Last Updated: 2017-12-07
After a very exciting UFC 218 card in Detroit, Michigan, we head across the country to Fresno, California for the UFC Fight Night 123 event with a main event between Cub Swanson and Brian Ortega. Thirteen fights are scheduled for the promotion’s first trip to Fresno and we’ve hit the stretch run for 2017. We have another Fight Night card in Winnipeg next weekend, followed by a week off, and then the final UFC PPV card of the year with UFC 219 in Las Vegas that has a main event of Cris “Cyborg” Justino against Holly Holm.
Per usual, we’ll be taking a brief look at the undercard before focusing on the main card with preview blurbs and free picks with lines from our friends at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
The vast majority of this week’s card will be seen on Fox Sports 1, but things do get underway on the UFC Fight Pass digital network. Undefeated Trevin Giles is a -250 favorite over Antonio Braga Neto to get us started. Giles won his UFC debut by knockout over James Bochnovic at UFC 213 after bouncing around several different promotions. Neto is 1-1 in UFC with a submission win over Anthony Smith and a controversial split-decision loss to Clint Hester back in 2014. He hasn’t fought professionally since.
Lightweights Chris Gruetzemacher and Davi Ramos take center stage next. Ramos is a heavy -360 favorite as both combatants look for their maiden wins in UFC. Ramos lost to Sergio Moraes back in March. CG lost to Chas Skelly in February. A decent UFC Fight Pass “main event” in the bantamweight division features Alejandro Perez against Iuri Alcantara. This will be Alcantara’s 43rd pro fight and he has a record of 34-8. He’ll attempt to bounce back from his second career submission loss, which came at the hands of Brian Kelleher. Perez is coming off of a win over Andre Soukhamthath back in August. Alcantara is more than a $2 favorite.
To Fox Sports 1 we go, as bantamweights Frankie Saenz and Merab Dvalishvili square off. This is the UFC debut for Dvalishvili, who is 7-2 overall and rides an eight-fight winning streak into this bout. He’s a -155 favorite over Saenz, who has dropped three straight and could be fighting for his UFC life at 37 years of age.
A flyweight fracas between Carls John de Tomas and Alex Perez doesn’t appear to be much of a fight, with Perez a -380 favorite in the matchup. CJdT lost to Naoki Inoue back in June in his UFC debut. This is the UFC debut for Perez, who is only 25 and has 22 pro fights, including a title belt in TPF.
Luke Sanders was supposed to face Bryan Caraway, but will instead fight Andre Soukhamthath in bantamweight action. Sanders is a -230 favorite with the opponent swap. Sanders, a former RFA champion at the 135-pound level, is 1-1 in his UFC fights, including a loss to Iuri Alcantara, who appears earlier on the card. Soukhamthath is 0-2 in his UFC career after being a belt holder in CES MMA.
The final undercard battle features Alexis Davis against Liz Carmouche in the women’s flyweight division. Carmouche is a -185 favorite in this scrap. She rides a modest two-fight winning streak with triumphs over Katlyn Chookagian and Lauren Murphy after her loss to Miesha Tate all the way back in April 2014. These two fought on November 6, 2013 and Davis won by unanimous decision. Since her 16-second loss to Ronda Rousey, Davis has wins over Sarah Kaufman and Cindy Dandois, but also has a loss to Sara McMann.
Albert Morales (-110) vs. Benito Lopez (-110); Total: 2.5 (-170/150)
Albert Morales is a veteran of four UFC fights. Benito Lopez is a promotional newcomer. Even with what appears to be a decent experience gap, this fight is a money line pick ‘em, with -110 being dealt on both sides. Morales hasn’t fared all that well in UFC, with an unimpressive win over Andre Soukhamthath and losses to Brett Johns and Thomas Almeida. Prior to joining UFC, he was 6-0 in lesser circuits, including Bellator, but hasn’t shown much at this level. There isn’t much striking power and the ground game, which was solid at the lower levels, hasn’t shown up at this one.
Benito Lopez basically rolled through opponents in KOTC before a weird split-decision win over Steven Peterson at DWTNCS 7. Lopez had four consecutive first-round stoppage wins prior to that fight. He trains with Team Alpha Male and could be something of a prospect in a loaded bantamweight division. He’s only 23 and seems to have some upside to his game. This is a good debut fight against a fringe competitor that may be dropped from the promotion shortly.
Pick: Benito Lopez (-110)
We’ve seen UFC do this before, where they set up prospects to have a chance to succeed right away. Some have failed spectacularly. Others have seized the opportunity. Lopez, given what he’s done in other circuits, including his Bellator debut, should have the tools necessary to take advantage.
Markus Perez (+240) vs. Eryk Anders (-280); Total: 2.5 (120/-140)
Barring a rare draw, one of Markus Perez or Eryk Anders will suffer a first-career setback in this fight. Per the odds, the expectation is that it will be Perez, a 27-year-old Brazilian with a 9-0 career mark. Perez just won the LFA Middleweight Championship in his last fight with a first-round submission win over Ian Heinisch. Perez does have one career fight in the highly-respected Jungle Fight circuit, but has not fought consecutive fights in the same promotion to date. He appears to be a versatile fighter with three decision wins, three knockout wins, and three submission wins. There are some somewhat notable names on his ledger like Ildemar Alcantara, a UFC veteran that he beat by unanimous decision in February.
Eryk Anders had a very impressive UFC debut back in June when he won by knockout over Rafael Natal less than a month after winning the LFA Middleweight Championship. Ironically, that was the title that Perez took when Anders moved up to UFC and left the belt open. Anders is a premier striker with five career knockout wins, all in the first round. You can see the potential in both of these fighters and it is rather cool that UFC paired them together in a pseudo LFA Middleweight Championship bout.
Pick: Markus Perez (+240)
Markus Perez hasn’t fought many guys that can hit the way that Eryk Anders can. How will he respond? How strong is his chin? On the other hand, we haven’t seen Anders tested much and he hasn’t fought anybody with Ildemar Alcantara’s resume. With these questions, it makes some sense to lean towards the underdog in a fight where there are a lot of uncertainties.
Scott Holtzman (-120) vs. Darrell Horcher (+100); Total: 2.5 (-245/205)
UFC veteran Scot Holtzman appears to be the preferred side in early betting for this bout with Darrell Horcer. Holtzman has alternated wins and losses over his five career UFC fights. He was a champion on the XFC circuit before making his UFC debut in August 2015. There isn’t a whole lot to be excited about here, as each of Holtzman’s last four fights have gone the distance, hence the -245 juice on the total. He was very solid in XFC and had a cameo win in PFC, but his list of UFC opponents isn’t particularly strong. He lost to Drew Dober and Josh Emmett, but beat Cody Pfister and Michael McBride, which happened in his last fight back in April.
The same can be said about Darrell Horcher. This isn’t a great UFC card by any means and a fight like this sort of illustrates that. Horcher is 13-2 in his career, but just 1-1 in UFC after holding the lightweight belt in CFFC. His debut loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov wasn’t a big surprise and his bounce back effort in a split-decision win over Devin Powell doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
Pick: Scott Holtzman (-120)
Holtzman has a little bit more experience at this level and has fought some better competition, though Nurmagomedov is a decent prospect. Holtzman is certainly accustomed to going the distance, which is how this fight seems destined to play out.
Aljamain Sterling (+120) vs. Marlon Moraes (-140); Total: 2.5 (-280/240)
Rani Yahya was originally the opponent for Aljamain Sterling, but he bailed on the fight early last month due to an injury. Now Sterling is a noticeable underdog to Marlon Moraes. Sterling may have turned a corner with wins over Renan Barao and Augusto Mendes in his last two fights. Sterling’s two career losses are controversial split-decision outcomes, so he has proven to be a very solid fighter, though he has lacked striking power at the top levels. Fight fans should strap in for 15 minutes here, with the over at -280 and Sterling having gone the distance in each of his last four fights.
Marlon Moraes, formerly the WSOF Bantamweight Championship, is one up and one down in his UFC career. He won by split decision over John Dodson and lost his debut at UFC 212 to Raphael Assuncao. This is a very quick turnaround for Moraes, who scored that win over Dodson on November 11 in that Fight Night event. He typically goes about five months between fights, so it is a little bit interesting that the 29-year-old would hop in here, but money is money and he is a favorite to take down this victory.
Pick: Aljamain Sterling (+120)
It seems like UFC was having a little bit of a tough time filling this spot. Yahya announced on November 7 that he was pulling out and Moraes still hadn’t fought Dodson by that point. Moraes clearly has upside, given his accomplishments in WSOF, but Sterling is a very good fighter in his own right and has been able to train and get ready for this fight for a while. The dog should be live here.
Gabriel Benitez (+255) vs. Jason Knight (-310); Total: 2.5 (-135/115)
Top control will be the deciding factor in the featherweight fight between Gabriel Benitez and Jason Knight. Submissions are the claims to fame for both of these combatants, with Benitz 10-2 in bouts ending with a tap and Knight 13-0. Benitez is back after it following his loss to Enrique Barzola at UFC 211 way back in May. That dropped his UFC record to 3-2, with losses to Barzola and Andre Fili, and wins over Sam Sicilia, Clay Collard, and Humberto Brown. There hasn’t been a lot of consistency to Benitez’s results and that unknown seems to be a driving force behind the line.
How does Jason Knight respond? Knight suffered his first loss since his debut against Tatsuya Kawajiri at the TUF 22 finale and just his second loss since 2012. It was the first stoppage loss for Knight, who was knocked out by Ricardo Lamas at UFC 214. That crushing defeat came after back-to-back Performance of the Night awards for his stoppage wins over Chas Skelly and Alex Cacares.
Pick: Jason Knight (-310)
Knight looks like a parlay piece to pair with Luke Sanders on the undercard for a decent return. The 25-year-old is in a good bounce back spot here against an inconsistent fighter in Benitez, whose game plan is roughly the same as his, but he cannot execute it as well.
Brian Ortega (-120) vs. Cub Swanson (+100); Total: 2.5 (-220/180)
Brian Ortega’s perfect record is on the line against Cub Swanson in the main event at UFC Fight Night 123. Two of Ortega’s last four fights have netted him a bonus for fight of the night and he is fighting in California for the 12th time. The Los Angeles native might have a little bit more on his mind with the raging wildfires, but he is unblemished to date and that is a major driving factor. He even won his overturned fight against Mike de la Torre by first-round submission, but popped positive for drostanolone and was given a one-year suspension. He rolled through Renato Moicano at UFC 214 back in July, his first fight in over a year.
Cub Swanson, also a California native from Palm Springs, represents a stiff test for Ortega. As a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, he is the best and most talented fighter that Ortega has faced in his career. Most of Swanson’s seven losses have come against world-class fighters, including losses to Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar in UFC and Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo in WEC. His attacking style will be interesting for Ortega, who generally controls fights and simply wears on his opponents until they fail.
Pick: Cub Swanson (+100)
Ortega is taking the money here, but it’s hard to see Swanson ceding control of this fight. If Ortega is patient enough to wait him out, like the total is suggesting, then he may be able to get that third-round stoppage that has given him so much success. We’ll see Ortega’s chin tested in this fight in a way that it never has been before and that’s why the slight dog is very capable of barking here.
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