Las Vegan Jessica-Rose Clark capped a difficult week in her personal life with the biggest win of her professional career.
Clark controlled flyweight star Paige VanZant on the mat for the majority of the first 10 minutes and captured a unanimous decision on the main card of UFC Fight Night 124 in St. Louis on Sunday night.
The thrill of the victory came just three days after the agony of her house near Wigwam Avenue and the 215 Beltway being robbed as she was in St. Louis cutting weight and fulfilling the last of her media obligations for the fight.
The suspects made off with an estimated $30,000 worth of electronics and clothes belonging to Clark and her housemates, according to the 30-year-old fighter. But the suspects also kicked a cat Clark raised with her housemates that had to be euthanized due to its injuries.
“It was so hard,” Clark said after her win. “Everything was really tough trying to get that out of my head and focus on the fight, but we did what we needed to do.
“I had a stressful week and I did let the stress get to me a bit so, for now, I just want to get home and I will figure out the rest later.”
Clark improved to 2-0 in the UFC after she won a late-notice debut in November. She smothered VanZant throughout much of the first two rounds and held off a late charge with VanZant firing off a variety of kicks and left hands after she appeared to hurt her right arm.
“I feel good,” Clark said. “I had a lot more that I wanted to show out there tonight but that happens and I felt that I dominated the fight. I knew coming in that I was the better fighter and I worked hard to show that. I feel I’m one of the best women in the world and I can’t wait to see who the UFC is going to give me next.”
VanZant, a star both in the UFC and Hollywood after several reality show appearances, has now lost two straight fights and three of her last four.
She had hoped the move up to the new 125-pound division would improve her performance by easing some of the burdensome weight cut, but Clark smothered her for long stretches.
Stephens wins main event
In the main event, veteran featherweight Jeremy Stephens handed “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi his second straight loss when he dropped him with a right hand and finished with punches and elbows on the mat at 2:36 of the second round.
“Doo Ho Choi is a really tough competitor and I want to thank him for coming over from Korea for this,” Stephens said. “He’s really tough and a great representative for the sport.”
Stephens has now won two consecutive fights since a three-fight winning streak in 2013 and 2014.
“I want to fight every person ranked above me,” he said. “For now, I’m going home to spend time with my family.”
Winning streak grows for Usman
Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman extended his winning streak to 11 and improved to 7-0 in the UFC by sweeping the scorecards in a decision win over Emil Meek.
Usman, a former Division II national champion wrestler, took Meek down in all three rounds and rarely let him find any breathing room as he maintained top control throughout the bout.
He said he was limited in the bout, though he declined to elaborate.
“I fought this fight at about 30 percent and I still dominated a tough, so-called viking,” Usman said. “I said from the start he wouldn’t be able to hang with me. No one can.”
Usman says he has had trouble finding opponents due to his suffocating style, but he wants to fight Colby Covington next.
“I’m the most dominant and well-rounded welterweight on the planet,” he said. “That’s why they’re all afraid to fight me. Colby, you can run, but you can’t hide. I’m coming for you.”
Elkins tops Johnson
Darren Elkins kicked off the main card by spoiling Michael Johnson’s featherweight debut with a second-round submission victory.
Elkins rallied after he was battered during the first round, a slow start typical of Elkins during his current six-fight winning streak.
“This was one of the biggest wins of my career and I think I am due for some respect,” Elkins said. “Michael Johnson came to fight tonight and we had a fun one but I had been practicing that submission throughout my camp. When the opportunity came, I took it and that’s how I fight.”
Johnson had hoped the drop to 145 pounds would help him get back on track after dropping four of his last five at lightweight.
Instead, he lost his third consecutive fight.
Lightweight Polo Reyes highlighted the preliminary card with a first-round knockout of Matt Frevola, who earned a contract with a win on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.”
The only other stoppage was Kyung Ho Kang’s first-round submission of bantamweight Guido Cannetti.
Jessica Eye made a successful women’s flyweight debut with a split-decision win over Kalindra Faria after dropping her final four fights at bantamweight. James Krause returned to lightweight with a unanimous-decision win over Alex White.
Irene Aldana dominated the standup to win all three rounds over Talita Bernardo. Also, JJ Aldrich and Mads Burnell picked up unanimous-decision victories.
UFC Fight Night 124
Results of Sunday’s main card fights at Scottrade Center in St. Louis
Jeremy Stephens def. Doo Ho Choi, featherweights, knockout, Round 2 (2:36).
Jessica-Rose Clark def. Paige VanZant, women’s flyweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Kamaru Usman def. Emil Meek, welterweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Darren Elkins def. Michael Johnson, featherweights, submission, Round 2 (2:22).