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

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

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

Andre Soukhamthath steps in for Bryan Caraway, meets Luke Sanders at UFC-Fresno

Andre Soukhamthath will get a third chance in 2017 to pick up his first win in the UFC, but it will have to come on short notice.

Soukhamthath (11-5 MMA, 0-2 UFC) has stepped in for an injured Bryan Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) to take on Luke Sanders (11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) in a bantamweight bout at UFC Fight Night 123 next month. UFC officials recently announced the replacement booking.

UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The main card airs on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Soukhamthath came to the UFC earlier this year as CES MMA’s bantamweight champion. The Rhode Islander fought 13 of his first 14 pro fights for that promotion, all in his home state, and went 11-2.

He signed with the UFC and fought Albert Morales at UFC 209 in March, but dropped a split decision in Las Vegas in a back-and-forth fight. He returned against Alejandro Perez at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City in August, but again dropped a split call. Prior to signing with the UFC, he had three straight knockout wins under the CES MMA banner.

Luke Sanders

Sanders is looking to bounce back from a March loss to Iuri Alcantara. The kneebar defeat marked Sanders’ first professional setback, snapping a run of 11 consecutive wins to open his career.

Caraway, who is currently ranked No. 11 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, hasn’t competed since a May 2016 win over Aljamain Sterling. He was scheduled to meet fast-rising contender Jimmie Rivera this past January, but injury forced him out of that matchup, as well. Caraway is 4-1 in his past five contests but fought just once in 2015, once in 2016 and now appears unlikely to compete in 2017, at all, though an exact timetable for his return wasn’t evident.

The UFC Fight Night 123 lineup currently includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Frankie Saenz
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Iuri Alcantara vs. Alejandro Perez
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling
  • Luke Sanders vs. Andre Soukhamthath

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

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Bryan Caraway out at UFC-Fresno, Luke Sanders needs new opponent

Injury has forced Bryan Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) out of a planned contest with Luke Sanders (11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), leaving UFC officials on the search for a bantamweight foe.

MMAjunkie today confirmed Caraway’s withdrawal with UFC officials after learning of the move.

Caraway and Sanders were expected to meet at UFC Fight Night 123, which takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The card airs on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Caraway, who is currently ranked No. 11 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, hasn’t competed since a May 2016 win over Aljamain Sterling. Caraway was scheduled to meet fast-rising contender Jimmie Rivera this past January, but injury forced him out of that matchup, as well. “Kid Lightning” stands at 4-1 in his past five contests but fought just once in 2015, once in 2016 and now appears unlikely to compete in 2017, at all, though an exact timetable for his return wasn’t evident.

Meanwhile, Sanders looks to bounce back from a March loss to Iuri Alcantara. The kneebar defeat marked Sanders’ first professional setback, snapping a run of 11 consecutive wins to open his career.

The UFC Fight Night 123 lineup currently includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Luke Sanders vs. opponent TBA
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Frankie Saenz
  • Gabriel Benitez vs. Jason Knight
  • Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales

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

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

John Lineker won't issue callouts or pick dates, but he'll be on stand-by for Cruz-Rivera UFC 219 fight

SAO PAULO – When it comes to the “who’s ducking who” battle between John Lineker and Bryan Caraway, it seems the two might just have to agree to disagree.

On Saturday, Lineker ended an octagon layoff with a unanimous-decision win over Marlon Vera (10-4-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 119. The display put Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) back on track after a loss to ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw, but not everyone was impressed. That much was clear immediately when Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) took to Twitter to throw a jab his way.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Lineker chuckled at Caraway’s comments that he was the one doing the running.

“I asked. I said, ‘I’ll fight you tomorrow,’” Lineker said. “But he wanted to pick the date. I said, ‘Let’s fight in Brazil. I’m ready. You’re the one picking dates.’ I’m a fighter. I’ll fight whomever wants to fight me. Whomever the UFC wants to. He’s the one who chickened out, not me.”

While Lineker won’t really call out Caraway, he left himself open should his Twitter foe want the fight. But even if that were to happen, there would be some waiting as Caraway is already set to meet Luke Sanders in Fresno on Dec. 9.

On his end, after an injured jaw forced him into a hiatus, “Hands of Stone” wants to reclaim momentum by staying active. Which makes sense considering that, other than the toughness that the “incredible” Vera brought, Lineker believes that the lack of rhythm might’ve contributed to display that “wasn’t one of my best.”

“I didn’t think I would feel it,” Lineker said. “But I did feel it after being away for 10 months.”

As he made it clear, Lineker will not go around picking opponents. In fact, while he’d be open to returning this year, he won’t even make a case for a specific card. But as he looks to get back in the title picture, he’s not about to pass up on opportunities either.

“I’m keeping an eye on the fight between Jimmie Rivera and Dominick Cruz (at UFC 219, on Dec. 30),” Lineker said. “If any of them have to withdraw, UFC, I’m here. I’m on stand-by just waiting.”

Another possibility that would interest Lineker, should it ever happen, is welcoming flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson back into the bantamweight division. The idea of ending the long-running streak of one of the sport’s greatest ever would probably be enough incentive for any fighter, but in Lineker’s case it carries some added weight.

After all, not only did Lineker start his UFC career in the 125-pound division – he had a pretty solid run at it, too, beating six of the seven flyweights he came across. However, with the wins came another consistent issue for the Brazilian: making weight. So he moved up.

Despite being shorter than most of his competition, Lineker found a home at 135. And he has no plans of moving back down. But as he watches Johnson take out contender after contender, he admits he isn’t entirely at peace with the path he could’ve had.

“Every time (Johnson) fights and wins I get that bitter taste,” Lineker said. “That I could have fought him and be flyweight champion.”

As a bantamweight, Lineker feels better than he did in his previous division. He gets to train harder and channel his added strength into better training sessions. So, if Johnson is ever tempted enough to hang with the UFC bantamweights, Lineker thinks he’d make for a much more challenging competitor.

“If there was an opportunity to fight him, it’d be an incredible fight for sure,” Lineker said. “I’d give him a hard time – if not beat him.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 119, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Stream download MMAjunkie Radio #2550 with guests Bryan Caraway and James Vick

Stream or download Tuesday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Bryan Caraway and James Vick.

Caraway, who faces Luke Sanders at UFC Fight Night 123 on Dec. 9 in Fresno, Calif., co-hosted the show. Vick discussed his upcoming fight with Joseph Duffy on Nov. 4 at UFC 217 in New York

You can listen below or stream the entire episode on AudioBoom.com.

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

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with UFC's Bryan Caraway, James Vick

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Bryan Caraway and James Vick.

Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) will return to the cage in December to fight Luke Sanders (11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on Dec. 9 at UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno, Calif. Caraway has not fought since a May 2016 win over Aljamain Sterling. He was scheduled to meet Jimmie Rivera in January, but injury forced him out of the matchup. Vick returns to action next week at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden in New York against Joseph Duffy.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTubepages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

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

Tickets for UFC's debut in Fresno go on sale today

The UFC will debut in Fresno, Calif., in December, and tickets for the event go on sale today.

Featuring a pivotal clash of top-10 featherweights between Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) and unbeaten Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in the main event, UFC Fight Night 123 takes Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center and airs on FS1 with prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Tickets are priced at $125, $90, $75 and $50. They go on sale to the general public Friday at noon PT on Ticketmaster.com.

UFC newsletter subscribers have access to a special pre-sale beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. PT, while UFC Fight Club members can purchase tickets Wednesday at 10 a.m. PT.

In addition to the main event, UFC Fight Night 123 features the return of Bryan Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) , who takes on Luke Sanders, after more than a year away from the octagon.

The UFC Fight Night 123 card currently includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders
  • Aljamain Sterling vs. Rani Yahya
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders added to UFC Fight Night 123 in December

A bantamweight matchup between an 8-time UFC veteran and a relative newcomer looking to rebound from his first professional loss has been added to UFC Fight Night 123.

ESPN.com first reported that Bryan Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Luke Sanders (11-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) have agreed to meet at the Dec. 9 event, which takes place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. MMAjunkie subsequently confirmed the booking with UFC officials.

The card airs on FS1 following prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Caraway, who is currently ranked No. 11 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, looks to return from a lengthy layoff that dates back to a May 2016 win over Aljamain Sterling. Caraway was scheduled to meet fast-rising contender Jimmie Rivera this past January, but injury forced him out of the matchup. “Kid Lightning” stands in 4-1 in his past five contests but fought just once in 2015, once in 2016 and will likely have just one fight in 2017, as well.

Meanwhile, Sanders looks to bounce back from a March loss to Iuri Alcantara. The kneebar defeat marked Sanders’ first professional setback, snapping a run off 11 consecutive wins to open his career.

With the addition to the card, UFC Fight Night 123 now includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie