The MMA Cheat Sheet – UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Ortega
The UFC returns to California this weekend for their latest UFC Fight Night offering. Here’s your one-stop shop for all the key info you need ahead of the event.
With the MMA fanbase still catching its breath after a stupendous pay-per-view event in Detroit last weekend, the UFC keeps their relentless pace going with this weekend’s UFC Fight Night event in Fresno. One of the most respected featherweights in the world will take on a sleeper contender who is looking to break the glass ceiling and vault into title contention.
The Main Event: Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
Ask those who’ve been in or around the UFC for the past 10 years about Cub Swanson, and the response will be almost unanimous. He’s one of the slickest, most technically-sound strikers in the 145lb division and has been there or thereabouts in the featherweight division for years.
His lone world title opportunity came way back in the now-defunct WEC organization, where his title challenge was halted in a matter of seconds by a Jose Aldo flying knee.
But he’s more than proved himself as a legitimate title threat since, and following Max Holloway’s win over Aldo last weekend, Swanson will be looking to stake an undeniable claim for a title shot with a convincing win over an undefeated contender this weekend.
That undefeated contender is Ortega, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace who has shown his ability to win in a plethora of ways; he’s fought his way toward the top of the division by beating some notably difficult opponents. Victory over Swanson will see Ortega jump the queue and become a fresh new face to challenge Holloway at the top of the division.
|Swanson vs. Ortega||Win||Stoppage||TKO/KO||Submission||Decision|
|Odds correct on December 7 from via BestFightOdds.com|
This matchup offers a real opportunity for bettors to pick their poison, with the odds swaying from one fighter to the other depending on the method of victory.
Submission ace Ortega is strongly favored to win the bout by submission – no surprise given his grappling credentials and the fact he finished undefeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Renato Moicano in his last outing.
If the fight is to finish by KO/TKO, the bookies narrowly favor Swanson, who has regularly worked his boxing alongside his high school friend and former two-weight world boxing champ Timothy Bradley.
But the biggest disparity in favor of the veteran comes in the odds to win by decision. Here, Swanson’s five-round experience has led to the bookies pricing him as a significant favorite, at +183 compared to Ortega’s +400.
Keys to victory
Despite being the younger, less-experienced fighter, Ortega is the betting favorite to win the bout outright. That’s due in part to his undefeated record.
But fighting Swanson is a significant step up from any of his previous opponents, and he’ll be facing a man who is wily and experienced in all facets of the game. His submission skills are underrated, while his striking is among the best in the division. How Ortega deals with Swanson’s hands will go a long way to determining how this fight goes.
This is a real coin flip fight but in a somewhat unorthodox sense, because there are two distinctly possible outcomes here, with the deciding factor being Ortega’s ability to get the fight to the mat.
If he’s successful, he has the tools to finish Swanson by submission and pick up the biggest win of his career (+210).
But if he can’t get Cub to the mat, expect Swanson to box his way to a five-round decision victory (+183).
Main Event Pick
It’s almost too close to call, but Ortega seems to get better every time we see him inside the octagon, and over the extended five-round duration, there should be at least a couple of opportunities to get Swanson to the mat. And when he does, it may well be game over for Cub.
Swanson’s last three defeats (and five of his seven losses overall) have come by way of submission, and there aren’t many – if any – slicker operators on the mat than Ortega in the UFC’s featherweight top 15.
It’s a fiendishly close contest to pick, but with Ortega’s grappling giving him the biggest skills advantage in the matchup, I’m going with the young contender over the seasoned veteran.
PICK: Ortega by submission.
THE FIGHT CARD
Main Card (Live on FS1)
|Cub Swanson||Brian Ortega||Featherweight bout|
|Jason Knight||Gabriel Benitez||Featherweight bout|
|Marlon Moraes||Aljamain Sterling||Bantamweight bout|
|Scott Holtzman||Darrell Horcher||Lightweight bout|
|Eryk Anders||Markus Perez||Middleweight bout|
|Albert Morales||Benito Lopez||Bantamweight bout|
Preliminary Card (Live on FS1)
|Alexis Davis||Liz Carmouche||Women’s flyweight bout|
|Luke Sanders||Andre Soukhamthath||Bantamweight bout|
|Carls John de Tomas||Alex Perez||Flyweight bout|
|Frankie Saenz||Merab Dvalishvili||Bantamweight bout|
Early Prelims (Live on UFC Fight Pass)
|Alejandro Perez||Iuri Alcantara||Bantamweight bout|
|Chris Gruetzemacher||Davi Ramos||Lightweight bout|
|Antonio Braga Neto||Trevin Giles||Middleweight bout|
The Fighter Most Likely…
…to call out bantamweight contender Jimmie Rivera after their win: Marlon Moraes or Aljamain Sterling
Both men are among the best up-and-coming contenders in the UFC bantamweight division, and both appear to have beef with the New Yorker, who himself stands as little as one win away from a title shot.
But both Moraes and Sterling have impressive credentials of their own, and the winner of that bout should produce another potential contender at the sharp end of the UFC’s exciting 135lb division.
They’re very closely matched, with Moraes the narrow -140 favorite. But I like Sterling to get the job done at +120, with a submission win for “The Funkmaster” looking like an excellent sporting bet at +950.
…to score an eye-catching knockout win: Eryk Anders
He’s not a household name in the UFC just yet, but hard-hitting middleweight Eryk Anders could well score a few notoriety points this weekend when he takes on Brazilian Markus Perez.
Anders earned his spot in the UFC after impressing during Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series show, with his punch power proving a memorable calling card during that event.
He made a splash on his UFC debut, knocking out the respected veteran Rafael Natal inside a round in Uniondale, New York back in July. And now he faces undefeated Perez, who has a five-round win over former UFC welterweight contender Paulo Thiago on his record.
That alone deserves respect, but Anders’ prodigious punching power should give him the clear edge here. He’s -280 to win, and -110 to get it done by KO/TKO.
…to bounce back from defeat with a decisive win: Jason Knight
Knight is one of the most exciting fighters in a talent-filled featherweight division. His relentless, come-forward fighting style has won him countless fans, as the man affectionately known as “Hick Diaz” has built a cult following among hardcore MMA fans.
He took on former title challenger Ricardo Lamas in his last outing in a bout that saw him stopped in a wild one-round war, halting a run of four straight wins inside the octagon
Now he’s looking to bounce back into the win column against Gabriel Benitez, and should do so with style points. He’s +385 to win by KO/TKO, and +280 to finish the fight by submission.
[Main image credit: © Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports / Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports]