The Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 108: Swanson vs. Lobov
The UFC heads to Nashville, Tennessee, with a decent Fight Night offering on Fox Sports 1 this Saturday, April 22. In the main event, longtime featherweight contender Cub Swanson draws Conor McGregor's friend and training partner Artem Lobov in a bizarre but potentially entertaining main event.
That main event sums up a card mostly devoid of relevance to larger storylines or even to the title picture in any division, but it's full of fun matchups.
The co-main event features a lightweight scrap between Al Iaquinta and the legendary Diego Sanchez, a fight that promises fireworks. Action fighter Joe Lauzon draws Scotland's Stevie Ray in a fun bout, while Jake Ellenberger and Mike Perry will likely fight until one man is unconscious in the main-card opener.
The best fight on the card is a bantamweight matchup between John Dodson and Eddie Wineland, a fantastic meeting of two grizzled and talented veterans.
The prelims aren't must-watch, but keep an eye on the flyweight bout between Brandon Moreno and Dustin Ortiz.
Let's take a look at each matchup.
The Fight Pass Prelims
Hector Sandoval (13-3; 1-1 UFC) vs. Matt Schnell (10-3; 0-1 UFC)
Low-level flyweights fight to stay in the UFC as Sandoval draws Schnell in a fun bout to open the event. Sandoval won a decision over Fredy Serrano in his last outing after falling to Wilson Reis in his UFC debut, while Schnell went down to Rob Font by knockout.
Schnell is a quick, athletic fighter with sharp hands and nasty kicks on the feet that make good use of his 5'8" frame. He's also an aggressive submission grappler. Sandoval is a powerhouse at just 5'2" and combines solid punching combinations with a powerful wrestling game.
Prediction: Schnell is six inches taller and a much better striker. If he can stay off his back, it's his fight to lose. The pick is Schnell by decision.
Bryan Barberena (12-4; 3-2 UFC) vs. Joe Proctor (11-4; 4-3 UFC)
Barberena drops back down to lightweight after three fights at 170 pounds, the last of which was a one-sided decision loss to Colby Covington. He draws the often-injured but talented Proctor, who hasn't fought since a December 2015 loss to Magomed Mustafaev.
The southpaw Barberena is awkward but effective, slinging surprisingly hard punches and kicks at range as he moves into the clinch and takedown attempts. That's where he does his best work. Proctor is aggressive and dangerous everywhere, throwing potent combinations on the feet and hunting for submissions whenever he can.
Prediction: Barberena works through some early trouble to grind out the second and third rounds to win a decision.
Cindy Dandois (8-2; 0-0 UFC) vs. Alexis Davis (17-7; 4-2 UFC)
The veteran Davis draws the debuting Belgian Dandois in a solid matchup at 135 pounds. Dandois has won three in a row, all by submission, since a loss to Invicta champion Tonya Evinger. Davis rebounded from her 14-second loss to Ronda Rousey by defeating Sarah Kaufman, but she then suffered a submission loss to Sara McMann in December.
Davis is a jack of all trades. She's aggressive and durable on the feet and pushes a fantastic pace, but she's less imposing as a wrestler. On the mat she's dangerous and skilled. Dandois is a strong takedown artist and a nasty, aggressive grappler, but she's a genuinely bad striker, and she's in serious trouble if she can't get her hands on her opponent.
Prediction: Davis is good enough to survive on the mat, and she's a vastly superior striker. She wins a decision.
The Fox Sports 2 Prelims
Jessica Penne (12-5; 1-2 UFC) vs. Danielle Taylor (8-2; 1-1 UFC)
Former title challenger Penne tries to snap a two-fight losing streak—albeit to champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and current top contender Jessica Andrade—against Taylor. Taylor has split her two UFC outings, dropping a decision to Maryna Moroz in an all-timer of a terrible fight and then winning a close one against Seohee Ham.
Penne can do a bit of everything. She's a decent striker who tosses out a crisp jab and kicks, but she does her best work on the mat with an aggressive and technically sound grappling game. Takedowns aren't her strong suit, though. Taylor is tiny for the division at just 5'0", but the striker makes up for it with big power in both hands and serious explosiveness.
Prediction: Taylor is much faster and more dangerous on the feet, but if Penne can keep it close there and find a way to get it to the mat, it's her fight to lose. Penne wins a slow-paced decision.
Scott Holtzman (9-2; 2-2 UFC) vs. Michael McBride (8-2; 0-1 UFC)
Holtzman attempts to get back on track following a loss to Josh Emmett against McBride, who fell short in his short-notice UFC debut against Nik Lentz.
McBride likes to wrestle and scramble, but he's a bad athlete and hittable on the feet. Holtzman hasn't put all the pieces of his game together, but he's quick, a strong clinch fighter and more than competent on the mat.
Prediction: Holtzman wins an easy decision.
Dustin Ortiz (16-6; 5-4 UFC) vs. Brandon Moreno (13-3; 2-0 UFC)
The Ultimate Fighter 24 competitor and rising talent Moreno takes on veteran gatekeeper Ortiz in an excellent flyweight matchup. Moreno has shown real talent in two UFC outings, finishing Louis Smolka and then winning a wide decision over Ryan Benoit.
Moreno is a serious talent. He's a sharp striker on the feet with a heavy combination-punching arsenal and strong fundamentals, which he backs up with increasingly potent wrestling and a dangerous submission game. Ortiz is a grinder, and a good one. He's aggressive on the feet and tireless in the clinch, wrestling and grappling exchanges. He's not especially dynamic, but he's relentless and skilled.
Prediction: If Moreno can keep Ortiz at bay and limit the wrestling and grappling exchanges, this is his fight to lose. Moreno wins a decision in a mild upset.
Thales Leites (26-7; 11-6 UFC) vs. Sam Alvey (30-8, 1 NC; 7-3 UFC)
Former title challenger Leites draws Alvey in a solid middleweight fight. Leites is on a rough run and has lost three of his last four, including his last fight to Krzysztof Jotko. Alvey has won four in a row, with decisions over Nate Marquardt and Alex Nicholson in his last two fights.
Leites looks to be at the end of his prime years. His willingness and ability to strike seem to be disappearing, though he's still a slick takedown artist and a lethal grappler. Alvey is a southpaw puncher who prefers to counter, though he can toss out some occasional volume. Strong takedown defense keeps him standing, and that's the extent of his game.
Prediction: If Leites can't get Alvey down, he's in for a long night on the feet. Alvey wins a slow-paced decision over a gunshy Leites.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Perry
Jake Ellenberger (31-12; 10-8 UFC) vs. Mike Perry (9-1; 2-1 UFC)
The veteran Ellenberger tries to hang on to his top spot in the welterweight division against rising talent Perry. Ellenberger has been on a rough run in recent years, dropping six of his last eight fights, including a stoppage to Jorge Masvidal last December. Perry debuted with a pair of impressive knockout wins but fell short against Alan Jouban in his last outing.
Perry is a fantastic athlete with great speed, explosiveness and power. He's a striker by trade, and while he's young in his career, he shows surprising craft for such an inexperienced fighter. Aggression is his hallmark: He gets after opponents from the opening bell, pushing them back with a sharp jab and herding them toward the fence with a combination of looping punches and kicks and passable pressure footwork.
Once he works his way into the pocket, Perry unloads hard single shots and combinations of power punches. He's surprisingly sharp on the counter and mixes up his attack between the head and the body. His instincts are excellent, and he has a knack for moving his opponent into his shots.
That's basically the extent of Perry's game. He's a strong defensive wrestler but not impenetrable, and he shows a sharp command of position and passing when he gets on top. He has yet to try for a takedown of his own, though.
Ellenberger isn't quite as explosive or dangerous as he was in his heyday four or five years ago, but he's still a threat to finish at any time with his powerful hands.
The Nebraska native is a puncher with a somewhat fragile disposition in the cage. At his best, he pressures his opponent behind heavy jabs and kicks and then picks his spots to explode forward into heavy combinations. Counters are a strong suit as well, though he's not especially crafty with them. At his worst, he either struggles to pull the trigger and gets stuck outside or he lets himself be pressured.
A potent double-leg takedown adds some variety for Ellenberger. He's a stout defensive wrestler as well and has only conceded takedowns to the best wrestlers in the division. On top, he's mostly content to control, but he packs a wallop when he postures up and lets his ground strikes go.
Perry -185 (bet $185 to win $100), Ellenberger +160 (bet $100 to win $160)
This should be fun. Both fighters like to bang it out and both are big-time punchers. In that kind of fight, it should come down to confidence, durability and cardio; Perry has shown more of all three in recent outings. Perry lands a knockout shot on a tired, demoralized Ellenberger in the second round.
Joe Lauzon vs. Stevie Ray
Joe Lauzon (27-12; 14-9 UFC) vs. Stevie Ray (20-6; 4-1 UFC)
Veteran lightweight action fighter Lauzon takes on Scotland's Ray in an entertaining lightweight matchup. Lauzon won a close decision over Marcin Held in his last outing following a close win in his rematch over Jim Miller, and he's maintaining his place as the fun gatekeeper at 155 pounds. Ray won a decision over Ross Pearson in his last fight.
Lauzon is a dangerous finisher who can trouble his opponent with both strikes and submissions. On the feet, Lauzon gets after his opponent, flicking a jab and then working his way into the pocket where he flings hard combinations of power punches. He isn't afraid to brawl and is dangerous in exchanges, but he's a subpar defensive fighter who gets hit a lot.
In the clinch, Lauzon controls well and combines sharp knees with slashing elbows. He can hit a nice array of trips and body-lock takedowns as well. He's a mediocre defensive wrestler, though. Grappling is the strongest piece of Lauzon's game: He's an aggressive finisher on the mat and doesn't hesitate to give up position for a submission. Getting to the back is a specialty, and he can threaten from his guard as well.
On the negative side, Lauzon's cardio has always been an issue. He's exceptionally dangerous in the first round, less so in the second, and the third is always dicey for him.
Ray is a quick, athletic striker with power in his hands. The southpaw likes to stick and move, flicking sharp round and side kicks at distance and then sitting down on hard jab-cross combinations. His straight left hand is potent and dangerous, and he finds clean angles from which to land it.
Striking is the basis of Ray's game, but he's also strong in the clinch. Competent but not outstanding takedown defense mostly keeps him on his feet, and he can do good work from top position on the rare occasions where he looks for a takedown. He has a bad habit of getting too aggressive on the mat, though, or panicking when put in a bad position.
Ray -210, Lauzon +175
This is Ray's fight to lose: He should be able to stick Lauzon at distance and work him over on the feet while avoiding a brawl. If Ray finds himself on the mat, though, he's in serious trouble. Lauzon is exactly the kind of aggressive, decisive grappler who has found submissions against Ray in the past. With that caveat, the pick is Ray by clean decision.
John Dodson vs. Eddie Wineland
John Dodson (19-8; 7-3 UFC) vs. Eddie Wineland (23-11-1; 5-5 UFC)
Two-time flyweight title challenger Dodson tries to get back on track against longtime veteran and bantamweight contender Wineland following a rough loss to John Lineker. Wineland briefly retired from the sport but has since won two in a row, both by knockout; Takeya Mizugaki fell in December and Frankie Saenz last July.
Wineland and Dodson are both marketable veterans, and neither fighter would be more than one or two more victories away from a title shot.
Crisp striking is Wineland's wheelhouse. He mostly prefers to box on the feet, keeping his hands low as he circles and pivots smoothly through the space of the cage. His angles are simply gorgeous, the product of excellent footwork and fundamentals. Jabs score and gauge the distance, and Wineland then picks his spots to sit down on straight rights and left hooks. Counters are a specialty, and he's not easy to hit.
That footwork makes it hard to get a clean shot at Wineland's hips, and he backs up his constant movement with strong fundamental takedown defense. He's nothing special on the mat, though, and rarely looks for takedowns or control of his own.
Dodson is ridiculously quick and explosive. Aside from the champion, Cody Garbrandt, and perhaps not even him, there's nobody faster at 135 pounds. The southpaw packs enormous power in his left hand and has built his game around finding clever ways to apply that power.
He's something of a jack of all trades. He can pressure in bursts, stand in front of his opponent and look for counters or stick and move with clean circular movement. In all cases, he's looking for ways to land his potent left hand. He excels at moving his opponent's hands and defense around with his hard left kick and then sneaking one or two or even three consecutive left hands around, under and through the guard.
There are some problems with this approach, though. Dodson doesn't throw much and can be outworked; his gas tank isn't especially deep, and he rarely throws anything of value off the right side.
While he can hit the occasional takedown, that's rarely something Dodson looks to do. He's an extraordinary defensive wrestler, though, and is hard to keep on the mat or in the clinch if he doesn't want to be there. Only the incomparable Demetrious Johnson has really succeeded in overpowering him in that phase.
Dodson -410, Wineland +330
Those betting odds are shockingly wide. Wineland has a distinct path to victory here: use his five-inch height advantage to stick Dodson outside with his jab, keep his feet moving and counter Dodson's left hand when he throws it. It wouldn't be surprising if he were able to execute that plan to win a decision. With that said, it's more likely that Dodson lands something substantial. The pick is Dodson by knockout in the second round.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Marcos Rogerio De Lima
Ovince Saint Preux (19-10; 7-5 UFC) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (15-5-1; 4-2 UFC)
Former interim title challenger Saint Preux tries to right the ship after his third consecutive loss against Brazilian brawler De Lima. Since losing to Jon Jones in April 2016, Saint Preux has lost twice more, a knockout to Jimi Manuwa and a decision to Volkan Oezdemir. The inconsistent but talented De Lima has split his last two, losing to Gadzhimurad Antigulov and then finishing Jeremy Kimball in January.
The light heavyweight division is wide open, and the winner will be no more than a few fights away from the top.
Saint Preux is an outstanding athlete with a huge frame—a thickly built 6'3"—and a strange, unorthodox and occasionally effective game. The southpaw likes to set a long distance on the feet, tossing out hard front and round kicks and then stabbing away with a sharp, straight left. His timing, speed and length make him a dangerous counterpuncher as well. Every shot carries potentially fight-ending power.
When the mood strikes, Saint Preux shows off competent takedowns. He doesn't do this often, though, and his defensive wrestling game is mediocre at best. He relies heavily on his ability to scramble if planted on the mat. On top, Saint Preux packs real power and can find the occasional submission.
There are a number of problems with Saint Preux's approach that are becoming more apparent as he spends more time in the UFC. He has subpar fundamentals in every phase, which means that everything he does burns more energy than it should. He tends to burn through his gas tank quickly. There isn't much variety to Saint Preux's game, either, and experienced opponents can figure him out with time.
De Lima is a monstrous physical specimen with great speed and power, but he suffers from limited stamina and a tendency to make poor in-fight decisions. At his best, De Lima stalks his opponent, slashing away with heavy low kicks as he pushes toward the fence. When his opponent tries to throw to back De Lima off and create space, the Brazilian responds with a vicious counter combination.
While he's competent at range, De Lima is even more dangerous in the clinch, where his strength and technique make him a vicious finisher with knees, elbows and short punches.
He's an awful defensive wrestler, though, and barely seems to contest some shots. A competent grappling game somewhat makes up for that, and he's not easy to hold down. On top, he throws huge shots, passes well and can finish with submissions.
Saint Preux -160, De Lima +140
If De Lima stays measured and doesn't burn through his gas tank, he can beat up Saint Preux with combinations at range and work him over in the clinch. It's more likely, though, that Saint Preux survives the early storm, takes De Lima down in the second and finishes him with strikes on the mat. The pick is Saint Preux by knockout in the second round.
Al Iaquinta vs. Diego Sanchez
Co-Main Event: Lightweights
Al Iaquinta (12-3-1; 7-2 UFC) vs. Diego Sanchez (29-9; 15-9 UFC)
Iaquinta returns to action after a two-year layoff against the very first Ultimate Fighter winner Sanchez, who rebounded from an early knockout loss to Joe Lauzon by taking a decision from Marcin Held last November.
New York's Iaquinta has technically won four in a row, but the last victory in that streak was an utter robbery over Jorge Masvidal.
While it's hard to say what effect two years away from the cage have had on Iaquinta, before the layoff he was a solid, well-rounded fighter who was making improvements from fight to fight. Striking is his wheelhouse, and he prefers a technical, balanced boxing game focused around a high volume of accurate combinations.
Iaquinta likes to jab his way in, cut angles with crisp footwork and then bomb away with head-body-legs sequences of punches and kicks. Pace is the best piece of this game, though he's powerful enough to do real damage, and he's defensively sound as well.
Strong takedown defense keeps Iaquinta standing, and he can hit the occasional takedown of his own, preferring the single-leg. On top, he controls well and can do some real damage with ground strikes, but the occasional mental lapse puts him in bad positions. Several opponents have exploited that with submissions in transition.
Sanchez is basically the same fighter he's always been, which has its positives and negatives. The southpaw is a bit sharper on the feet than he's been in the past, slinging a sharp body kick and solid combinations. This is enough to score for him and keep rounds close, but for the most part, striking is just a bridge to bring him where he wants to go. His defense is subpar, and he's inaccurate when he tries to brawl.
The clinch and wrestling exchanges are the heart and soul of Sanchez's game. He's not an explosive or especially slick takedown artist, but he's relentless and chains together shot after shot after shot until either he gets his opponent down or he can't maintain a grip anymore.
Sanchez's legendary pace really comes into play on the mat. He's a crisp and technical grappler with great control and real skill in the transitions. On top, he maintains effortless control and drops bombing ground strikes.
Iaquinta -420, Sanchez +335
This looks to be a rough matchup for Sanchez. Iaquinta is a rugged defensive wrestler with a deep gas tank, and unlike many of Sanchez's opponents, he won't be outworked by the appearance of Sanchez's activity. Iaquinta takes a clean decision.
Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov
Main Event: Featherweights
Cub Swanson (24-7; 9-3 UFC) vs. Artem Lobov (14-12-1, 1 NC; 2-2 UFC)
Swanson and Lobov meet in a nonsensical but potentially entertaining featherweight main event.
Swanson won a decision over Dooho Choi in the consensus 2016 fight of the year, which ran his current winning streak to three fights. This has been an impressive rebound for him after a pair of losses to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway that could have marked his end as an elite contender.
Lobov, by contrast, has defeated the lower end of the division. He won a decision over Chris Avila and another over Teruto Ishihara to snap a two-fight losing streak. While a better fighter than his near-.500 record suggests, he has never faced anyone remotely close to this level.
Swanson is a slick and creative striker. He's exceptionally explosive and athletic, and his game builds on those physical gifts in a technically sound way. His footwork is gorgeous to watch, though not always efficient, and it allows him to find advantageous angles, keep his back off the cage and move smoothly through the cage.
Boxing is the heart and soul of Swanson's approach. He measures distance with his lead hand and tosses out the occasional jab, and then picks his spots to explode forward into vicious single shots and combinations that feature stance-switches to cover more distance. Sneaky head kicks often follow those punching combinations. Heavy kicks at all levels score points and wear the opponent down.
While he doesn't brawl as much as he used to, Swanson is a dangerous counterpuncher. He can stick in the pocket, move his head and fire back with one or two shots as well as anyone in the division. His chin is still outstanding, and he's not easy to hit cleanly.
Volume has never been Swanson's strong suit. His power and ability to control the range and pace have generally compensated for that: He makes every shot count, and every one can finish the fight.
That's what Swanson does best. He's not helpless elsewhere; slick trips and throws add another dimension, one that he could stand to use more often. Defensive wrestling has never been his strong suit, though. On top, he mostly prefers to control, something he does well, and he can be too content to play off his back if taken down.
Lobov is almost entirely a striker, and one with an idiosyncratic style that seems to work for him. He's aggressive and gets after his opponent, but Lobov isn't the kind of fighter who drowns his foe in volume; he prefers to measure the range with his lead hand and chop away with low kicks to the calf, which help him gauge the distance and herd the opponent to angles from which he can land clean shots.
When Lobov does let go, it's generally with one or two punches at a time. He has real power in his hands and places his shots accurately. His timing is excellent, and he has a knack for planting counters on the opponent's chin. That counter game is likely the best piece of his whole approach, as he has a varied repertoire of responses to punches and kicks and excels at slipping to angles or stepping in to land.
Those are the good pieces of Lobov's striking game. On the other hand, he just doesn't throw very much, and tends to slip into periods of inactivity. His power is nowhere near as imposing as he thinks it is, either, so those few shots he lands aren't necessarily the game-changers they need to be with that low level of output. He's hittable at all ranges, though he's shown an excellent chin.
Serviceable takedown defense mostly keeps Lobov standing, and he can hit the occasional takedown of his own when the mood strikes. He's competent on the mat and has shown a decent submission game, but he's not a threat from his back and isn't difficult to hold down.
Swanson -680, Lobov +490
Unless Swanson has fallen off a cliff since his war with Choi last December, which is a possibility, this is the American's fight to lose. Swanson is the more technical and well-rounded striker, the better wrestler, the better grappler and a vastly superior athlete with more power. Lobov can land on Swanson, especially with counters, but that's a thin game plan here.
Swanson cracks Lobov's chin and finishes him in the second round.
Betting odds courtesy of OddsShark and current on Wednesday, April 19.
Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. For the history enthusiasts out there, he also hosts The Fall of Rome Podcast on the end of the Roman Empire. He can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.