Brian Ortega continued to make a name for himself in UFC's featherweight division after he defeated Cub Swanson via thrilling second-round submission at UFC Fight Night 123 on Saturday night in Fresno, California.
After coming close to a submission at the end of Round 1, Ortega pushed off the cage and put himself in position to lock in a standing guillotine midway through the second round that forced Swanson to tap out.
The 26-year-old Ortega has moved his mixed martial arts record to 13-0 with one no-contest. He came into this bout ranked as the UFC's No. 6 featherweight. His stock dropped after he failed a post-fight drug test in 2014 that led to a nine-month suspension, but he's turned things around with five straight wins.
Here are the full main-card results:
Featherweight: Brian Ortega def. Cub Swanson via second-round submission
Featherweight: Gabriel Benitez def. Jason Knight via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
Bantamweight: Marlon Moraes def. Aljamain Sterling via first-round knockout
Lightweight: Scott Holtzman def. Darrell Horcher via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Middleweight: Eryk Anders def. Markus Perez via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 29-28)
Bantamweight: Benito Lopez def. Albert Morales via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Ortega nearly had the match won at the end of the first round, locking in a choke that had Swanson's face looking panicked until the horn sounded to save him, as Fox Sports: UFC illustrated:
Swanson appeared to find an opening when the second round started. He was landing hard strikes and looked more confident than in the initial round.
Unfortunately, Swanson left himself open long enough for Ortega to do this:
Fellow UFC fighter Brad Tavares was complimentary of what he saw from Ortega after the submission:
When the UFC called Jose Aldo to replace Frankie Edgar in a featherweight title match against Max Holloway at UFC 218 last Saturday, Swanson did not hide his disappointment at being passed over for the opportunity, per MMA Mania's Adam Guillen Jr.:
"I'm looking back at all the people that have gotten title fights—Chad Mendes got multiple, Frankie Edgar has gotten multiple, Aldo multiple, Korean Zombie got one out of nowhere, Ricardo Lamas got one. All the people at the top have all gotten them. Max took forever to get one and I was very vocal about him deserving a title fight. I just don't see why in 10 years with the company I couldn't have gotten one. I feel like maybe they don't think that highly of me.”
Even though Swanson lost to Holloway in their previous bout, it was two years and seven months ago. But this defeat against Ortega signals another direction for the UFC to go in if it wants a challenger for Holloway.
Ironically, Ortega said before Saturday's event he's in exactly the position he hoped to be when he came to UFC.
"I'm on the third fight of that contract," he told ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto. "We said that, by the time we hit that third fight and it's time to negotiate the next deal, we want to be headlining an event against someone like Cub Swanson. And now, that actually came true. It's pretty trippy."
Before the main event, Marlon Moraes provided a vicious knockout of Aljamain Sterling 67 seconds into the opening round of their bantamweight bout.
Fox Sports: UFC had the highlight of Moraes' knee connecting with Sterling, whose body immediately went limp as he fell to the canvas:
Moraes noted after the fight he wasn't even trying to use his knee on the decisive strike, per MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani:
Regardless of what Moraes was trying to do, it worked and gave him momentum at the end of the year. The Brazil native has won two fights in the span of 28 days and should move up the bantamweight rankings after starting Saturday seventh in the division.
The thrilling wins for Ortega and Moraes give UFC plenty of hope heading into 2018. Ortega has quickly turned himself into a star and top contender in the promotion this latest win.
Moraes isn't quite at that level yet with just three UFC fights under his belt, but back-to-back wins after a loss to Raphael Assuncao in June is making him a factor in the 135-pound division.