Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Brian Ortega and UFC Fight Night 123's other winning fighters?

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Brian Ortega dazzled on Saturday when he joined the queue of UFC featherweight contenders with an impressive victory over Cub Swanson in UFC Fight Night 123’s main event.

Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) has long been one of the best at 145 pounds. That’s still the case, but Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) proved he also belongs in the discussion with a second-round submission win to close out the FS1-televised lineup at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Although Ortega’s performance garnered most of the spotlight, five other main-card winners also got the job done. Gabriel Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Marlon Moraes (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC), Scott Holtzman (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Eryk Anders (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) and Benito Lopez (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) all emerged on top in their respective fights.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 123’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Benito Lopez

Aiemann Zahabi

Should fight: Aiemann Zahabi
Why they should fight: Although the decision was somewhat questionable, Lopez delivered an exciting performance in his promotional debut when he picked up a unanimous-decision victory over Albert Morales.

Lopez, who got a UFC roster spot after a win at a Dana White’s Contender Series event, used a high-action style against Morales and nearly paid for it several times. Despite the close nature of the bout, it’s clear he’s an exciting addition to the bantamweight division.

At just 23 Lopez has tremendous upside. It remains to be seen what he can do with it, but growing up in the UFC isn’t going to be easy. Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) may have fewer fights than Lopez, but he has more time in the sport and comes from a good team at Tristar Gym that would prepare him well for the proposed matchup.

Eryk Anders

Trevin Giles

Should fight: Trevin Giles
Why they should fight: He got a lot of resistance from UFC newcomer Markus Perez, but Anders ultimately was able to have his way with a unanimous-decision win to stay unbeaten.

Anders jumped on the UFC scene earlier this year with a promotional-debut knockout of Rafael Natal. His sophomore performance against Perez was solid, but it also revealed some aspects of Anders’ game that need improvement and that the hype around him should probably slow a bit.

The former college football standout has all the tools, but he just needs more experience in the octagon. He called out former UFC champ Lyoto Machida in his post-fight interview, but it didn’t generate much buzz. The same could be said for Giles (11-0 MA, 2-0 UFC), who picked up a third-round knockout of Antonio Braga Neto on the preliminary card, would be a more fitting next opponent.

Anders and Giles are a combined 21-0 with 17 stoppages. They both have tremendous upside, and matching them out would provide a good indication of who is ready to jump to the next level at 185 pounds.

Scott Holtzman

Marcin Held

Should fight: Marcin Held
Why they should fight: The physicality of Holtzman is a lot for many lightweights to deal with. Darrell Horcher wasn’t equipped to do it, and Holtzman left the octagon with a unanimous-decision win.

With a stifling top game, Holtzman needs to find someone who can either avoid his takedowns or present a serious threat from the bottom. Held (23-7 MMA, 1-3 UFC), who has 12 career submissions and is coming off a victory over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC Fight Night 118 in October, has that skill set and could make “Hot Sauce” think twice about going for takedowns.

Marlon Moraes

Dominick Cruz

Should fight: Dominick Cruz or Bryan Caraway
Why they should fight: Former WSOF champ Moraes had his UFC coming-out party when he picked up a “Knockout of the Year” contender courtesy of a brutal knee to the chin of Aljamain Sterling.

Moraes is finding his comfort zone in the octagon. He lost his UFC debut by narrow decision to Raphael Assuncao, but he rebounded with wins over John Dodson and Sterling in a 28-day span to put him in the discussion of bantamweight contenders.

The Brazilian hasn’t received any easy fights since coming to the UFC, and that’s certainly not going to change after what he did to Sterling.

Matchups with either Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) or Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) would be fitting for Moraes going forward. Both men were recently forced to pull out of high-profile fights due to injuries, but they’re hoping to get back in the octagon next year. Former UFC and WEC champ Cruz is, of course, the more significant matchup, but Caraway would be a good backup option if “The Dominator” can’t go.

Gabriel Benitez

Teruto Ishihara

Should fight: Teruto Ishihara
Why they should fight: It was an upset special for Benitez in his unanimous-decision win over Jason Knight, and now the Mexican featherweight is one to watch.

Benitez outworked his opponent over the course of three rounds and upset Knight, who came into the fight on the cusp of the top 15 in the UFC’s official rankings.

