Twitter Mailbag: Do fans fully appreciate Robert Whittaker's streak, even without a unified title?

Do fans fully appreciate the awesomeness of the winning streak that “Bobby Knuckles” is on? How about Bob Lawler’s evolving brawlerhood headed into Saturday’s UFC on FOX 26 main event? And what’s on our MMA Christmas wish list?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

Good question, and thanks for putting that in the proper perspective. While Michael Bisping was running around with that shiny belt draped over his shoulder, Robert Whittaker has been putting in steady, solid work against the best in the division, and all as a 26-year-old former welterweight.

That’s the good news for the fractured middleweight title picture that Georges St-Pierre left in his wake. We may never get to see a true title unification bout, but you can still throw “Bobby Knuckles” in there with Luke Rockhold and, no matter how it turns out, I won’t find it hard to believe that the winner is the best middleweight on the planet.

• A Conor McGregor title defense, mostly so people will stop writing into this mailbag with questions about when it’s going to happen and why he hasn’t been stripped of the belt yet.

• A solemn vow to let the Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou UFC heavyweight title bout proceed as planned, with no funny business.

• Book Shane Carwin as the world’s most terrifying alternate in the Bellator heavyweight grand prix.

• Stop making each UFC Fight Night on FS1 feel like a marathon of commercials and commentary and joyless filler. Watching one pro sporting event on TV shouldn’t take more than six hours.

Demetrious Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw, either at a catchweight or at 135 pounds. And pay “Mighty Mouse” his asking price for that fight. Not only will it help the fight seem like a bigger deal, but man, you know he’s earned it by now.

Sure, there are a lot of UFC fights coming together that make good, unimpeachable sense from a rankings perspective. But the issue was never that the UFC refused to match up the No. 6 welterweight with the No. 5. That’s the level at which the UFC matchmakers are mostly allowed to do their jobs unimpeded, and they typically do excellent work.

The problem was always more at the top, with the relatively few big draws that the UFC shuffled around selectively in order to maximize profitability. That’s how we ended up with most of the perplexing match-ups from recent years. They were short-term cash grabs.

The problem is, those don’t happen in a vacuum. That No. 5 welterweight? The one who’s been working toward a title shot? He sees what goes on at the top, what the big paydays are really made of these days. Can you blame him if he receives the message loud and clear?

That’s at least a seven, even if I have to admit I’m surprised that, of all the awesome Robbie Lawler moments to highlight in advance of his UFC on FOX 26 main event bout with Rafael dos Anjos, it’s his defensive work that we’re focusing on.

Why, we could just as easily look back to one of my favorite Lawler moments, back when he mostly failed to check kicks against Melvin Manhoef, then limped around the cage after he left Manhoef asleep and drooling blood on the mat anyway.

What really interests me about Saturday’s fight is the question of how these styles will match up. The non-stop motor and high-pressure approach of a fighter like dos Anjos could, in theory, work well against a fighter like Lawler, who’s been known to pace himself for the later rounds.

Then again, does RDA really have the chin to keep running up in Bob Lawler’s face for 25 minutes? I really don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.

Fining a fighter for an incredibly minor weigh-in shove seems extreme to me. For one thing, weigh-ins are pure promotional theater – especially now that the actual weigh-ins usually happen earlier in the day, without the face-offs and the photo ops. For another, whether we want to admit it or not we like and reward and encourage stuff like that in this sport, and we have for years. Now suddenly it gets you fined? That feels unfair.

As for the finger bite, yes it was a foul. Yes, a pretty unique one. But Jason Knight was punished with a point deduction immediately after it happened, which feels like the right call. I could see a more stringent punishment if Gabriel Benitez had been seriously hurt by it, but he wasn’t. And if we start issuing suspensions and fines after the fact for all the rule-breaking that goes on in a typical MMA fight, where do we even stop?

Really? You ask me this on a Mike Perry fight week? Feels like a set-up.

But then I have to ask myself, which kind of problematic are we talking about here? Because if we just mean a guy with questionable friendships and bad social media posts who also seems to walk through life like he’s actively trying to embody all that is bro, then sure, the guy with his nickname tattooed on his face works. He’s a whole lot of fun to watch, even if something about him does feel, as my podcast co-host Chad Dundas put it, like a guilty pleasure.

But there are lots of ways to be problematic in this sport. I mean, Jon Jones broke a pregnant woman’s arm in a hit-and-run accident. Anderson Silva can’t seem to pass a drug test. Even McGregor seems to have joined some sort of “Scandal of the Month” club.

