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UFC Fresno predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Not a bad UFC Fight Night, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great one either. UFC Fresno is a decent card with some solid bookings here and there. In the main event, veteran Cub Swanson takes on rising prospect Brian Ortega in an important bout for the featherweight division. This great 145-pound scrap is accompanied by a few other fun bookings in Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling, Alexis Davis vs. Liz Carmouche, and Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez.

What: UFC Fresno (UFC Fight Night 123)

Where: Save Mart Center, Fresno, Calif.

When: Saturday, Dec. 9. The three-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the six-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET also on FOX Sports 1.

Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega

This is a classic battle-tested veteran vs. promising prospect matchup. I love these type of bookings, and I find them to be good measuring sticks. They either prove that the prospect is too green and that the veteran is still game, or that the vet has fallen behind the pack and that the prospect is no longer a prospect but an actual contender.

Cub Swanson has seen it all. The 34-year-old fighter has been fighting at an elite level for almost a decade now. Despite being a true vet in the sport of MMA, Swanson has managed to keep his wild side, as he’s not afraid of getting into a fire fight, even if it’s with someone younger. Swanson’s striking is fluid, unorthodox, and dangerous. His grappling is solid as well, but that’s definitely not his best skillset.

Brian Ortega is a very well-rounded fighter. The 26-year-old has a diverse and technical attack on his feet with respectable power. Ortega can also wrestle and take his opposition down to the mat. Once grounded, Ortega can control his opponents while setting up submissions.

This is a tricky fight. I feel like Swanson has an edge on the feet since I find him to be more accurate with his striking than Ortega (and also more wild), and I feel like Swanson’s experience will also help him in the striking battle. But on the ground, I think Ortega is superior. “T-City” has takedowns and very solid control from top positions. Historically, Swanson has had issues with strong grapplers, guys such as Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, and Frankie Edgar come to mind. I think either fighter can take this one, but I’m leaning more towards Ortega.

Ortega is tough a hell. Even if Swanson has success on the feet, I can still see Ortega eating everything Swanson dishes out. I see Swanson getting his way for a bit on the feet, but just until Ortega figures out his timing and is able to get Swanson down. I think Ortega will out grapple Swanson in a decision or even submit him late in the fight. Don’t get me wrong, Swanson is game, but this is not a bad match up for Ortega.

Pick: Ortega

Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez

It seems the UFC wants to make something of Jason Knight, and that’s why he’s facing Gabriel Benitez in the co-main event of this card.

Jason Knight might come off as just some brawler dude, but he’s actually a lot more than that. Knight might be a little careless at times, but he’s actually a pretty technical fighter. The 25-year-old featherweight has good striking and footwork, and a very advanced ground game. On top of that, Knight is young, tough, and can take a punch.

Benitez is a good fighter, but he’s being thrown into the wolves here. Although the Mexican fighter has a solid standup game and a decent ground game, I find him to be a level beneath Knight. Benitez is accurate with his strikes, but he’s not known to be power puncher, which should decrease his odds against Knight.

Seems to me Knight was rushed when matched up with Lamas, so now the UFC is going to give him a more gradual build. Knight should have the advantage almost anywhere the fight goes, and it should allow him to showcase all his talents.

Pick: Knight

Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling

This bout between Marlon Moraes and Aljamain Sterling is the one of the most important fights on the card. These two ranked fighters could enter the title picture with an impressive finish here.

Moraes had a tough welcome to the UFC when he was matched up against top contender Raphael Assuncao. Yet, despite the difficult opponent, Moraes still did well, even in defeat. Moraes is an explosive and technical striker. He could very well be the Edson Barbosa of the bantamweight division. The Brazilian also has a good ground game, but it’s not seen often due to his amazing striking and solid takedown defense.

On the other hand, Sterling is a fighter that has improved a lot in his striking, but still remains more on the grappling side. Sterling has takedowns in his arsenal and a slick ground game that perhaps is underestimated by many. It’s safe to say that “Funk Master” is a well-rounded fighter, and a fighter that’s always improving.

Sterling is a solid competitor, but I don’t think this fight with Moraes is a good match up for him. I find Moraes to be superior in striking technique. And on top of that, Moraes is also quicker and more powerful than Sterling. The only way I see Sterling threatening Moraes would be on the ground. Sterling has good positioning and could possibly score some points on the ground, and who knows, maybe even catch a submission. But before Sterling can implement his ground techniques, he’ll first have to get the fight to the ground. Sterling has takedowns in his arsenal, but I don’t think his wrestling is at a level that can override Moraes sharp takedown defense.

I see this fight playing out mainly on the feet with Moraes landing the better shots.

Pick: Moraes

Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher

This might be the hardest fight to call from the main card.

Darrell Horcher is a very skilled fighter. He has really good footwork, fluid striking, and decent power on his hands. Horcher doesn’t really force anything and just goes with the flow of the fight. The lightweight fighter also has a pretty complete ground game with solid submissions.

Scott Holtzman is a solid fighter with great athletic abilities. The American is very powerful in everything he does. Holtzman is a strong striker, fights very well in the clinch, and likes to dictate the pace in his fights. Holtzman is also pretty solid in the grappling department, as he has good takedowns and submission defense.

I think Horcher is the better fighter here. It seems to me that Horcher is more knowledgeable on the ground and on the feet than Holtzman. Horcher also feels a bit more experienced than Holtzman.

But as we know, athleticism can sometimes override skill if the skill gap is not too great between the two competitors. So is Horcher technically superior enough to deal with Holtzman’s speed and power? I’m not sure, but my guess would be no. Horcher might be more technical than Holtzman, but I don’t think by much. I think Holtzman will be able to dictate the pace and overpower Horcher.

Pick: Holtzman

Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez

Here’s a bout between two undefeated fighters that have the potential of one day becoming relevant players in the middleweight division.

Eryk Anders is a tough striker that’s not afraid of getting into a brawl. Anders has plenty of power at 185 pounds and likes to fight at a high pace. “Ya Boy” is not super technical, but he’s good at making more technical fighters brawl with him. Meanwhile, Markus Perez is a solid grappler that feels comfortable striking. The Brazilian has a varied attack of submissions, and really good conditioning.

I find Anders to be way too powerful and explosive for Perez. I see this fight going much like Anders’ fight with Rafael Natal went. Anders will come out firing on all cylinders and overwhelm Perez with heavy shots.

Pick: Anders

Albert Morales vs. Benito Lopez

Fun bantamweight matchup to open up the main card.

Albert Morales is a well-rounded fighter that always brings it when he enter the cage. Morales is quick and possesses a very technical stand up game. The 26-year-old fighter can also hold his own on the ground. On the other hand, Benito Lopez, a Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series contract winner, is a tough promising prospect with a great chin and decent, rangy striking. Lopez is not great on the ground, but he’s good enough to stay out of trouble against decent grapplers.

I find Morales to be too complete and experienced for Lopez. Morales has been exposed to a higher level of MMA, as he’s had to face solid opposition such as Thomas Almeida, Brett Johns and Alejandro Perez. I see Morales beating Lopez on the feet and on the ground.

Pick: Morales


Liz Carmouche def. Alexis Davis

Luke Sanders def. Andre Soukhamthath

Alex Perez def. Carls John de Tomas

Merab Dvalishvili def. Frankie Saenz

Alejandro Perez def. Iuri Alcantara

Davi Ramos def. Chris Gruetzemacher

Trevin Giles def. Antonio Braga Neto

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