Fresh off of his “Fight of the Year” against Doo Ho Choi, Cub Swanson returns to action this Saturday night (April 22, 2017) against everyones favorite semi-Irish Russian, Artem Lobov, in the main event of UFC Fight Night 108, which takes place inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
That’s far from the only slugging action, of course. Al Iaquinta locks horns with Diego Sanchez in FOX Sports 1’s co-main event, while Ovince Saint Preux takes on one of Light Heavyweight’s most terrifying punchers in Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
We’ve still got a handful of “Prelims” undercard matches to examine before we get to that, though (check out the first batch here), so let’s not dilly-dally!
185 lbs.: Thales Leites vs. Sam Alvey
Four years after his decision loss to Alessio Sakara at UFC 101, Thales Leites (26-7) returned to UFC and promptly won five straight, earning “Performance of the Night” bonuses for his stoppage wins over Francis Carmont and Tim Boetsch. He has since gone just 1-3, dropping decisions to Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi and Krzysztof Jotko.
Fifteen of his professional wins have come by submission.
Three consecutive first-round knockouts had Sam Alvey (30-8) on the verge of joining the Middleweight elite, only for Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou to knock him down a few pegs. He rebounded with four consecutive victories in just over six months, most recently a decision over Nate Marquardt in Denver.
Seven of his last 11 wins have come by knockout.
Leites is just hard for me to get a bead on. When he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s an aggressive bruiser with an iron chin and enough wrestling to bring his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to bear. Then he goes and just gives up against Mousasi and Jotko. I just don’t get how this guy can trade bombs with Boetsch and then wilt under a decent jab.
Alvey is not someone you can be mentally weak against. Worse, Leites’ straightforward bruising opens him up to counters on the feet and I’m not sure he has the tools to crack Alvey’s takedown defense. The Brazilian is tough enough to take what Alvey dishes out, but an inability to consistently overcome adversity dooms him to a decision loss.
Prediction: Alvey via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Dustin Ortiz vs. Brandon Moreno
The athleticism and scrambling ability of Dustin Ortiz (16-6) weren’t enough to save him from Wilson Reis and Jussier “Formiga,” who overwhelmed him on the mat in consecutive fights. They were, however, enough to save him from Zach Makovsky, resulting in Ortiz’s third UFC split decision win.
He will give up two inches of height to the 5’7” Brandon Moreno (13-3).
Moreno nearly flipped the script on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 when he gave top-seeded Alexandre Pantoja all he could handle, then flipped it completely with an upset submission of Louis Smolka in his Octagon debut. His next time out, he faced down power-puncher Ryan Benoit at TUF Finale and walked away with a split decision win.
He has submitted nine opponents overall, tapping six of his last eight with chokes.
Ortiz is a breed of fighter I refer to, with the utmost respect, as “Bastard Fighters,” the sort of opponents who are just miserable to fight. He’s the sort of fighter whom you cannot have fun against because he pushes a brutal pace and has the raw strength to drain the life out of you in just a few scrambles.
Beating him takes either positional brilliance or a strong enough wrestling game to sprawl-and-brawl. Talented as Moreno is, I’m not sure he’s ready for Ortiz’s level of grind. Ortiz’s superior takedown game and ironclad submission defense carry him to victory.
Prediction: Ortiz via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Scott Holtzman vs. Michael McBride
Another product of the venerable MMA Lab, Scott Holtzman (9-2) ran through Anthony Christodolou in his Octagon debut before suffering a surprise decision loss to Drew Dober. He re-entered the win column by out-dueling the gritty Coody Pfister, then came up just short against Josh Emmett in December.
“Hot Sauce” will give up four inches of height to the 6’1” Michael McBride (8-2).
Canada’s McBride stepped up on short notice when Mairbek Taisumov’s visa issues flared up again, taking on Nik Lentz at UFC 203. He had no answers for “The Carnie’s” wrestling, ultimately succumbing to ground-and-pound midway through the second.
All eight of his wins have come by submission, even of them by form of choke.
There’s still a sizable gap between where Holtzman is as a fighter and where his athleticism could take him. Considering he’s already 33, we might never see him close that gap, but McBride isn’t the man to punish him for it.
Holtzman has gotten much better at stuffing the takedown since getting run over by Dober. McBride will likely struggle to get him to the mat and, on the feet, has no real checks for Holtzman’s punching power. “Hot Sauce” runs the classic sprawl-and-brawl on his way to a late finish.
Prediction: Holtzman via second-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Jessica Penne vs. Danielle Taylor
Jessica Penne (12-4), Invicta’s Atomweight champion, earned her the No. 4 rank on TUF 20, where she reached the semifinals before losing a decision to Carla Esparza. She is 1-2 in UFC proper, suffering consecutive technical knockout losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade in her last two fights.
Seven of her 12 professional wins have come by submission.
A hilarious height difference turned the Octagon debut of Danielle Taylor (8-2) against Maryna Moroz into a cautious affair, resulting in Taylor’s first career decision loss. She had slightly more luck against the smaller Seo Hee Ham and walked away with a split decision in Melbourne.
She will give up five inches of height and seven inches of reach to Penne.
Penne is, in all honestly, much better than her recent performances suggest. The fact that those two losses came to the current champion and the current top contender should earn her some slack. She’s still undersized for the division and well below average on the feet, but I do think she can win here.
Taylor fights with almost no urgency and her over-reliance on the overhand right should provide Penne ample takedown opportunities. Penne’s also resilient enough to take the blows coming in, as Taylor isn’t the sort of swarmer she’s struggled with. Penne drags her down for a submission win late in the first.
Prediction: Penne via first-round submission
Hey, it’s Cub Swanson ... for free, which is always a treat. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 108’s fight card, 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 start time at 10 p.m. ET on PPV.