He may not get someone ranked at 145 pounds, but Benitez at least deserves a notable next opponent. Ishihara (10-4-2 MMA, 3-2-1 UFC) is another fan favorite who would surely be willing to mix it up with “Moggly.”

Brian Ortega

Should fight: Winner of Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett at UFC on FOX 26
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Ortega should fight the winner of Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) vs. Emmett (12-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 26 next weekend.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC-Fresno's Benito Lopez sorry about weigh-in shove but plans to appeal CSAC fine

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FRESNO, Calif. – Benito Lopez is sorry for shoving Albert Morales during weigh-ins for their UFC Fight Night 123 encounter, but he will try to appeal the penalty he got for it.

Lopez (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned a unanimous-decision victory over Morales (7-3-1 MMA, 1-3-1 UFC) when the two met inside the cage on Saturday. But that was only the last chapter of a feud that Lopez said started when they were first set to fight, about two years ago. A concussion forced Lopez out of the bout, but the rivalry lingered.

Things came to a boiling point on Friday, when a scream by Morales led to a push by Lopez. The physical reaction got Lopez a 10 percent fine of his $10,000 show money ($1,000), which the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) will keep.

Lopez acknowledges his role on the scuffle, but he’s not about to simply take the punishment.

“Honestly, it was probably my fault for pushing him,” Lopez said after the FS1-televised main-card bout at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. “But he did scream in my face, when we were face to face. It really pissed me off. We already had bad blood, so it is what it is.

“Yeah, it’s unfortunate. It sucks. On social media it kind of went a little viral, and all the MMA sites and all the fans have my back on it. And we’re going to try to appeal it and see what happens. I’m sorry, California State Athletic Commission for doing that. It won’t happen again.”

Here’s the shove (via Twitter):

As for the bad blood with “The Warrior”? It seems slugging it out for three rounds in a battle that left Lopez with an apparently broken nose is the type of thing that can really bring people together.

“It’s like, how can you (share) blood sweat and tears with someone, and go to war, and still be mad?” Lopez said. “I felt his best, and he felt my best. Nothing but respect for him. He’s a true warrior. His nickname does him justice.”

Here’s the post-fight embrace (via Twitter):

Other than burying a beef, Lopez did something else on Saturday: He added a UFC win to his still-unbeaten record. And doing it after a Dana White’s Contender Series 7 win, with an exciting back-and-forth battle, is certainly one way to get your name out there.

But while his two most high-profile wins yet came from decisions, Lopez said not to get too used to that.

“I like to go in there and knock someone out in the first 10 seconds,” Lopez said. “That’s the kind of fights I like to be in. It didn’t go that way. It was a war. It is what it is. I’m confident I’ll be back stronger than ever and I’ll get back to my finishing ways.”

To hear more from Lopez, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 123 Athlete Outfitting pay: Cub Swanson only $20,000 recipient

FRESNO, Calif. – Fighters from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $117,500.

UFC Fight Night 123 took place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Leading the way was Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC), who suffered a submission loss to Brian Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in the event headliner, but received a $20,000 for his 20-plus fight UFC/WEC tenure.

The full UFC Fight Night 123 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Brian Ortega: $5,000
def. Cub Swanson: $20,000

Gabriel Benitez: $5,000
def. Jason Knight: $5,000

Marlon Moraes: $2,500
def. Aljamain Sterling: $5,000

Scott Holtzman: $5,000
def. Darrell Horcher: $2,500

Eryk Anders: $2,500
def. Markus Perez: $2,500

Benito Lopez: $2,500
def. Albert Morales: $2,500

Alexis Davis: $5,000
def. Liz Carmouche: $5,000

Andre Soukhamthath: $2,500
def. Luke Sanders: $2,500

Alex Perez: $2,500
def. Carls John de Tomas: $2,500

Frankie Saenz: $5,000
def. Merab Dvalishvili: $2,500

Alejandro Perez: $5,000
def. Iuri Alcantara: $15,000

Davi Ramos: $2,500
def. Chris Gruetzemacher: $2,500

Trevin Giles: $2,500
def. Antonio Braga Neto: $2,500

Under the UFC Athlete Outfitting program’s payout tiers, which appropriate the money generated by Reebok’s multi-year sponsorship with the UFC, fighters are paid based on their total number of UFC bouts, as well as Zuffa-era WEC fights (January 2007 and later) and Zuffa-era Strikeforce bouts (April 2011 and later). Fighters with 1-5 bouts receive $2,500 per appearance; 6-10 bouts get $5,000; 11-15 bouts earn $10,000; 16-20 bouts pocket $15,000; and 21 bouts and more get $20,000. Additionally, champions earn $40,000 while title challengers get $30,000.

