Rising UFC featherweight contender Brian Ortega will look to maintain his undefeated professional record later this evening (Sat., Dec. 9, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 123 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., when he takes on proven veteran Cub Swanson in a five-round main event.
This will be the first time “T-City” is headlining a UFC event in what can be considered his most high-profile bout to date. If Ortega is able to get past Swanson he’ll enter the mix for a title shot in 2018. But if Swanson is able to knock off another top prospect and extend his current win streak to five then he could get an immediate rematch opposite reigning UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway.
Let’s dive deeper and take a look at what both Swanson and Ortega need to do later tonight in Fresno to capture Octagon glory.
1. Remain creative...
As one of the more unorthodox strikers at 145 pounds, Swanson is at his best when he’s able to mix things up on the feet. This includes spinning techniques, level changes, head movement, footwork, combinations from distance, body shots, and just about everything that can throw his opponent for a loop.
Swanson’s efforts often leave him open for counter shots, which turn his fights into brawls, so he must be patient and calculated when launching offense from the outer edges of the pocket. If he remains mobile, stays unpredictable, and doesn’t overextend on his combinations, Swanson’s offensive creativity could lead to him picking “T-City” apart on the feet.
2. Keep the fight standing...
In order for Swanson’s first key to victory to be available the veteran featherweight must keep the fight standing. Swanson possesses a capable grappling game infused with explosive transitions and scrambling ability, but his best opportunity to win a fight remains with his hands and feet.
While Ortega has respectable power and a standup game that has turned in some memorable performances, “T-City” will be aiming to tie things up and lean on his top-notch grappling game. Remember, all three of Swanson’s UFC losses have come by way of submission, so he must do everything in his power to stay off his butt and let his hands do the leading.
1. Early bird gets the worm...
Ortega has quickly ascended the UFC featherweight ladder by finishing his last four Octagon appearances. More impressively, Ortega has finished all of those bouts in the third round, transforming him into the type of fighter who knows how to end strong.
While that’s all well and good, Ortega’s late-fight heroics aren’t going to last forever. At some point, the undefeated 26-year-old is going to have to lead the dance, be in control from the opening bell, dominate the action each round, and give his opponent no chance to regain momentum. That’s really the only way Ortega is going to stick out among the elite at 145 pounds and allow himself to move into position for a title fight.
What better time than now for Ortega to show he can score early against a grizzled veteran like Swanson, maintain his output, avoid a mid-fight lull, and cap off a well-rounded five-round performance (unless he gets an early finish).
2. Avoid striking traps...
There’s a reason that Swanson’s UFC defeats have all came by way of submission. Simply put, he’s a headache on the feet for nearly every top contender in the featherweight division. Whether it’s his sneaky kicking attacks or high-level boxing skills, Swanson rarely gets outclassed in the striking department.
Knowing this, Ortega must be looking to drag “Killer Cub” to the canvas as soon as possible. Despite recording knockout victories over UFC veterans Clay Guida and Thiago Tavares, Ortega’s best chance to disrupt Swanson’s effectiveness is to fight in close quarters, rely on his bigger frame, score takedowns when he can, look for countless submission attempts, and avoid any unnecessary brawls on the feet.
Prediction: Swanson via third-round TKO
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 123 fight card, starting with the UFC Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.