Then there are all the other ways for MMA fighters to make us feel gross for supporting them. They get mad and toss off an anti-gay slur, or get on Twitter and post some Sandy Hook truther nonsense, and suddenly it’s a little harder to like them.

Partly it’s a consequence of the times we live in. Imagine if Mickey Mantle had hit the town in the era of smart phones. Just picture the crap Babe Ruth would have posted to Twitter. What kind of Facebook page would Walter Payton have had?

Whether it’s a famous fighter or a high school acquaintance, we know a lot more about each other’s lives and beliefs and fleeting, unvetted thoughts than people used to. That’s not always a good thing.

I’m definitely into the budding, organic rivalry between Perry and Darren Till, but I think you’d have a hard time convincing The Fifth Beatle to take a fight with the loser of Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 26 match-up. If Santiago Ponzinibbio wins that, he becomes the man to beat, at least on paper.

And since Till seems to have some savvy target selection for the purposes of getting himself noticed and moving up the ranks, I think he’s smart enough to realize that he could let the Perry feud simmer and revisit it later, should they find themselves on more equal footing.

I see your point. Fewer pay-per-view events would probably mean better pay-per-view events, plus it would make it easier and more economical to be an MMA fan. But the question is, how many more buys per event would the UFC have to sell to make such a switch worthwhile?

Right now, UFC pay-per-views are either huge or extremely mediocre, at least in terms of sales. Either you have a blockbuster card that edges toward the million-buy (or more) mark, or you’re doing a few hundred thousand (or less) with the usual suspects. That’s a viable strategy for now, but if you cut the number of events in half, suddenly you can’t afford a lackluster event with lackluster results.

There’s also the question of how to make the math work with the size of the current roster. It’s already a struggle for the UFC to find fights for everyone it has under contract. If you decrease the number of events, that goes from difficult to impossible. And if you don’t decrease the total number of events, but just make fewer of them pay-per-views, what do you do with the others?

That might be a question that the next TV deal will address, in one way or another. But something tells me that whoever ends up paying for UFC broadcast rights is going to want more say in what goes where.

I’m sure the UFC wants to keep a guy like Cub Swanson around – but at what price? That’s going to be the issue, especially coming off a loss that will likely stunt his title hopes. This is the type of situation where the UFC typically likes to lowball a fighter, using his recent past against him and forgetting all the work he put in before that.

Try that with Swanson, though, and he might just take his legitimately dope and easily transferable personal brand over to Bellator, where he’d no doubt be very welcome.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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Source: MMA Junkie

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, Dec. 13: 'T-City' on the rise

With a victory over a perennial contender in his first UFC headliner, “T-City” is an enviable position.

This past weekend at UFC Fight Night 123, Brian Ortega scored a submission win over Cub Swanson for a signature career victory.

With the win, which earned both “Performance of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” honors, Ortega has taken Swanson’s No. 6 spot in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings. Swanson, meanwhile, drops to No. 7.

Check out the full rankings above.

Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, MMA Rankings, News, PFL, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Cub Swanson says he 'panicked' from Brian Ortega's choke: 'I felt like I was going to die'

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FRESNO, Calif. – Aside from potentially contracting an illness from a baby a day before his fight, Cub Swanson thinks things were going pretty well against Brian Ortega prior to his submission loss in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 headliner.

Naturally Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) was disappointed he had to tap out in the second round of the FS1-televised featherweight main event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. However, he struggled to be too critical of his performance against Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC).

“I felt like I was picking him apart, getting my flow from the (start),” Swanson told MMAjunkie. “I was figuring him out. I thought it was one of my best performances until getting caught. … I was landing big body shots, big leg kicks. Everything I wanted to execute I was doing. I felt great, and I messed up.”

Swanson entered the headliner on a four-fight winning streak at 145 pounds and was looking to earn a title shot. It was also the final fight on his current UFC contract, and he said hopes to strike a new deal. UFC President Dana White said he wants to keep him around.

Although the fight was a setback, Swanson gave credit to Ortega for putting him in a guillotine he couldn’t escape.

“It crushed my head, and it’s like my neck just flared up, and I panicked,” Swanson said. “I felt like I was going to die.”

Swanson’s loss marked the first time in his UFC career he’s fallen short against someone who hasn’t challenged for or held a UFC title. Reigning champ Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar and Ricardo Lamas are the only others to get the best of Swanson inside the octagon, and though Ortega joined that list, the veteran still thinks “T-City” can get better.

“I think he’s still got some work to do, but obviously all the tools are there because you can’t teach poise and determination,” Swanson said. “He’s got that. That’s why he’s undefeated. That’s why he’s come from behind all of his fights.”