In addition to experience-based pay, UFC fighters will receive in perpetuity royalty payments amounting to 20-30 percent of any UFC merchandise sold that bears their likeness, according to officials.

Full 2017 UFC-Reebok sponsorship payouts:

Year-to-date total: $5,965,000
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $16,288,000

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 141.5 – Fresno: Dana White, Brian Ortega, Cub Swanson, Marlon Moraes, Benito Lopez, Alex Perez

Episode No. 141.5 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan hosts the show while traveling the world to cover the sport.

UFC Fight Night 123 is in the books, and John Morgan wraps up everything that happened onsite in Fresno. Hear from headliners Brian Ortega and Cub Swanson after a thrilling “T-City” win, as well as UFC President Dana White and additional UFC-Fresno winners Marlon Moraes, Benito Lopez and Alex Perez.

Listen below, or check it out on iTunes or at themmaroadshow.com. You can also subscribe via RSS.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 123 results: Benito Lopez takes decision from Albert Morales in high-flying scrap

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Benito Lopez and Albert Morales took turns dropping each other in the first round, then battered one another all the way to the finish for a thrilling back-and-forth brawl.

But once the judges had their say, it was Lopez (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) who took the unanimous decision, beating Morales (7-3-1 MMA, 1-3-1 UFC) with scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28.

The bantamweight bout opened up the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 123 event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

This grudge match got off to a swift start, as both men flew at one another in the opening seconds. Morales struck first, dropping Lopez with a stiff left, only to get dropped himself by a flying knee moments later.

But after getting briefly stuck in a mounted guillotine, Morales escaped and controlled Lopez against the fence for the remainder of the first, peppering him with occasional short strikes.

Lopez focused his efforts on battling the body of Morales in the next frame, hammering him with kicks to the ribs and the liver, but somehow without slowing him down. By the third, Morales was still charging forward, looking to hurt Lopez right up until the final horn, and even landing a blistering left to the nose to end the round.

But when the fight went to the scorecards, all three judges had it for Lopez, giving him the win over his rival in an instantly memorable clash of bantamweights.

With the win in his UFC debut, Lopez maintains his perfect record as a professional. Morales has now lost two straight, and three of his last four.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 123 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Fresno.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

Benito Lopez fined 10 percent for UFC-Fresno weigh-ins shove; CSAC to keep money

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FRESNO, Calif. – Benito Lopez pushed his opponent during today’s UFC Fight Night 123 weigh-ins ceremony, and the California State Athletic Commission has pushed back.

UFC officials confirmed with MMAjunkie that Lopez has been fined 10 percent of his $10,000 show money for shoving Albert Morales during their face-off at Fresno Convention Center. Unlike when a fighter misses weight, Lopez’s deducted purse money won’t be paid to Morales and instead will go to the CSAC.

As the two fighters squared off for an intense staredown, Morales suddenly yelled “boo” in Lopez’s face. Lopez’s reaction was to give Morales a hard push; Morales didn’t retaliate.

Lopez, who is making his official UFC debut after an August win on Dana White’s Contender Series, will lose $1,000 as a result of his actions. He could earn an extra $10,000 with a win.

Lopez (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Morales (7-2-1 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC) is set to kick off the FS1-televised main card of UFC Fight Night 123, which takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center. Early prelims will streak on UFC Fight Pass.

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 123 staff picks: Who's the runaway choice between Cub Swanson, Brian Ortega?

