UFC Fight Night 123: The Real Winners and Losers from Swanson vs Ortega Card
UFC Fight Night 123 is the UFC's ninth card in eight weeks.
If you're feeling some fatigue, that's understandable. But if you're still up for face-punching, this card is going to validate your commitment.
Saturday's main event is solid rock, and it has immediate implications for one of the UFC's most competitive weight classes. Featherweight great Cub Swanson takes on electric youngster Brian Ortega. The winner will own a five-fight win streak and a solid case to be the first fighter outside of Frankie Edgar to challenge Max Holloway for the strap.
And that is only the evening's main event. As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC Fight Night 123.
For the literal-minded among us, full results are listed at the end.
Winner: Brian Ortega
We have a new contender in the UFC featherweight division. And if he gets a hold of your neck, watch out.
Ortega went to a jumping guillotine on Swanson, even switching his grip in midair to tighten the choke and elicit the tap in the second round. This advanced Ortega to 12-0 as a pro and 5-0-1 in the UFC. All five of his UFC wins have come by stoppage.
"I wrapped up and I felt like it was slipping, so I re-wrapped," Ortega told broadcaster Paul Felder in the cage after the fight. "My standup gets better and better. I'm training with the best."
To do this against a veteran like Swanson was impressive. This was his toughest opponent to date, and Ortega delivered. Swanson was better on the feet, but it didn't matter. Ortega's jiu-jitsu is some of the best in the division, and he plies it with the finish in mind. He almost finished a guillotine at the end of the first round until Swanson was saved by the metaphorical bell.
He wasn't so lucky in the second round. Is Ortega ready for a shot at champion Max Holloway? Ortega acknowledged afterward that Frankie Edgar is likely first in line but said he wasn't far behind.
"I want to respectfully wait and see [Edgar] get his shot," Ortega told Felder. "Then I'll see if I can get the winner."
It's hard to argue with that line of logic after Saturday.
Loser: Jason Knight
That sound you hear? Kind of like a rapid-fire thumping sound? That's the evacuation of the Jason Knight bandwagon following a one-sided and uninspiring decision loss to Gabriel Benitez in the co-main event.
In his first year or so as a UFC fighter, Knight won four consecutive fights and a ton of fans with his Southern-fried brawling style. Three of those fights earned him performance bonuses. Even in his most recent bout, a loss to Ricardo Lamas, everyone left entertained when Knight went out on his metaphorical shield after a first-round TKO defeat.
He was less impressive Saturday. If you didn't already know, you would never have guessed Knight was the favored fighter. He displayed no striking defense, no accurate striking offense and no inclination to use the wrestling skills that have previously served as a safety net. What's more, he lost a point for biting—biting! So that's not good.
It was a sloppy, limp and lackluster affair. Credit to Benitez, who absolutely did enough to win. But his dance partner, for whatever reason, didn't come to dance and lost a lot of momentum as a result.
Winner: Quick Turnarounds
His circumstances are different than those of Michael Bisping, but the turnaround time was exactly the same. Bisping received a ton of attention for taking (and ultimately losing) a fight with Kelvin Gastelum less than a month after his chokeout loss to Georges St-Pierre.
On Saturday, Marlon Moraes walked a similar line. But the results were markedly different.
Less than a month after winning a close split decision from John Dodson, the Brazilian replaced Rani Yahya on short notice against the dangerous Aljamain Sterling. But Moraes neutralized any concerns by landing a huge knee on Sterling's dome, flattening and finishing the dangerous grappler in just 67 seconds.
Don't look now, but beating Dodson and Sterling in a month is some kind of impressive. Bantamweight is a pretty top-heavy division, with Raphael Assuncao and others holding pretty solid claims to a title shot. But by running this high-risk, high-reward gauntlet, Moraes has put himself in rarefied air.
Loser: Eryk Anders
Middleweight Eryk Anders powered his way to a unanimous-decision win over Markus Perez. It ran his overall record to 10-0, including a 2-0 UFC record.
Afterward, the Alabama champion college football linebacker called out none less than Lyoto Machida.
"Lyoto Machida, what do you wanna do, baby?" Anders said to Felder in the cage after the fight.
So why is he listed as a loser?
Well, because it was a pretty boring effort, and one that may not have necessitated all three rounds. Perez is known for jiu-jitsu, but it was clear early on that Anders' wrestling and sheer strength canceled out that threat and then some. Perez had decent striking defense, but he wasn't on the same level as Anders, who has demonstrated serious punching power throughout his pro career. (Six of his 10 wins have come by knockout.)
It was a nice win for Anders, and a matchup with Machida isn't unrealistic. But he could and should have put Perez away. Perez was overmatched. If you really want to move up on the world of the UFC, big stoppages are the coin of the realm. Anders missed an opportunity in Fresno.
Winner: Andre Soukhamthath
Andre Soukhamthath is known for an exciting style. The downside is that before Saturday, the Laotian-American hasn't been able to convert that style into wins, dropping both his UFC bouts by split decision.
Soukhamthath didn't let the judges decide it against Luke Sanders. Sanders is a well-regarded wrestle-boxer in the bantamweight division, and he was probably winning this fight before Soukhamthath caught him with a heavy counter right in the second round. Sanders hit the floor and Soukhamthath followed him down, raining ground strikes until the upset was complete.
The win was especially impressive given that Soukhamthath stepped up on short notice to replace Bryan Caraway. This doesn't establish Soukhamthath as a contender, but he's a high-octane fighter nonetheless, and UFC brass are always interested in that.
Sanders has now dropped two straight, the previous defeat coming to a mister Brian Kelleher. How about a Soukhamthath-Kelleher super bout? Only one among these three can emerge.
UFC Fight Night 123 Full Card Results
Brian Ortega def. Cub Swanson by submission (guillotine choke), 3:22, Rd. 2
Gabriel Benitez def. Jason Knight by unanimous decision
Marlon Moraes def. Aljamain Sterling by KO, 1:07, Rd. 1
Scott Holtzman def. Darrell Horcher by unanimous decision
Eryk Anders def. Markus Perez by unanimous decision
Benito Lopez def. Albert Morales by unanimous decision
Alexis Davis def. Liz Carmouche by split decision
Andre Soukhamthath def. Luke Sanders by TKO, 1:06, Rd. 2
Alex Perez def. Carls John de Tomas by submission (anaconda choke), 1:54, Rd. 2
Frankie Saenz def. Merab Dvalishvili by split decision
Alejandro Perez def. Iuri Alcantara by unanimous decision
David Ramos def. Chris Gruetzemacher by submission (rear-naked choke), 0:50, Rd. 3
Trevin Giles def. Antonio Braga Neto by TKO, 2:27, Rd. 3