UFC Fight Night 123 - Fresno Card Preview
Date: Sunday 10th December, 3am (UK)
Location: California, US
Venue: Save Mart Center
Cub Swanson vs Brian Ortega
The UFC makes its first visit to Fresno with two thrilling featherweights headlining the card. Cub Swanson was very disappointed not to get asked to fill in for Frankie Edgar at UFC 218 after he pulled out of his title fight with Max Holloway. Instead, José Aldo was awarded a rematch which ended just like their first encounter - brutally. Thus, Holloway is sitting smug at the top of the division and a win for either of these men could queue them up right behind Edgar in contention for a shot at the champion.
Swanson is enjoying a resurgence in his career with vintage swashbuckling performances, earning four straight wins including the 2016 ‘Fight of the Year’ against Doo Ho Choi. He faces fellow Californian Brian Ortega who has looked on form for his entire professional career. He is undefeated and has looked exceptional with elite grappling skills and evolving stand-up skills.
Although Ortega is as slick as they come on the ground, Swanson is a crafty veteran with black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo but does not hide the fact he is most comfortable slugging it out on the feet with a suffocating output. So, the key stat is the amount of strikes absorbed per minute – can Ortega avoid the onslaught and inflict his own? See below for the statistical breakdown:
Jason Knight vs Gabriel Benitez
The main and co-main event at UFC Fight Night 123 feature featherweight bouts with Jason Knight and Gabriel Benitez doing the honours of setting up the main which should be an exciting encounter.
Knight has thrown caution to the wind in all his UFC fights which has been great for the fans but not his health. With a UFC record of 4-2 he has been involved in wars which have earned him three fight bonuses.
Benitez has also excited with mixed fortunes since his introduction on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 1. He is 3-2 in the UFC and what makes this match-up interesting is the fact that are they both lethal on the ground with a combined 23 submission victories but I have also highlighted their ‘significant strike accuracy’ as they both love to stand and bang – especially Knight who seeks the submission after delivering most of his damage on the feet first.
Marlon Moraes vs Aljamain Sterling
Two young prospects are next up on the UFC Fight Night 123 card in the form of Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes, who replaced Rani Yahya after he pulled out through injury.
Moraes held the World Series of Fighting bantamweight title for nearly four years and was fed to the wolves on his arrival to the UFC. He narrowly lost via a split decision against Raphael Assuncao but he bounced back, earning a split decision of his own against another top contender in John Dodson.
The Brazilian’s third fight and third wolf comes in the shape of Sterling who has been touted with championship potential but has stuttered in his rise towards the top of the division. After suffering his only two losses, he bounced back with great wins over Augusto Mendes and former champion Renan Barao and goes into this fight with Moraes with a ton of pressure as both fighters need to prove they are worthy of contending for the title.
Both men are extremely well-rounded but the key stat is the reach advantage of Sterling which will be crucial in gaining the upper hand, but expect a very close and gritty contest.
Scott Holtzman vs Darrell Horcher
Scott Holtzman and Darrell Horcher are hoping to make inroads in a stacked lightweight division. After arriving to the UFC undefeated with seven wins, Holtzman has struggled to string two wins together with a record of 3-2.
He will be striving for that consecutive win over Darrell Horcher who received a baptism of fire for his UFC debut back in April last year. When Tony Ferguson withdrew from his bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov, a lack of volunteers offered to step up and face the undefeated Russian and the UFC were desperate for a replacement. Signed with local promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships, Horcher seized his opportunity to take the fight on short notice.
As expected, he was man-handled and disposed of but gained respect from everyone just to step in the cage with a fighter who has dominated all of his opponents. Rewarded with his courage, he is now in the UFC and scraped a victory in his following fight over Devin Powell and will be hoping for another win over Holtzman.
These two natural athletes are very evenly-matched and both may resort to their wrestling to grind out a win. See below for the statistical breakdown:
Eryk Anders vs Markus Perez
Markus Perez has been offered his UFC debut after John Phillips pulled out of his fight with Eryk Anders, so Anders welcomes Perez to the UFC but this is only his second UFC fight himself so both newbies are hoping to put on impressive performances.
What makes this bout so exciting is the fact that they have identical records and importantly, they are undefeated. They are not just looking to prove their UFC calibre but they are desperate to protect their undefeated records which will bring the very best out of them on the night.
Albert Morales vs Benito Lopez
After impressing on the UFC’s new show; ‘Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series’, the undefeated Benito Lopez has been awarded a UFC contract and makes his UFC debut against Albert Morales.
Both bantamweights are very experienced for their age but Morales has the advantage of four UFC fights under his belt. He also arrived to the UFC undefeated but has struggled against the step-up in competition. He has only won one of his four fights which was a split decision over Andre Soukhamthath so is desperate to hand Lopez his first career loss.
The contrasting form is highlighted as the key stat but it will be intriguing to see how these men perform on the night. Morales hopes his UFC experience will be enough to tackle the youthful confidence of Lopez who is yet to taste defeat.