UFC Fight Night 123 Main Card
Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
Brian Ortega is a talented fighter with dangerous finishing ability. You cannot count this guy out of any fight even if he is down every round. He has finished his last 4 fights in the 3rd and final round. He has a fantastic chin, and recovers very well from big blows if he ever does get in trouble. His cardio is insane. He starts round three of every fight as if it’s round one. He has good footwork to move around the cage. He has decent power on his punches when he decides to sit on them and trade punches. And his ground game is absolutely insane. His flaws would be that he is hittable, and that he lets his opponents take control of fights with forward pressure. He is very suseptable to eating big overhand hooks when he is backing up. Another thing that stands out is that he never goes for takedowns. He is always content with getting out struck on the feet and will lose the round without trying to get this fight down to his expertise, Jiu-Jitsu. If anyone shoots a takedown on him he is immediately going for the guillotine every single time without much success (except for his last fight, so maybe he is getting better at finishing with that move). I do see a bright future for him in the Featherweight division, but he does need to start finding ways to get his fights down to the ground more often. He cannot rely on guys fading in the 3rd round as he moves up and faces guys that are in the top 10 of the division. If he can continue to improve, I think he can become a big threat, and a fan favorite for many years to come.
Cub Swanson has been one of my favorite fighters for the last 9 years. He is always in your face, and will throw caution to the wind. He loves to press forward with lunging hooks, and off balance kicks. He keeps his hands high for the most part, and can take some damage to land his own strikes. He has great hip tosses from the clinch and is very offensive when he is in top position. His cardio is pretty good, but he does slow down in fights because of the amount of power strikes he throws. He has trouble against wrestlers with strong top control. Ricardo Lamas and Frankie Edgar ran clinics on the mat with Cub Swanson. Cubs style of fighting is best against guys that are huge power punchers without much movement. He is able to pick those guys apart with his diverse striking. As far as his future, I see a guy that is on his way out of the fight game. This fight against Ortega is his last fight on his UFC contract, and win or lose, I see him going to another promotion to make big bucks for the rest of his career. No shame in cashing in while you still have some fight in you.
Prediction: By the looks of it, Cub Swanson will have to fight the perfect fight to win this. He is more than capable of doing so with his crafty offense on the feet. But he has to do way too many things right. He must pace himself and cannot slow down at any moment. He cannot get off balance with his strikes of he will be in danger of the standing guillotine or getting put on his back. Brian Ortega does get hit with a lot of hooks, and has eaten big head-kicks in his previous fights. Both of those things are Cub Swanson’s best offensive moves, but Ortega has one hell of a chin. Ortega has a lot of success when he presses forward with strikes, and that’s what he will have to do to shut down Swanson’s offense. If this fight hits the mat, Ortega should be able to mop the floor with Swanson by threatening with submissions in any position. The problem is that Ortega does not go for takedowns. He is content to stay on the feet even if he is losing a couple rounds.
Ultimately, this fight will come down to who’s the fresher fighter by the time the 3rd and 4th round comes around. That fighter looks to be Brian “T-City” Ortega. I see him eating big shots early in the fight, but he will have success with his strikes if he presses forward. Swanson isn’t the most powerful striker, so Ortega should be able to hang on the feet for a couple rounds. Ortega has phenomenal cardio, and this 5 round fight is well suited for his fight style. Ortega will withstand the early brawl from Swanson, and will start pouring on the pressure as soon as Swanson shows any sign of slowing. Brian Ortega by Submission round 4.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight
Gabriel Benitez is a fundamentally sound fighter. He sticks to the basics at all times. He likes to keep his range and slow fights down with one strike at a time. He has good kicks from the southpaw stance, and a nice straight left down the pipe. He always keeps his hands high, but he does back straight into the cage when his opponents press forward with strikes. With his back against the cage, his opponents are able to tee off on him. When he faces wrestlers they are able to work for takedowns easily against the cage. His takedown defense isn’t the greatest, but he is improving while training at the wrestling heavy AKA gym in San Jose. If he does get taken down to the ground, he is really good at staying active and scrambling back to his feet. His cardio is very good. He was able come forward with a strong pace in his last fight where he kept getting taken down. Gabriel Benitez is a sound fighter, and will give a lot of middle of the pack guys a tough fight, but I can’t see him ever winning against someone that is in the top bottom of the top ten group of fighters in the featherweight division. I respect his technique as a martial artist, and I look forward to watch his fights going forward.
Jason Knight is tough dude that loves to make fights ugly. He loves to brawl when he’s on the feet, but that’s not his strong point. He is great on the ground. He has great control when he is on top, and has the ability to submit you off of his back. On the feet, he has power with his punches. He only throws big power hooks going forward without setting them up with any feints or jabs. He keeps his hands low and his chin straight up. He gets rocked in a lot of his fights, especially since he’s been fighting better fighters. He is young, and has potential to make improvements. But for now, he needs to stick with what he’s best at to win fights and that’s his grappling. His cardio lacks because of the high pace he puts on, and his big power shots that he throws. As far as his future goes in the UFC, he needs to improve his striking and defense if he is going to get anywhere in the division. If he does not fix this problem he might not be able to keep a spot on the roster.
Prediction: This fight is a good match up for both fighters. Both fighters strengths are each others proven weaknesses. I would have to favor Jason Knight because Benitez has shown very poor takedown defense. If Knight gets on top I think he can stay on top and could beat Benitez up until he finds a submission. It’s a clear path to victory for Jason Knight. BUT, and this is a huge but, if for some reason Jason Knight decides to trade on the feet with Benitez, this could be trouble. Benitez is the crisper striker, and can hurt Knight with his straight left. He can pick Knight apart with his powerful inside leg kicks, and body kicks to the liver. If this fight makes it into round 3, those body kicks should exhaust Knight, and Benitez could have a real chance of getting the finish. As for my official prediction, I’m going to lean with Knight. I’m going to assume that he wants to get back into the win column badly, and he will take the path to victory with the least amount of resistance. He will take Benitez down immediately and get the job done from there. Jason Knight by submission, Round 1.
Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling
Marlon Moraes is one of the best fighters in the bantamweight division today. He has proven that by having very close fights against 2 of the hardest guys to defeat in the division. He lost the split decision against the number 3 ranked fighter, Raphael Assuncao, but that fight probably should have gone to Moraes. Coming into this fight against Sterling, Moraes will only be 4 weeks removed from his decision victory over John Dodson. So a short notice fight against a tough guy may be too hard on his body. Marlon Moraes is a threat for anyone on the feet. He has a great kicking game, and has the best leg kicks in the division. His boxing is effective as well because he mixes hooks to the body and the head. He has good takedown defense, an adequate ground game. And he has good cardio every fight, so don’t expect this guy to slow down too much. I see Moraes being a hard guy to finish in this division. He is beatable, but only by a handful of guys. If he holds back like he did against Assuncao, then he might get out pointed by guys like Sterling, a guy that Moraes should beat on paper.
Aljamain Sterling will compete for the 4th time this year against another tough Brazilian fighter. Sterling has good movement on the feet and uses hard kicks with high volume. When he punches, it seems like he is reaching too much and is off balance after he throws them. And I think he can get countered after he throws combinations with his hands. His clinch against the cage is strong, and his top control on the ground is his strongest asset. It seems like his wrestling isn’t the as strong as you’d think, but he ends up on the ground a lot by his opponents slipping or being off balance. But once he gets on top, he has a field day with his strong offensive attack. His cardio seems to have gotten a lot better from his fight with Bryan Caraway almost 2 years ago. I see Sterling becoming a top 5 fighter within the next year or two. I don’t see him ever beating a guy like Dillashaw that’s super well rounded in every facet of the game. But he will have a good career in mixed martial arts.
Prediction: This is a key fight for the Bantamweight division. The winner of this is up for a number one contenders fight against another top contender or a former champion like Dominick Cruz, or Cody Garbrandt. This fight should be one of those fights where both guys are keeping their distance, with both men throwing a lot of hard kicks at each other. Marlon Moraes is by far the better striker with his hands and combinations. He should be able to land big punches on Aljamain Sterling when they trade shots. I can see Sterling trying close the distance against the cage and try to get this fight to the ground with the help of the cage. If Sterling gets this fight down I can see him having success at staying on top until the round each round is over. My biggest concern for Moraes in this fight is for him throwing a kick and slipping, or Sterling catching a kick and ends up on top for the rest of the rounds. But if Moraes keeps this on the feet he should be able to land big eventually with the hands. This fight will be close. Marlon Moraes by Decision.
Darrell Horcher vs. Scott Holtzman
Darrell Horcher is a decent fighter with some potential. He has a very disciplined boxing game with power in his hands. He doesn’t have much footwork to close the distance. He likes to just walk straight after his opponents and counter. He does not throw many kicks at all, but he is good at checking his opponents’ kicks. He has great wrestling and very strong top control. He likes to ride his opponents when on top position. When his opponents go for takedowns, Horcher does have a nice guillotine that he likes to threaten with. He was put into some pretty deep chokes in his last fight, but he managed to escape them all. Overall, I think Horcher is a tough match up for a lot of guys if they do not have good wrestling. If someone can match him in the wrestling I believe he will have close fights. As far as his career goes, he might make it into the top 15, but I don’t think he can evolve into a top contender.
Scott Holtzman is a pretty sound fighter. He trains at the MMA Lab in Arizona with the likes of former champ, Benson Henderson. On the feet, Holtzman has good in and out movement. He has crisp punches and utilizes kicks when he’s at a distance. He also keeps his hands high. His offensive wrestling is okay, but his defensive wrestling isn’t as great as you’d think it would be. Any time his opponents go for takedowns they are usually successful. He also gets eats big counters when he is rushing in with combinations. His cardio is pretty good. He does slow down significantly by the time he makes it to the third round, but he is normally fighting at a high pace. Scott Holtzman is a strong guy with a pretty sound offensive game to go with it, but he can be out worked. He’s a good test for up and comers, but I can’t ever see him going on a big win streak.
Prediction: I see Holtzman coming out the gates strong with his in and out movement. Maybe have some success against the cage with his grappling. But I can't see him as the better wrestler in this fight. He might score a takedown, but he does not have the top control to keep a guy like Horcher down. If Horcher gets on top, I see him having success at riding top postion for long periods of time. As the fight goes on, I see Holtzman slowing down just enough for him to get caught with huge punches from Horcher. If Holtzman isn’t finished with the initial onslaught, I can’t see him having the same “pep in his step” that he would need to win the later rounds. Darrell Horcher by TKO, Round 2.
Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
Eryk Anders is a fresh new talent added to the Middleweight division this past summer. He took a fight against UFC vet Rafael Natal on short notice, and KO’d him with ease in the first round. He likes to apply a lot of pressure and cut off the cage of his opponents. He waits for his opponents to strike so he can counter them with big punches. When the openings are available he will jump on the opportunities to land strikes. It seemed as if he had pretty good takedown defense and good control when he was on top. I think he would be a lot sharper on his defense if he had a full training camp to prepare. This guy is a going to be a threat for the division. He just needs to be brought up slowly to develop his all around game a little bit more before he gets thrown in with the big boys.
Markus Perez was hard a hard guy to find fight footage on. After seeing a couple of his fights, I can’t help but notice that his fighting style and attitude remind me of Fabricio Werdum. He is a very crafty fighter on the feet and especially the ground. He is light on his feet, and shows a lot of feints. He will throw kicks from all angles because he is comfortable on his back if he gets taken down. His overall volume on the feet is lacking. Off of his back he likes to search for the arm triangle from side control or half guard. He pulled off an arm triangle from full guard in his last fight. So the guy is sneaky, but he also can be controlled on the ground. The aging Paulo Thiago had a lot of success in top position when they fought last year. Although he is undefeated, he is beatable if you don’t play to his strengths. I can see him getting a win or two in the UFC, but ultimately Markus Perez will need to improve a lot if he wants to climb any sort of ladder.
Prediction: Both of these fighters are the last 2 Middleweight Champions in the LFA organization. So this fight makes a lot of sense to book. Before I looked into this fight I thought Eryk Anders would blow this guy out of the water. After looking into Markus Perez, I didn’t see a guy that would be an easy fight for anyone. Perez is a crafty fighter and that can pose a problem if Anders is taking this guy lightly. Both fighters have fought all 5 rounds in 5 round fights, so they have experience with going the distance. I can see this fight starting out slow, with Perez moving around a lot throwing a lot of kicks. Eventually, Anders will be pressing forward, cutting off the cage and throwing big punches when Perez has his back against the cage. I don’t think Perez has strong enough takedowns to get this fight to the mat, so if Anders stays smart he should be able to keep this on the feet and end this in late round 1. Eryk Anders KO, round 1.
Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales
Benito Lopez is going to be a fan favorite, and is a great young talent to have join the UFC roster. He trains at a great camp, Team Alpha Male. His tall frame is freak like for the 135 pound division. He likes to throw a lot of jabs and teep kicks to attack from a distance, and then when his opponents rush in he loves to throw flying knees to counter the rush in. He prefers to fight on the feet, but I wouldn’t sleep on him having a good ground game if he trains at Team Alpha Male. His takedown defense against the cage is very good. He has great elbows and knees when his back is stuck against the cage. I just think he starts too fast, and he is pretty slow when he throws his punches. He looks like he loses a lot of steam as the fight goes on and he can be controlled at that point. I see this kid growing into a very tough mixed martial artist. He will probably move up to the 145 weight class as he gets older and grows into his long frame. I think it might be too early for him to be in the UFC, but in a few years he will be able to make a name for himself in the promotion.
Albert Morales has had a hard UFC run so far. He is 1-2-1 in 4 fights. All of his fights were against really tough and well-rounded fighters. So now he’s a guy that should be comfortable in the octagon, because he literally has seen it all. He likes to open up with leg kicks every fight, and has an active jab. He does keep his hands high, and has good boxing combinations when he finds openings. He has good takedowns when he goes for them, and controls his opponents very well when he gets on top. He can get out-wrestled and controlled himself, as we seen in his last fight against surging prospect Bret Johns. One thing that bothers me about Morales is that he slows down in his fights. Once he slows down he becomes way more hittable, and loses rounds because he can get out-worked in the process. I think Morales can string a few wins together if they continue to give him guys ranked on the lower end of the division.
Prediction: Both guys are going to bring it in this one. This is the “Fight of the Night” on paper. I see Albert Morales as the more seasoned fighter, and I think he has all the tools to beat a young and wreckless guy like Benito Lopez. I see Lopez coming out strong with and assortment of kicks, knees, and punches. But Morales will slow this fight down, and stick to the basics that work. He will chop Lopez’s legs with leg kicks, and counter with punches in wild exchanges. The key for Morales in this fight is that he needs to get the takedowns and work from the top to secure rounds. If he keeps it simple he will win. If he gets sucked into a brawl, both fighters will gas and it could be anyone’s fight. I’m going to go with the more experienced Morales on this one. Albert Morales by Decision.