We’ve got up to five rounds of Featherweight mixed martial arts (MMA) mayhem in store this Saturday evening (Dec. 9, 2017) as Cub Swanson and Brian Ortega put their four-fight win streaks on the line in the main event of UFC Fight Night 123, which will air live from on FOX Sports 1 from inside Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
A little further down in the rankings, Jason Knight attempts to reassert his place among the 145-pound top tier against Gabriel Benitez, while young guns Marlon Moraes and Aljamain Sterling attempt to stand out in the crowded Bantamweight field.
As usual, FOX Sports 1 will feature four “Prelims” undercard matches (check out the Fight Pass portion here) along with the main card. Let’s see what’s happening at 135 pounds and below:
125 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Liz Carmouche
Following an impressive submission of rival Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis (18-7) stepped away from the cage for more than 1.5 years to have a son. While Sara McMann spoiled her return, “Ally-Gator” got back in the win column in April with a decision over Cindy Dandois.
She has submitted eight opponents overall.
Liz Carmouche (11-5) — a member of the inaugural UFC women’s Bantamweight title fight — struggled out of the UFC gate with a 1-3 run. She has since regained consistency with decisions over Lauren Murphy and Katlyn Chookagian.
This will be just her second fight since April 2015 and her first since Nov. 2016.
“Girl-Rilla” looked solid against Murphy and Chookagian and it’s been four years since Davis pieced her up on the feet, but there’s just not a lot going Carmouche’s way. Davis remains the stronger technical striker and Carmouche, while destructive from top position, is inconsistent with her takedowns.
There’s also, you know, the huge layoff to consider.
If Carmouche can consistently drag Davis to the mat, she has the tools to win it. I just doubt she gets it there. Volume striking, low kicks and takedown defense wins another decision for Davis.
Prediction: Davis via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Luke Sanders vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Luke Sanders (11-1) got off to a damn hot start in UFC by dropping and submitting Venezuelan powerhouse Maximo Blanco on short notice, earning “Performance of the Night” in the process. His second fight saw him absolutely wreck Iuri Alcantara before getting caught in a leglock midway through the second round.
“Cool Hand Luke” is three inches shorter than Andre Soukhamthath (11-5) and will give up that much reach.
“The Asian Sensation” knocked out Kody Nordby with a savage knee to earn the CES Bantamweight title, then defended it with a revenge knockout of grappler Kin Moy five months later. He’s gone winless (0-2) in UFC itself; however, losing razor-thin split decisions to Albert Morales and Alejandro Perez.
He replaces the injured Bryan Caraway on short notice.
Soukhamthath is exponentially more talented than his UFC record would suggest, a powerful and dangerous striker capable of doing serious damage with all four limbs. His issue is lack of urgency — you can be the heaviest puncher in the world and it won’t mean squat if you don’t throw enough.
Sanders is both strong enough on the feet to stay out of harm’s way while doing damage and a dangerous enough wrestler to take Soukhamthath out of his comfort zone if he starts losing control of the striking. He cruises to a decision victory.
Prediction: Sanders via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
Carls John de Tomas (8-1) — one of UFC’s youngest competitors at age 21 — emerged as a “Golden Boy” of his native Philippines with a title victory and subsequent defense in the URCC promotion. In his UFC debut, he faced fellow young gun Naoki Inoue, who used top-shelf grappling to overwhelm de Tomas on his way to a trio of 30-26 scorecards.
This will be his first fight outside of Asia and just his second outside of the Philippines.
Fighting out of Team Oyama alongside the likes of Carla Esparza and Ian McCall, Alex Perez (18-4) reeled off four straight wins to earn a shot on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” in August. Things went about as smoothly as they could for the former Tachi Palace champ, submitting Kevin Gray less than three minutes into the first round to earn a contract.
He has submitted five opponents and has (technical) knockout victories over another three.
de Tomas’ call-up was way too soon. He’s a competent wrestler, but remains lost on the feet and — even with that wrestling -- struggled to complete takedowns against Inoue. Though Perez is not the sort of phenom-level grappler Inoue is, he’s a capable striker who can more than hold his own in the wrestling.
Perez just has so much more experience and so many more weapons than de Tomas. Expect him to chew up the Filipino youngster in the striking before, in similar fashion to his “Contender Series” appearance, locking up a front choke from a sprawl.
Prediction: Perez via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Frankie Saenz vs. Merab Dvalishvili
Frankie Saenz (10-5) came out of nowhere to defeat Iuri Alcantara in his second UFC appearance, defying massive odds to do so. Though he defeated Sirwan Kakai his next time out, Saenz enters the cage this Saturday on a three-fight skid, earning “Fight of the Night” for his war with “Tanquinho” Mendes in January.
Saenz has stopped five opponents, though none since 2014.
Merab Dvalishvili (7-2) — the latest product of Serra-Longo — lost two of his first three professional fights before rattling off a five-fight streak that saw him earn the Ring of Combat Bantamweight title. He went on to appear on “Lookin’ for a Fight” in his first defense, where he knocked out the favored Raufeon Stots with a spinning back fist in just 15 seconds.
As an amateur, he scored two knockouts in a combined 49 seconds.
Watching tape, Dvalishvili reminds me of Georgia’s other contribution to UFC: Levan Makashvili. He’s a strong, versatile wrestler with legitimate power in his right hand and a striking style more concerned with unleashing as much of that power as possible than in setting anything up.
Saenz presents a similar skillset, albeit one far more proven. That said, Dvalishvili is a more capable wrestler than any of the three people Saenz beat in UFC and should be able to overpower him physically. Dvalishvili hands Saenz his fourth-straight loss through persistent top control.
Prediction: Dvalishvili via unanimous decision
The FOX Sports 1-televised main event between Cub Swanson and Brian Ortega has “post-fight bonus” written all over, while Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling could decide the future of the Bantamweight division. Don’t miss it!
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.