UFC Fight Night 123 Results: Matches to Make for the Winners and Losers
UFC Fight Night 123 took place in Fresno, California, on Saturday, and the Save Mart Center hosted two spectacular finishes on the main card.
First, bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes leveled Aljamain Sterling with a well-timed knee. Sterling was carried out on a backboard for precautionary reasons but fully recovered from the brutal hit, according to MMA Mania.
In the main event, Brian Ortega moved into title contention with a beautiful guillotine choke over Cub Swanson. Ortega readjusted his grip without hitting the mat before getting the tap. A sign of true elite-level grappling.
Four more main card tilts and seven preliminary bouts helped to fill out the card. After all the action, the winners and losers will be looking toward the future.
So, who's next for the fighters? Here are the matches to make following UFC Fight Night 123.
Preliminary Fights Quick Hits
Alexis Davis def. Liz Carmouche by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Liz Carmouche vs. loser of Justine Kish vs. Ji Yeon Kim (January 20)
- Alexis Davis vs. Lauren Murphy
Andre Soukhamthath def. Luke Sanders by TKO at 1:06 of the second round
- Luke Sanders vs. Merab Dvalishvili
- Andre Soukhamthath vs. Alex Perez
Alex Perez def. Carls John de Tomas via submission (anaconda choke) at 1:54 of the second round
- Carls John de Tomas should be cut from the roster
- Alex Perez vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Frankie Saenz def. Merab Dvalishvili by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Merab Dvalishvili vs. Luke Sanders
- Frankie Saenz vs. Alejandro Perez
Alejandro Perez def. Iuri Alcantara by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Iuri Alcantara vs. Aiemann Zahabi
- Alejandro Perez vs. Frankie Saenz
Davi Ramos def. Chris Gruetzemacher via submission (rear-naked choke) at 0:50 of the third round
- Chris Grutzemacher should be cut from the roster
- Davi Ramos vs. Chris Wade
Trevin Giles def. Antonio Braga Neto by KO at 2:27 of the third round
- Antonio Braga Neto vs. Andrew Sanchez
- Trevin Giles vs. Ryan Janes
Albert Morales vs. Benito Lopez
Benito Lopez def. Albert Morales by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Benito Lopez made his first trek into the Octagon on Dana White's Contender Series, and following a split-decision win, he got the call for his official UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 123. He made the most of it with a clear-cut unanimous-decision victory.
Let's not overthink Albert Morales' next fight. Aljamain Sterling also lost on the main card, and the two would make a suitable fight.
Finding Lopez's next opponent is not that easy.
The UFC doesn't have a bevy of lower-ranked bantamweights coming off a win. There's no middle ground at 135. It's the elite fighters and the bottom-tier fighters. It makes matchmaking a little more difficult for prospects coming off a victory.
The best option is probably Russell Doane. He's a crafty vet coming off a win following four straight losses. That's likely going to be the best option unless the UFC signs someone fresh off the regional scene.
Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
Eryk Anders def. Markus Perez by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 29-28)
Eryk Anders is one of the brightest prospects in the middleweight division, and he kept the hype train going with a dominant showing against Markus Perez.
Perez entered undefeated himself, which means the UFC should book his next fight strategically. The best plan is to sign a new middleweight and give Perez a chance to show his skills sometime in 2018.
In his post-fight interview in the cage, Anders called out Lyoto Machida. That's going to be a no. That is not the fight to book. However, at least Anders is calling his shot.
Krzysztof Jotko is coming off a loss, but he's still ranked in the Top 15. That's a much more appropriate fight for Anders. If he wins? Then perhaps the Machida fight will be on the table.
Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
Scott Holtzman def. Darrell Horcher by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
The fight itself won't appear on any Fight of the Year short lists, but Scott Holtzman picked up a needed victory over Darrell Horcher.
Horcher is inconsistent at best. Jason Saggo has lost back-to-back fights. The UFC could pit them against one another and cut the loser from the roster.
Holtzman is back in the win column and could make a little noise at 155. Thus, choosing a fighter on the upswing is the likely choice from the UFC brass.
Leonardo Santos is 5-0-1 inside the Octagon, but he has not fought since October 2016. Holtzman would be a good return bout for him, and the winner could then move into bigger fights against some of the recognizable names in the division.
Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling
Marlon Moraes def. Aljamain Sterling by KO at 1:07 of the first round
In what was supposed to be a competitive contender's bout, we got a swift—and violent—end.
Marlon Moraes plastered Aljamain Sterling with a knee.
After a brutal KO, Sterling will need to take some time away. Albert Morales, who also lost on the card, would make for a good return opponent. Sterling would be heavily favored in the fight, which is needed to restore some of the prospect's luster.
Moraes is now relishing in back-to-back victories. He's back in title contention.
TJ Dillashaw seems to be on a collision course with Demetrious Johnson, which leaves the title in limbo at 135. Dominick Cruz is recovering from an injury, and Cody Garbrandt is coming off a title loss to Dillashaw. The best fight would be the fight with Garbrandt.
It would likely be a title eliminator where both men go for the finish. It's a brilliant fight for the company, fighters and fans.
Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez
Gabriel Benitez def. Jason Knight by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
This was a matchup to make Jason Knight shine. Gabriel Benitez stole all of it by beating him down.
Knight needs to move back to the preliminary card after this showing. Martin Bravo would be a nice selection to stand opposite him in 2018.
Benitez surprised a lot of folks with the victory and now he can be put in against a notable name. Who? How about Artem Lobov.
Sure, Lobov is on a two-fight skid. But Lobov is recognizable and will stand and trade with Benitez. That's the type of fight he needs next. If he can get by Lobov, then Benitez can take the next step up in competition. But until then, the UFC should look at fun stylistic matchups that involve the likes of Lobov.
Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
Brian Ortega def. Cub Swanson via submission (guillotine choke) at 3:22 of the second round
Cub Swanson got skipped over for a title shot and took a dangerous fight against Brian Ortega. After tapping out, Swanson may never see his chance for gold in the UFC.
Swanson was on the last fight of his UFC contract, and he doesn't want to "crawl back" to the same contract offer he turned down (h/t MMAjunkie's Mike Bohn and John Morgan). But let's assume he does re-sign with the UFC.
The only fight that makes sense is a long-awaited rematch with Jose Aldo. Their fight in 2009 was only eight seconds. Let's put them back in the cage to see who can keep their spot in the Top Five.
Ortega took to the mic after the fight to say that he will wait for Frankie Edgar to get his title shot and meet the winner of Edgar vs. Max Holloway, which has not been set. That's a noble thought, but the UFC typically does not allow a contender to wait.
In this case, they should.
There is not a certain top-tier fight for the winner of Holloway vs. Edgar. Allowing Ortega to take time off and meet the winner ensures that a top contender is waiting while the rest of the division works itself out. The UFC would be smart to proclaim Ortega the next title contender after Edgar.
It's the right choice that sets up an exciting 2018 in the featherweight division.