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

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Dana White: 'Unbelievable' Brian Ortega won't get UFC title shot before Frankie Edgar

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FRESNO, Calif. – UFC President Dana White is very high on Brian Ortega’s potential following a submission win over Cub Swanson in UFC Fight Night 123’s main event – just not high enough to give him a title shot.

Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) earned his biggest win to date on Saturday when he submitted Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) with a second-round guillotine of their featherweight headliner, which took place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. With five straight UFC wins, all by stoppage, “T-City” got himself noticed by the UFC boss.

“Without a doubt, this kid’s obviously the future,” White told MMAjunkie following UFC Fight Night 123. “Cub Swanson looked incredible tonight. … The problem is, this Ortega kid, if he even puts his hands on you man – and he had him in the first round, and I’ve never seen a guy up in a guillotine choke like that and lets go, repositions his hands, and gets the choke. Against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt too. Unbelievable. Incredible performance that definitely puts this kid on the map.”

Ortega is on the map, but he won’t be fighting for the belt next, White confirmed. That honor goes to former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC), who was forced to pull out of a scheduled UFC 218 title fight with champ Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) earlier this month.

Edgar was also in attendance at UFC Fight Night 123 and told MMAjunkie he’s on the verge of being cleared for competition and could fight Holloway as soon as March. A number of things could happen to alter those plans, but as of now, White said Holloway vs. Edgar is the next 145-pound title fight.

“There’s no way that Ortega jumps over Frankie,” White said. “Definitely not. … It all depends on timing. When do we fight again? Who’s ready? Who’s not?

“But yeah, Frankie definitely seems like the No. 1 contender.”

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

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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 Fight Night 123 post-event facts: Brian Ortega proving to be one of UFC's best finishers

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Brian Ortega continued to make his presence felt in the UFC featherweight division on Saturday when he turned from prospect to contender with a victory over Cub Swanson in the UFC Fight Night 123 main event.

Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) added to his perfect record when he locked up a fight-ending second-round submission on Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) in their headlining bout, which took place at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., and aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

It hasn’t taken long, but “T-City” has already made a mark in the UFC record books. For more on the numbers behind his performance, as well as other figures and footnotes to come from the UFC’s final “Fight Night” event of the year, check below for 50 post-event facts from UFC Fight Night 123.

* * * *

General

Save Mart Center

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $117,500.

Debuting fighters went 2-2 at the event.

Swanson and Marlon Moraes earned $50,000 UFC Fight Night 123 fight-night bonuses. Ortega received two bonuses worth $100,000 total.

UFC Fight Night 123 drew an announced attendance of 7,605 for a live gate of $568,290.

Betting favorites went 8-5 on the card.

Total fight time for the 13-bout card was 2:25:46.

Main card

Brian Ortega

Ortega’s 14-fight MMA unbeaten streak is the longest among active UFC featherweights.

Ortega’s five-fight UFC winning streak in featherweight competition is tied with Darren Elkins for the second longest active streak in the division behind champ Max Holloway (11).

Ortega has earned eight of his 13 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his UFC wins.

Ortega’s five-fight stoppage streak in UFC competition is tied with heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic and Mairbek Taisumov for the second longest active streak in the company behind Francis Ngannou (six).

Ortega’s five-fight stoppage streak in UFC featherweight bouts is the longest active streak in the division.

Cub Swanson and Brian Ortega

Swanson had his four-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since April 2015.

Swanson has suffered seven of his eight career losses by stoppage.

Swanson has suffered all four of his UFC losses by submission.

Swanson’s 11 fight-night bonuses for UFC/WEC featherweight bouts are the most in combined divisional history.

Swanson’s seven fight-night bonuses in UFC featherweight bouts are the most in divisional history.

Gabriel Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past five fights.

Jason Knight (20-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) suffered consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

Knight has suffered three of his career four losses by decision.

Marlon Moraes

Moraes (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) earned his second UFC victory in a 28-day span. He defeated John Dodson at UFC Fight Night 120 this past month.

Aljamain Sterling (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Scott Holtzman (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) earned consecutive victories for the first time in his UFC career.

Holtzman has earned six of his past eight victories by decision.

Markus Perez (9-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) had his nine-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

Preliminary card

Alexis Davis

Alexis Davis (19-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) was successful in her UFC flyweight debut. It was her first fight in the weight class since November 2010.

Davis improved to 2-1 since she returned from a nearly two-year layoff in December 2016.

Davis has earned five of her six UFC victories by decision.

Liz Carmouche (11-6 MMA, 3-4 UFC) was unsuccessful in her UFC flyweight debut.