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Swanson
vs.
Ortega
Benitez
vs.
Knight
Moraes
vs.
Sterling
Holtzman
vs.
Horcher
Anders
vs.
Perez
Lopez
vs.
Morales
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 120-81
swanson2017
Swanson
(64%)
knight2017
Knight
(92%)
sterling2017
Sterling
(51%)
horcher2017
Horcher
(55%)
anders2017
Anders
(73%)
blopez2017
Lopez
(58%)
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 127-74
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
blopez2017
Lopez
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 126-75
trophy copy 2015 Champion
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
sterling2017
Sterling
horcher2017
Horcher
anders2017
Anders
amorales2017
Morales
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 126-75
ortega2017
Ortega
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
horcher2017
Horcher
anders2017
Anders
blopez2017
Lopez
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 125-76
trophy copy 2016 Champion
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
amorales2017
Morales
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 124-77
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
sterling2017
Sterling
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
amorales2017
Morales
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 119-82
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
blopez2017
Lopez
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 118-83
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
amorales2017
Morales
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 117-84
trophy copy 2014 Champion
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
mmoraes2017
Moraes
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
blopez2017
Lopez
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 117-84
swanson2017
Swanson
knight2017
Knight
sterling2017
Sterling
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
amorales2017
Morales
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 115-86
ortega2017
Ortega
knight2017
Knight
sterling2017
Sterling
holtzman2017
Holtzman
anders2017
Anders
blopez2017
Lopez

The UFC has set up camp in Fresno, Calif., this week for the first time, and a featherweight barnburner headlines the show.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)

In the main event, Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) will try to hand Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) the first loss of his pro career. Swanson is going after his fifth straight win, and he’s the pick of eight of our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts – even though Ortega is a mild betting favorite.

In the co-feature, Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) meets Jason Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in another featherweight clash. Knight is a 3-1 favorite and one of two unanimous picks on the main card. The other unanimous choice comes in the form of middleweight Eryk Anders (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), who is a 3-0 favorite against Markus Perez (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in a battle of unbeatens. Anders has all 10 of our pickers siding with him.

Also on the main card, former WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) meets Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC). In a close one, it’s Moraes with a 6-4 edge in the picks. Lightweight Scott Holtzman (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) goes after his first UFC winning streak when he meets Darrell Horcher (13-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC), and Holtzman has an 8-2 edge. And to open the main card, Benito Lopez (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) meets Albert Morales (7-2-1 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC) in a bantamweight bout that is deadlocked at 5-5.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Swanson, Knight, Sterling, Horcher, Anders and Lopez are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 123 with a crucial fight for Cub Swanson

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The UFC visits Fresno, Calif., on Saturday for UFC Fight Night 123. Headlining the card is a potential featherweight title eliminator between long-time 145-pound competitor Cub Swanson and the fast-rising Brian Ortega.

Swanson was close to a shot at then-champion Jose Aldo in 2014, but a submission loss to Frankie Edgar knocked Swanson out of the title picture. Now, with a four-fight winning streak to his name, Swanson hopes a win over Ortega will earn him his longed-for title fight.

Ortega debuted with the UFC a few months before Swanson’s loss to Edgar. When he joined the UFC the Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt was 8-0. He remains unbeaten with four consecutive third-round submission wins with the UFC.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place at Save Mart Center, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. Risk vs. reward

Since he joined the WEC/UFC in 2007, Swanson has won nine fight-night bonuses, including “Fight of the Night” in his two most recent bouts. He enters UFC Fight Night 123 with a contract that expires when his fight against Brian Ortega comes to an end.

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Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), who is the No. 6 ranked featherweight in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, is taking a calculated risk in fighting out his deal against Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), a rising star who is one spot below him in the rankings. If the 34-year-old Swanson hands his 26-year-old opponent the first loss of his career, he figures his worth to the company should be at an all-time high. If that is the case, Swanson should be rewarded handsomely.

If he’s wrong, things could get a little dicey, just ask Stevie Ray, who fought out his contract, and lost, in July. Ray is still waiting to negotiate a new deal with the promotion.

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2. A fan favorite returns

Jason Knight was on a four-fight winning streak when he decided to step in as an injury replacement against featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas. It was a gutsy move, but not an especially shocking one. During his stint with the UFC, the Mississippian has become a fan favorite for his take no prisoners approach to fighting.

Knight’s gamble did not pay off. Lamas stopped him via strikes in the first round. The defeat did not hurt Knight’s standing in the rankings. He remains an honorable mention. Nor did the loss hurt Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in the eyes of the UFC. His fight against Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is his first co-main event bout with the promotion.

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The unranked Benitez, who is coming off a loss to Enrique Barzola, is a significant underdog in this matchup. Benitez is a powerful, but limited striker, who is susceptible to takedowns.

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3. Not a bad consolation prize

When former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was pulled from his scheduled bout against Jimmie Rivera, both Marlon Moraes and Aljamain Sterling campaigned for the open spot. Neither received the nod. John Lineker will face Rivera at UFC 219.

Instead, the UFC opted to give Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who is ranked No. 6 in the division, a shot at the No. 12 ranked Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) after the UFC pulled Sterling’s original opponent, Rani Yahya from UFC Fight Night 123 due to injury.

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While neither fighter received his wish to fight Rivera in what could have been a bantamweight title eliminator, a win here might put the victor one or two fights away from a shot at the title.

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4. Former champions meet

Eryk Anders

All signs indicate Eryk Anders is a fighter to watch in the middleweight division. The former University of Alabama linebacker began competing in MMA a little more than two years ago and he’s already unbeaten in nine fights. His two most recent bouts took place in a span of 29 days. He won the LFA middleweight title with a unanimous decision victory in June. He followed that with a first-round knockout of 17-fight UFC veteran Rafael Natal.

Anders (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) faces unbeaten Markus Perez at UFC Fight Night 123. Perez (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) steps into his UFC debut on short notice. Like Anders, he enters his first UFC bout after winning the LFA middleweight title. Perez won the title via first-round submission.

5. Watch the pace

Benito Lopez

Benito Lopez was 7-0 with five consecutive first-round stoppage victories to his name when he appeared on the Dana White’s Contender Series 7 card. The 23-year-old didn’t get a finish that night, but his split decision win over Steven Peterson earned him a UFC contract. The Team Alpha Male product faces a tough test in Albert Morales in this bantamweight contest.

During the Peterson fight it was plain to see how Lopez racked up those first-round finishes. He was relentless in his striking attack, which included a nice mix of kicks and knees. The drawback of Lopez’s fast pace was that he faded as the fight progressed.

The 26-year-old Morales might only have one win in the UFC, a split decision over Andre Soukhamthath, but he was 6-0 with five finishes before he joined the promotion. Like Lopez (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Morales (7-2-1 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC) employs a fast-paced striking attack.

6. Welcome to the flyweight division

Two former women’s bantamweight title contenders drop to flyweight for a rematch at UFC Fight Night 123. In their first meeting, Alexis Davis, who is ranked No. 12 at 135 pounds defeated Liz Carmouche, who is the No. 14 ranked bantamweight, by unanimous decision.

Neither fighter has been very active since they faced off in 2013. Davis (18-7 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has fought five times since that bout, while Carmouche (11-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) has stepped into the cage three times.

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In a division with a newly crowned champion, and a handful of bantamweight and strawweight fighters looking to make the move to 125 pounds, this is an important fight for these two 33-year-old veterans. An impressive performance will go a long way toward establishing the victor in the still-developing division.

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7. In search of a UFC bantamweight win

Andre Soukhamthath

Luke Sanders faces Andre Soukhamthath in a battle between two fighters who held bantamweight titles outside the UFC. Sanders (11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) held the RFA title, while Soukhamthath (11-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) was the CES champion. Neither fighter has a win at 135 pounds in the UFC.

Sanders is a powerful and aggressive fighter who was on his way to a stoppage victory over Iuri Alcantara before delivering an illegal knee to his opponent’s head during his most recent fight. The break in the action gave Alcantara new life. He took advantage of the opportunity and submitted Sanders in the second round.

Soukhamthath has dropped both his UFC outings by split decision. His most recent defeat came against Alejandro Perez at UFC Fight Night 114. Soukhamthath has power in his hands, but he’s not nearly as active or aggressive as Sanders.

8. The new guy

Whenever a new addition joins the flyweight division, it’s worth taking a look at that fighter. At UFC Fight Night 123, that fighter is Alex Perez.

Perez (18-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) earned his UFC contract with an impressive first-round submission win over Kevin Gray on the Dana White Contender Series 5 card. The victory extended the 25-year-old’s winning streak to five straight. The former Tachi Palace champ has a very well-rounded game. With 22 fights on his record, he brings a wealth of experience into his fight against Carls John de Tomas (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC).

At 21, De Tomas is one of the youngest fighters in the UFC. With just seven fights on his record, six of which came with the Universal Reality Combat Championship promotion in the Philippines, he’ll have a distinct experience disadvantage in this matchup.

De Tomas enters this bout after a loss to Naomi Inoue at UFC Fight Night 111. A late change from the California State Athletic Commission moved this fight to a bantamweight contest.

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9. A tough first test

Frankie Saenz

Merab Dvalishvili signed with the UFC on the strength of a highlight-reel 15-second knockout win over Raufeon Stots at Ring of Combat 59. The stoppage was Dvalishvili’s first defense of the ROC bantamweight title. The win was the sixth straight victory for the Serra-Longo fighter.

Dvalishvili (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces Frankie Saenz. Saenz (10-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) was on a seven-fight winning streak before he dropped a decision to Urijah Faber at UFC 194. The 37-year-old has since lost two more fights and is likely fighting for his UFC life in Fresno.

Despite his losing skid, Saenz is going to be a tough fight for the debuting Dvalishvili.

10. It’s been a minute

Trevin Giles

Trevin Giles fights in his second curtain jerker at UFC Fight Night 123. If this fight goes as well as his first did, don’t expect him to fight so early on the prelims in the future.

Giles began his UFC career with a second-round knockout win over James Bochnovic at UFC 213. Giles showed good composure in his UFC debut. His ground striking was powerful and accurate. The 25-year-old landed 30 of his 37 attempted ground strikes. It was that work on the mat that earned him the knockout win.

Giles drops from light heavyweight to middleweight for his matchup against Antonio Braga Neto. Giles (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) might not want to test Neto (9-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on the ground. The 30-year-old is a jiu-jitsu world champion. Neto’s most recent bout was a June 2014 decision loss to Clint Hester. Giles turned pro in January of that year. He has fought eight times since Neto’s most recent outing.

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-Fresno main-card breakdown: Moraes-Sterling, Holtzman-Horcher and more

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 218’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the first four fights on the main card.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Saturday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

ALSO SEE:

* * * *

Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 67″
  • Last fight: Decision win over John Dodson (Nov. 11, 2017)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida BJJ (New Jersey)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA title
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ Multiple muay Thai accolades
+ 8 KO victories
+ 5 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Pivots, lateral movement, distancing
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Coming forward and off of the counter
+ Dynamic and dangerous kicker
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Strong hips and positional awareness
+ Good transitional grappler
^ Solid scrambling and submissions

Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 71″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Renan Barao (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Serra-Longo MMA (Long Island, NY)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt
+ 2x All-American wrestler
+ 2 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Solid pace and pressure
+ Tricky feints and footwork
^ Variates looks and levels
+ Improved boxing
+ Dynamic kicking attack
^ Functional from both sides
+ Superb wrestling ability
+ Diverse takedown game
^ Chains trips, singles and double-legs
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Creative flow/positionally aware

Summary:

In a fun bantamweight fight, Marlon Moraes meets Aljamain Sterling.

After fighting just four weeks ago, Moraes is making a quick turnaround to competition to step in for an injured Rani Yahya. Coming off two tightly contested split-decision results, I suspect Moraes is looking to remind the masses of his standing at 135 pounds.

Sterling, who has had lofty expectations put upon him since entering the organization, has also been trying to put space in between him and close scorecards. And after a clean victory over the former champ Renan Barao, Sterling is seeking to make another statement here.

In recent outings, the product of the Serra-Longo fight team has shown to make measurable strides in his striking game.

With his funk-style of wrestling following him into his striking endeavors, Sterling would bust out of the gates as an awkward stick-and-move stylist. But after a few years of valuable lessons and experiences, we have seen Sterling get much more comfortable in expressing his growth as of late.

Continually switching his stances while moving laterally, Sterling makes himself hard to read. Incorporating his fair share of feints, Sterling works his way into the fight behind a wall of dynamic kicking variety.

From his snapping front kicks and traditional teeps to his Thai kicks parlayed into sidekicks, Sterling can execute attacks soundly from either stance. Addressing the criticisms of his game at boxing range, Sterling has shown upgrades to his pocket presence.

Attaching more purpose (as well as punches) to his trunk movements, Sterling will slip strikes to fire back return offerings of his own. That said, Sterling still tends to keep his hands low, which make striking exchanges as compelling as they are dangerous given who he is facing.

Enter Moraes.

A former champion in the now-defunct WSOF, Moraes has also had high hopes put upon him since his arrival to the big show. A well-versed striker who came up training with Edson Barboza from a young age, it is not hard to see why so many are excited about Moraes.

A fighter whose feet you seldom find out of position, Moraes keeps an excellent balance to his attack and approach. Carrying a speed advantage over most of his contemporaries, Moraes stays light on his toes while always ready to engage.

