For the third straight week, the UFC is holding an event. