UFC Fight Night 123: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2017

UFC Fight Night 123: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    For the most part, the UFC has been doing a great job of delivering highly compelling pay-per-view events in 2017. That, unfortunately, has come at the direct expense of the Fight Night events that bridge them together.

    With UFC 218 living up to the high standards set by UFC 217, fans now have to worry about Saturday's UFC Fight Night 123 going the way of the ghastly UFC Fight Night 121 on Nov. 19.

    Here are the contests tasked with avoiding that same fate:

    • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
    • Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez
    • Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling
    • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
    • Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
    • Albert Morales vs. Benito Lopez

    So how will these fights go? Who will win? The Bleacher Report predictions team is here to break down and predict the outcomes of each fight set for UFC Fresno.

Albert Morales vs. Benito Lopez

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    Albert Morales (above) will greet the latest Tuesday Night Contender Series alum, Benito Lopez.
    Albert Morales (above) will greet the latest Tuesday Night Contender Series alum, Benito Lopez.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    You may know Lopez from Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, where he acquitted himself well enough to earn this step up. I'm not going to pretend either of these fighters is a name known in my household or any other, but the Team Alpha Male denizen does appear to have wrestling and knockout power. 

    Morales is more seasoned in the UFC. His record isn't great, but his two losses came to contenders in Brett Johns and Thomas Almeida, and he defeated well-regarded Andre Soukhamthath. Flip a coin and give this to Lopez based on power and momentum.

    Lopez, TKO, Rd. 2

                

    Craig Amos

    I've been a bit underwhelmed with Morales on the whole. He shows flashes of talent but hasn't managed to string enough of those moments together to collect anything resembling momentum. Nevertheless, I'm backing him here, working under the assumption his inconsistencies are less likely to be exposed by a young and debuting opponent in Lopez.

    Morales, unanimous decision

               

    Nathan McCarter

    A pick'em fight opens the action. I'm going to take Lopez because I think UFC matchmakers want to lend some credibility to Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series competitors. Thus, Lopez gets a more favorable matchup than he would have otherwise. Morales will be game, but Lopez makes it to the next level in short order.

    Lopez, TKO, Rd. 1

                 

    Steven Rondina

    Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series is going the way of Dana White's Lookin' for a Fight, in that it's an amazing testament to how bad White's eye for talent is despite being 17 years deep into his career as an MMA promoter. The 7-2 Morales isn't exactly a stiff test for its latest import, Lopez, but he's likely more than enough to keep the show stuck in the "L" column.

    Morales, unanimous decision

Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez

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    Eryk Anders turned heads with his impressive UFC debut win over Rafael Natal.
    Eryk Anders turned heads with his impressive UFC debut win over Rafael Natal.Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

    Harris

    This is the UFC debut for Perez, and he'll fight well enough to earn another shot. He already owns wins over UFC vets Paulo Thiago and Ildemar Alcantara, after all. But this is Anders' fight. There will be fun exchanges on the feet and the ground, but Anders will be a little more methodical en route to controlling Perez and finishing him off with ground-and-pound.

    Anders, TKO, Rd. 2

                 

    Amos

    Anders made a strong first impression in his UFC debut, and that's positioned him as a big favorite in this matchup. I'm not going to argue with that status, as I expect him to keep his perfect record intact by scoring another quick finish.

    Anders, TKO, Rd. 1

               

    McCarter

    Anders is a fun fighter to watch. He was one of Legacy Fighting Alliance's top prospects and made an impression in his UFC debut. He'll make another impression against a lesser fighter.

    Anders, TKO, Rd. 1

                   

    Rondina

    Rafael Natal isn't exactly a kingmaker, but he's a solid veteran who still has some fight in him and, for the most part, doesn't tend to lose to bums. That's enough for me to give Eryk Andersthe last guy to beat himthe nod over a UFC newcomer.

    Anders, TKO, Rd. 2

Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher

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    Darrell Horcher is still struggling to prove he belongs in the UFC.
    Darrell Horcher is still struggling to prove he belongs in the UFC.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Harris

    Holtzman is a brawler. Horcher is a brawler. Horcher just likes to add a little more wrestling to the festivities than Holtzman. Holtzman is a veteran but doesn't have what you might call a signature win. Horcher's record is more impressive when you consider his only loss in the past four years came to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Sound the mild-upset alarms in a close but fun affair.

    Horcher, split decision

                   

    Amos

    Neither guy looks much like a future champion, but this could wind up being a fun scrap. I'm worried about Holtzman fading, but expect him to rack up a little more damage in the early rounds and let that carry him to a narrow margin of victory.

    Holtzman, unanimous decision

               

    McCarter

    I'll be honest: I have no idea how this one is going to go down, but I expect it to be fun. Give me Horcher by TKO. A wild exchange leads to Holtzman getting clipped.

    Horcher, TKO, Rd. 2

                  

    Rondina

    I'm not sold on this being a particularly entertaining fight, to be honest, but I expect it to be a close one, and Holtzman tends to be the better of the two down the stretch. That's the difference-maker in my book.

    Holtzman, unanimous decision

Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling

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    The UFC is throwing fastballs every pitch when it comes to Aljamain Sterling.
    The UFC is throwing fastballs every pitch when it comes to Aljamain Sterling.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Harris

    Moraes is following in Michael Bisping's footsteps, taking a fight less than a month after a previous one. We'll see if he fares better, but I'm guessing he won't. If the smaller John Dodson can take down Moraes, so can Sterling. Moraes will try to use his leg kicks to slow him down, but it probably won't work.

    Sterling, unanimous decision

              

    Amos

    Bryan Caraway took so much of the shine off Sterling (he's won some back, but it's still a blot), and Moraes' stock is as high as it's been. Still, Sterling's wrestling is going to present big problems for Moraes, ones he won't be able to overcome. Expect a victory for Sterling, but don't expect this to be the most enjoyable fight to watch.

    Sterling, unanimous decision

               

    McCarter

    It feels like this fight is going unnoticed, which is a shame. Sterling was supposed to be the next big thing, but he's cooled off in a major way. Moraes has more momentum behind him and a skill set that should be difficult for Sterling to grind out to a decision. Moraes is going to find pockets in each round to win this fight, while Sterling struggles to find his own successes.

    Moraes, unanimous decision

                

    Rondina

    Both of these guys lose exclusively via iffy split decisions and I'm expecting that to stay true here. Moraes has the better overall game and that should carry him to victory, but Sterling should have a flashy moment or two to keep things close.

    Moraes, split decision

Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez

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    Jason Knight is looking to rebound after a tough loss to Gabriel Benitez.
    Jason Knight is looking to rebound after a tough loss to Gabriel Benitez.Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Harris

    Benitez presents himself as a striking technician. Knight will give the fans what they want and exchange with the Mexican but will eventually use his wrestling to take the advantage and wreak violence in a more one-sided fashion.

    Knight, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Amos

    I'm less enamored with Knight after his recent loss to Ricardo Lamas, but this is a pretty straightforward task for him. Like Scott, I figure he'll tussle on the feet for a while but ultimately go to his grappling for the win.

    Knight, submission, Rd. 2

                 

    McCarter

    I'm here for all the fun around Knight's "Hick Diaz" nickname. Knight might not be a title contender, but he's everything that makes MMA unique and a delight to watch. This is a matchup designed to make him shine. He will.

    Knight, submission, Rd. 1

                

    Rondina

    As Nathan alluded to, this is a match made for the express purpose of making Knight look good. I'm fully expecting him to make the most of that opportunity.

    Knight, submission, Rd. 2

Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega

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    Brian Ortega is looking to pick up the biggest win of his career thus far.
    Brian Ortega is looking to pick up the biggest win of his career thus far.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Harris

    Swanson has a standup advantage, but it's not as big as some people might suggest. A kind of vice versa holds for Ortega and grappling. Both are good fighters, but Swanson is the best opponent of Ortega's career. No vice versa there. Experience and kickboxing will win the day.

    Swanson, unanimous decision

                

    Amos

    It's easy to get excited about Ortega, who is on the rise, and assume he'll take out Swanson, who is just a notch below championship level. But even that level is a place few reach, and the only guys Swanson has let through the gate since 2011 have been crowned champions. I wouldn't be shocked to learn Ortega is on the trajectory, but I anticipate Swanson handing him one of those losses he can chalk up to a learning experience.

    Swanson, unanimous decision

                

    McCarter

    My gut is telling me to pick Swanson in this one, but I cannot shake how he looked against Artem Lobov. If that Swanson shows up, he's toast against the rising tide that is Ortega. I'll favor the undefeated fighter in this one. Ortega is not like other up-and-comers. He is a finisher who stays composed. And that's the key against Swanson. Ortega stays composed, picks his shots and gets the TKO win.

    Ortega, TKO, Rd. 3

                

    Rondina

    Discrediting wins is a dangerous game to play, but if you ignore Swanson's fight with Dooho Choi (which, let's remember, came over a younger, green fighter), he hasn't looked that great since those rough losses a few years back. That's easy pickings for a killer such as Ortega.

    Ortega, submission, Rd. 2