It’s off to Nashville this weekend (Sat., April 22, 2017) as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Bridgestone Arena for UFC Fight Night 108, live and free on FOX Sports 1.
The main event sees Conor McGregor protégé Artem Lobov take the biggest step up of his career against the venerable Cub Swanson, while Al Iaquinta returns to action for the first time since 2015 in his co-main event against Diego Sanchez.
And that’s not even mentioning the light heavyweight brawl between Ovince St. Preux and Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
Nostradumbass is off in Tucson, Arizona, for Combate Americas, competing as his legendary alter-ego El Hurón Flaco, so it falls to me to break down this card from its profoundly silly main event on down.
145 lbs.: Cub Swanson (24-7) vs. Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov (14-12-1)
This fight really isn’t fair for anyone involved. It’s not fair for Cub, who’s put together three very solid wins since losing to Holloway. It’s not fair for the fans, who want to see him challenge the elite again.
And it’s not fair for Lobov, who’s going to get systematically abused until Swanson puts a shin upside his head.
It’s not even like Lobov has a real puncher’s chance; Swanson ‘s chin is cast-iron, shrugging off the best Doo Ho Choi could dish out. Even the monster Aldo knees that gave him his sole (T)KO loss failed to knock him completely out.
Lobov and his four professional knockouts are not a threat.
Swanson has five inches of reach, a far superior kicking game, more proven cardio, actual experience against top-shelf featherweights, more creativity, and better grappling. Lobov has Conor McGregor’s sponsorship.
Only question is how long it lasts.
Prediction: Swanson by third-round TKO
155 lbs.: “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta (12-3-1) vs. Diego “Nightmare/Dream/Lionheart” Sanchez (27-9)
There’s no real nuance here. Diego’s going to put the pedal to the metal, swinging mad and looking for takedowns, while Iaquinta tries to take his head off with right hands.
The intrigue comes from the fact that Iaquinta hasn’t fought in two years. Worse, his self-control has never been a strong suit and his takedown defense has failed him before. It’s very easy to see him getting swept up in Sanchez’s pace, bouncing desperate right hands off Sanchez’s iron dome while Sanchez times him for takedown after takedown.
Still, Iaquinta’s physical strength and overall striking edge ought to earn him the decision. Whether the judges actually give him said decision is up in the air, but I’m an analyst, not a clairvoyant.
Prediction: Iaquinta by split decision
205 lbs.: Ovince St. Preux (19-10) vs. Marcos Rogerio “Pezao” de Lima (15-4-1)
I think it’s fair to say at this point that St. Preux will never live up to his potential. We see glimpses of it from time to time, such as his masterclass in takedown defense and counterpunching against Patrick Cummins, but someone with his athletic gifts should be torching the likes of Volkan Oezdemir.
Considering the early striking success Oezdemir had, the outlook seems grim against de Lima.
One of the best lines I’ve seen about a fighter, which was part of Bloody Elbow’s prospect breakdown of Justin Gaethje, described him as possessing “cartoon character power,” packing the sorts of punches that literally send people flying. “Pezao” may be helpless off his back and a bit hittable, but he has that level of thump in his hands.
If OSP had shown any real advancement in his takedown game, he’d have this in the back. As is, expect the Brazilian to find his chin sometime in the early going.
Prediction: Rogerio de Lima by first-round knockout
135 lbs.: John “The Magician” Dodson (18-8) vs. Eddie Wineland (23-11-1)
Eddie Wineland’s fighting, and you know what that means: take a shot every time one of the commentators talks about Wineland’s hands-down chin-up striking style. If they say something along the lines of “it’s a style you never want to teach someone,” down the whole bottle.
We’ll make funeral arrangements.
In all seriousness, Wineland’s brutal right hand and movement can be shut down with effective head movement and low kicks, leaving his chin in the firing line. Worse, he’s not a particularly active striker, which can cost him in the long run if he can’t get the knockout.
All in all, even four inches of height and three inches of reach aren’t enough for me to pick him over Dodson.
Dodson has never been stopped and stood up to Lineker’s sledgehammer fists, which bodes ill for Wineland’s chance at the knockout. Without that threat to rely on, it’s hard to envision him overcoming Dodson’s absurd speed. “The Magician” may not have any real entries besides straightforward charges, but that’s enough against a flat-flooted slugger. He scores the finish late in the first or early in the second.
Prediction: Dodson by first-round knockout
155 lbs.: Joe Lauzon (27-12) vs. Stevie “Braveheart” Ray (20-6)
Lauzon is the underdog here and I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, he’s inconsistent, but his struggles almost unanimously come against stronger wrestlers. Though Ray is damn effective on the feet, he’s just two fights removed from getting dominated on the mat by the thoroughly mediocre Alan Patrick.
Ray isn’t going to be looking for takedowns, which makes Lauzon’s life considerably easier and should go some way towards mitigating “Creepy Joe’s” inconsistent cardio. Lauzon also has a strong enough chin to take what Ray can dish out and, provided he doesn’t empty his tank too early, should be able to drag him to the mat sometime in the first few minutes.
It’s academic from there.
Prediction: Lauzon by first-round submission
170 lbs.: Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger (31-12) vs. “Platinum” Mike Perry (9-1)
Being god-tier meme material can only take you so far.
Ellenberger’s current 2-6 stretch makes it look like he’s being sacrificed to Perry, but look more closely: all six fighters he lost to (Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler, Kelvin Gastelum, Stephen Thompson, Tarec Saffiedine, and Jorge Masvidal) are rangy, calculating strikers with A+ takedown defense. It’s also worth noting that the worst of the lot is Saffiedine, who’s still a top-15 talent.
Perry is not a rangy striker, does not have A+ takedown defense, and is allergic to the concept of calculating. He’s going to charge in and trade hands with the only man to truly buckle Carlos Condit. Ellenberger can also counter decently well and his blast double is unlike anything Perry’s dealt with before.
Working around Ellenberger isn’t as hard as it once looked. Trading hands with him remains suicide.
Prediction: Ellenberger by first-round knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 108 fight card on fight night (click here), 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 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.
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