Carmouche fell to 5-6 in her past 11 professional bouts.

Carmouche has suffered four of her six career losses by decision.

Andre Soukhamthath

Andre Soukhamthath (12-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has earned 11 of his 12 career victories by stoppage.

Luke Sanders (11-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has suffered consecutive losses after starting his career on an 11-fight winning streak.

Sanders suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Carls John de Tomas (6-2 MMA, 0-2 UFC) has suffered consecutive losses after starting his career on a six-fight winning streak.

De Thomas suffered the first stoppage loss of his career.

Frankie Saenz

Frankie Saenz (12-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has earned all four of his UFC victories by decision.

Merab Dvalishvili (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has suffered all three of his career losses by decision.

Dvalishvili’s 11 takedowns landed tied the single-fight UFC/WEC bantamweight record.

Dvalishvili’s 11 takedowns landed tied the single-fight UFC record for most in a loss.

Iuri Alcantara (34-9 MMA, 9-6 UFC) fell to 7-5 with one no-contest since he dropped to the UFC bantamweight division in January 2013.

Alcantara has suffered five of his six UFC losses by decision.

Davi Ramos

Davi Ramos (7-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has earned six of his seven career victories by stoppage.

Ramos earned his first submission victory since Nov. 15, 2013 – a span of 1,485 days (more than four years) and five fights.

Chris Gruetzemacher (13-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) was unsuccessful in his return to the UFC lightweight division. He fell to 1-1 in UFC lightweight competition.

Gruetzemacher suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.

Gruetzemacher has suffered all three of his career losses by submission.

Trevin Giles

Trevin Giles (11-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) was successful in his UFC middleweight debut.

Giles has earned 10 of his 11 career victories by stoppage.

Antonio Braga Neto (9-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) was unsuccessful in his return to MMA competition following a three-and-a-half year layoff.

Braga Neto suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

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

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Are we ready to believe in a specialist like Brian Ortega yet?

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There weren’t a whole lot of reasons to think Brian Ortega would beat Cub Swanson. Just one good one, which sometimes is all it takes.

Consider the first round of their main event bout at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event. The first four-and-a-half minutes was about what you’d expect. Swanson, the superior striker and craftier veteran, chipped away at a resilient but somewhat limited Ortega, thumping him to the head and the body and deftly resisting Ortega’s efforts to tussle in close.

Then Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) made the mistake of letting Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) get just close to ensnare his head and one of his arms, and suddenly he was struggling to maintain consciousness as he counted down the few remaining seconds in a round he’d otherwise mostly controlled.

Maybe that should have been all the warning he needed. Make one mistake that exposes your neck to Ortega, and all the good work you’ve done up until that point will be nullified.

Only it wasn’t even much of a mistake that did Swanson in. Midway through the second, another round he’d mostly won via a series of striking exchanges, Swanson allowed his head to get just a tad too low.

He didn’t go and do anything dumb. He didn’t stick his neck onto the chopping block the way some fighters do when they allow themselves to get careless in search of a takedown. The worst thing you could say about there was that he allowed his relaxed his state of constant anti-choke vigilance for just a moment. As Ortega looped his arm over Swanson’s head and around his throat, it didn’t even seem like that serious of an attempt.

Then a few seconds later the fight was over.

Let this be a final warning to every featherweight in or around the UFC. This Ortega guy? Chokes are kind of his thing. He can hit triangles and guillotines from all angles, even when you think you’re safe, so best to disregard any assumption of safety and proceed as if you’re always at risk of defeat via a deft attack on your carotid arteries. In other words, heed the wisdom of the Wu-Tang Clan and protect your neck.

But it’s tough being a specialist in MMA these days, even when you’re 13-0 with five straight finishes (not counting that no-contest owing to a positive steroid test) at the tender age of 26. Particularly when you’re thing is the sudden and unexpected application of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, people have a way of dismissing your accomplishments as a one-dimensional trick that will soon reach its limits.

Some of that attitude is the result of experience. The days of submission specialists winning UFC titles seem to be long gone. Former women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey was arguably the last in a long line of fighters with a signature submission move that she pulled off even on opponents who were expecting it, and even she had her shortcomings forcefully exposed eventually.

Ortega might not be quite so limited, but his game is, you might say, very focused on one particular outcome. That makes him a lot of fun to watch. But could it possibly make him great?

It’s hard to be convinced, especially after how we’ve seen this play out in the past. The tendency is to await more evidence, more tests, more ranked opponents.

But then, that’s what Swanson was, a title contender who was more dangerous and accomplished than anyone Ortega had faced before. And just look how that turned out.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Brian Ortega's nasty choke wasn't too shabby considering 'my whole life, I thought I sucked'

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FRESNO, Calif. – On Friday, on the eve of Brian Ortega’s headlining affair opposite fellow featherweight contender Cub Swanson, he had an interesting chat in an elevator.

“They were like, ‘Brian is probably too stupid to go to the ground. He’s going to try to bang,’” Ortega said.

The tone, Ortega explained, was playful. Still, it stuck with him.

“I was like, ‘Hmm. I’m not stupid. I just like to bang,’” Ortega said with a laugh. “But I realized (Swanson) wasn’t trying to bang. So I was like, ‘If he’s not trying to bang, then let me take full advantage of it and go to my forte, which is jiu-jitsu.”

And what a forte that is. After a near-miss in the first round against a game-ready Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC), Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) capped off Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 123 event at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., with a beautiful guillotine choke. His efforts earned him two $50,000 fight-night bonuses – for both “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night.”

It was the third submission in a UFC run consisting only of finishes. But this one comes with some added flair: Not only was it against a battle-tested veteran, but it was a brilliantly executed move that required a slick grip readjustment. The finish inspired a frenzy in the MMA community.

Clearly, after 14 years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, 26-year-old black belt Ortega knows his way with chokes – even if it took being on the other end of the submssions by the likes of Rener Gracie to get there.

“You don’t realize, because I’m getting beat up all the time,” Ortega said. “My whole life, I thought I sucked. And then I get in here and I grapple other people, and I’m like, ‘I’m actually good.’ So it feels good. I’ve been getting choked out by these guys for so long, I’m just used to another caliber of jiu-jitsu.”

After a high-profile win, the perennial dark horse has certainly launched himself into the vicinity of the title picture. And he’d be happy to get that. As he said in the octagon, though, Ortega is not in the business of jumping in line. The rightful challenger, he understands, is Frankie Edgar, who withdrew from a title meeting with champ Max Holloway at UFC 218.

If it’s possible to get the winner of that, Ortega said, than that would be fine with him. But if not?

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Ortega said. “I’m blessed and happy to be here.”

While he awaits his next fight, though, Ortega will most likely continue to focus on the work that he discussed with UFC President Dana White immediately after his fight (via Twitter):

“I’ve been saying, I really want to help people out,” Ortega said. “I want to use this light – to not just have it on me. They invested a lot of money to promote me and everything. And now that my name is getting out there, I want to help people out. That’s my main thing. I love kids. I love helping kids out. I’m not the perfect person, but I have the perfect heart, I feel, when it comes to helping people. …

“There’s too much negativity going on in the world, and I don’t just want to talk about, ‘Hey, let’s make the world a better place.’ I want to be the change that you want to see in the world. I’ve been there; I’ve done it. I’ve been doing charity work since I was 20 years old, and now that I’m on a huge platform, maybe I can use this opportunity to help as many people as I can.”

To hear more from Ortega, 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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Source: MMA Junkie

Pro tip: Don't shove your 'deathly sick' baby on a fighter before a UFC main event

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Dann StuppWhile some advice seems like common sense, it apparently needs to be shared with some MMA fans.

An example: If your baby is “deathly sick,” think twice about shoving the kid into the arms of a UFC fighter on the day before a main event.

That’s apparently what happened to Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) on Friday, a day before he suffered a second-round submission loss to fellow featherweight Brian Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 123 headliner.

“It was a stressful day,” Swanson told MMAjunkie after the bout, which aired on FS1 from Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. “I woke up a little sick this morning. I didn’t really want to tell my coaches.

“The funniest thing happened. Some guy walks up to me in the lobby, and he goes, ‘Hey, take a picture with my daughter,’ and he shoves her in my face. I was like, ‘all right.’ She was like screaming and crying. And she wouldn’t stay with me, so I hand her back after we took a picture together.”

Father of the Year then dropped an interesting nugget, one that no fighter wants to hear before a pivotal five-round bout – an end-of-contract fight, even.

“He was like, ‘Oh yeah, I was going to go to open workouts, but my daughter is deathly sick,’” Swanson said. “I was like, ‘Dude.’

“So I think that’s what got me. So I woke up this morning, and I was pretty stressed out all day. I just felt awful all day.”

Once he warmed up, though, Swanson said he felt better. Still, it’s not exactly a concern a fighter wants bouncing around in his head during such a pivotal moment.

Remember, MMA fans: Fighters cut weight and compromise their immune system, and your kids are germ buckets.

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

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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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.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie