It’s new school vs. kinda-old school this Saturday (Dec. 9, 2017) as Brian Ortega — fresh off his fourth consecutive third-round finish — squares off with Cub Swanson in Fresno, Calif., headlining UFC Fight Night 123. In addition, Featherweight prospect Jason Knight will look to rebound from his first-ever loss against Gabrial Benitez in the co-main event and top-ranked Bantamweight contenders Marlon Moraes (No. 7) and Aljamain Sterling (No. 8) will duke it out one fight prior.
UFC Fight Night 123, which will take place inside Save Mart Center, features seven “Prelims” undercard matches that will set the stage, with three of them streaming on Fight Pass. You know the drill by now, so let’s not waste time:
135 lbs.: Alejandro Perez vs. Iuri Alcantara
Alejandro Perez (18-6-1) took home gold on the inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” season, defeating teammate Jose Alberto Quinones at UFC 180. Though he suffered a 23-second submission loss his next time out, he’s since gone 3-0-1 with a “Performance of the Night” bonus and most recently defeated Andre Soukhamthath in Mexico City.
He stands three inches shorter than Iuri Alcantara (35-8) and will give up four inches each of arm and leg reach.
The enormously gifted “Marajo” continues to struggle with inconsistency. After a “Fight of the Night” with Jimmie Rivera and a torching of Brad Pickett, Alcantara survived countless punches to submit Luke Sanders, only to run headlong into a Brian Kelleher guillotine despite being a 4:1 favorite. His 28 professional finishes are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
I’ve pretty much given up hope of Alcantara parlaying his incredible talent into an actual title run, but this is for sure a winnable fight. Perez has a similarly well-rounded skillset, but is exponentially less durable than “Marajo” and looks to be on the wrong end of an athleticism discrepancy.
Being hit-and-miss implies you land hits once in a while, and this is one of those times for the Brazilian. Alcantara picks up his first (technical) knockout stoppage in a while with an early thumping.
Prediction: Alcantara via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
Chris Gruetzemacher (13-2) didn’t have an ideal run on TUF 22, suffering a knockout loss to Artem Lobov after being deemed too boring to advance following his win in the round of 16. He went on to bet Abner Lloveras in his Octagon debut, then suffered a submission loss to Chas Skelly upon returning to Featherweight.
“Gritz” will give up to inches of reach to his Brazilian foe.
Davi Ramos (6-1) — the 2015 ADCC champion — stepped up in weight to face Sergio Moraes in his promotional debut this past March. Despite both fighters’ grappling pedigrees, the fight took place entirely on the feet, where Moraes won in a much closer contest than the trio of 30-27 cards would suggest.
He has submitted four professional opponents during his seven-year professional career.
Gruetzemacher should give us an idea of Ramos’ ultimate potential in the sport. His skillset begins and ends with decent wrestling — he’s not much of a striker and not much of a submission threat. The thing is, wrestling is the one area Ramos has to prove he can hold his own in. He’s literally world-class on the mat, but that’s not worth much if he can’t get it there, as demonstrated in the mauling Dave Rickels gave him.
Nevertheless, I’m going to put my faith in Ramos’ ceiling. Gruetzemacher is nowhere near the pressuring monster that “The Caveman” is and should find his way into a submission before long.
Prediction: Ramos via first-round submission
185 lbs.: Antonio Braga Neto vs. Trevin Giles (10-1)
Antonio Braga Neto (9-2) turned heads when he walked through countless punches from Maiquel Falcao to submit him, then proved it wasn’t a fluke by knee-barring Anthony Smith less than two minutes into his UFC debut. He went on to face Clint Hester in San Antonio, starting strong, but ultimately losing a questionable split decision.
This will be his first fight in more than three years.
Trevin Giles (10-1) made his name in some of the top feeder promotions, including Legacy and RFA, before joining UFC in July. He made the most of the opportunity with a brutal ground-and-pound knockout of James Bochnovic, his ninth professional finish.
He will give up three inches of height and reach to Braga Neto.
Braga Neto had the tools to be a legitimate threat in the division. His Brazilian jiu-jitsu is top-tier, he’s towering for the weight at 6’3,” and he showed some terrific durability against Falcao. At 30 years old, he still has time to develop into top Middleweight. But, three years is a long, long time, and Giles is a dangerous athlete. Braga Neto found less and less success against Hester as the fight went along and Hester notoriously wilts when things don’t go his way. Giles can hold his own in the wrestling and should sprawl-and-brawl his way to victory.
Prediction: Giles via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Fight Night 123 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, three of them at Bantamweight. See you there, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 123 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 1 main card action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.