sam Sicilia (15-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC, +200 underdog) The heavy handed Sicilia is a veteran of season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, which is the only season of th show that utilized a live format. While his UFC career has been up and down, he enters this fight as the winner of two in a row and three out of his last four. Sicilia is a member of the Sikjitsu fight team in Spokane, Washington. The team has been growing steadily and currently counts Sicilia, Michael Chiesa, Julianna Pena, and Elizabeth Phillips as their core members. As I mentioned, this is the third time this fight has been scheduled, something that Sicilia was not at all happy about. The Washington native owns victories over Akira Corassani, Godofredo Pepey, Yaotzin Meza, and Aaron Phillips. The 29 year old Sicilia is a bruising brawler with heavy hands and decent wrestling chops. While he often guns it out on the fight, he has been more proactive in looking for takedowns and working from top control in recent fights. Sicilia works at a much slower pace on the feet than Choi, but he throws bombs when he decides to unload. A heavy right hand, left hook, and a few leg kicks are about all Sicilia throws on the feet. He is not a great striker by any means but has the power to put anyone’s lights out. Fighters that can outwork him and stay away from his power have generally had success against him. Cardio has been a problem for Sicilia at times, but he has improved that in recent fights. While he is known predominantly for his knockout power, Sicilia also is a pretty scrappy wrestler. He is actually underrated in that regard. Sicilia can hit doubles in open space and also possesses a decent arsenal of takedowns from the clinch. From top position he mainly prefers to lay in his opponent’s guard and land steady ground and pound. When his opponent gives him their neck he has a decent guillotine, but he is usually not a big submission threat. Solid takedown defense rounds out Sicilia’s game. Thoughts This is definitely an interesting matchup, one that has a good shot at ending early. Choi is a promising prospect but he has not fought competition that is on the UFC level. Sicilia can test Choi’s takedown defense and chin, especially early. While this has the making to end violently on either side, I think the edge here goes to the hometown fighter. Choi will have an edge on the feet, as he works at a much quicker pace and puts his combinations together better. Further, his well-timed knees and right hands should be able to find a home on the hittable Sicilia. It will be interesting to see if Sicilia tries to bang it out on the feet or look for takedowns and work his top game. In the end I don’t think it will matter, as Choi will land a big right hand or knee and earn his second consecutive UFC win. The Prediction: Doo Ho Choi defeats Sam Sicilia by knockout (round 1)
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