Working behind a healthy dose of feints, the Brazilian will prod with his jab to initiate exchanges. Typically looking to land his patented leg kicks, Moraes will also mix in switch-kicks to the body as well as head kicks to keep his opposition honest.

What is most impressive about Moraes’ kicking ability is the fact that he maintains his balance and defensive hand-position while executing his assaults. These attributes also make it easier for Moraes to counter, as he seemingly keeps his right cross and check-hooks at the ready.

Still, Moraes is not beyond having his kicks caught and countered himself, as that may be something worth watching for considering the dynamic of this matchup.

The longer this fight stays standing, Moraes should have the decided edge on paper; which is why I suspect that Sterling will be changing gears and getting back to his wrestling roots for this one.

Sterling, a two-time All-American wrestler, has a diverse array of takedowns in his arsenal. From reactive shots in the open to his chaining ability in the clinch, Sterling will pose some interesting threats.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Moraes fairs in this style of matchup.

Whether it be by destiny or design, Moraes has not had a lot of opponents push a grappling-heavy agenda in recent bouts. Nevertheless, the Brazilian still shows an underrated wrestling game that has only improved since moving shop to the United States.

Following Barboza to train with Mark Henry and company in New Jersey, Moraes appears even more comfortable inside of the scramble – as I’m sure training with fighters like Frankie Edgar helps. Moraes also has fast feet and hips, which come in handy for shutting down many of the shot attempts thrown his way.

When he is taken down, Moraes is quick to threaten with a submission or scramble back to his feet. But he will need to extra careful in those spaces with Sterling, who typically makes his money in transit.

Once touching down on the mat, Sterling’s funky flow comes to life. Melding his wrestling base into his innovative jiu-jitsu, Sterling will combine things like chair-sits to leg weaves and rides, seamlessly climbing the walls of his opponent’s defenses.

Not afraid to jump on a back, Sterling has also shown to be content in punishing opponent’s positionally, landing solid ground strikes when submissions are not available. Should the Serra-Longo fighter get his game going on the floor, then it could be a rough night for his Brazilian counterpart.

Despite the short-notice intangibles, the oddsmakers and public are slightly favoring Moraes at -140 with Sterling +120 as of this writing.

As one of the more vocal supporters of Moraes’ game, I can certainly see why. He should carry a sizeable striking edge to go along with his speed, and I could see his shot selection and accuracy either severely hurting Sterling or taking him off of his game.

However, the quick turnaround from a competitive three-round fight makes me uneasy. Not so much for Moraes’ health, but more so for the performance considering what we have seen in these scenarios before. Furthermore, there is not enough evidence – at least for my liking – to suggest that Sterling won’t be a bad matchup for the Brazilian (which he just might be).

Sterling’s wrestling base and unique style could prove frustrating for Moraes, whose displayed moments of frustration in his last two bouts. If the Brazilian fails to take Sterling off of his game or ends up on the floor early, then I feel that the more likely outcome here is the Long Island resident getting his hand raised after what should be a competitive affair.

Official pick: Sterling by decision

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno

We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event in Fresno.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMAjunkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

Those MMAjunkie MMA reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC Fight Night 123 staff picks we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC Fight Night 123 takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega

Records: Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC)
Past five: Swanson 4-1, Ortega 4-0 (one no-contest)
Division: Featherweight
Rankings: Swanson No. 6, Ortega No. 7
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Swanson -115, Ortega -105

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Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight

Records: Gabriel Benitez (19-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC), Jason Knight (20-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC)
Past five: Benitez 3-2, Knight 4-1
Division: Featherweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Knight -300, Benitez +250

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Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling

Records: Marlon Moraes (19-5-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC)
Past five: Moraes 4-1, Sterling 3-2
Division: Bantamweight
Rankings: Moraes No. 6, Sterling No. 12
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Moraes -175, Sterling +155

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Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher

Records: Scott Holtzman (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), Darrell Horcher (13-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
Past five: Holtzman 3-2, Horcher 4-1
Division: Lightweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Holtzman -115, Horcher -105

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Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez

Records: Eryk Anders (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Markus Perez (9-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Past five: Anders 5-0, Perez 5-0
Division: Middleweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Anders -280, Perez +240

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Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales

Records: Benito Lopez (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Albert Morales (7-2-1 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC)
Past five: Lopez 5-0, Morales 2-2-1,
Division: Bantamweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 12/4/17): Lopez -115, Morales -105

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For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie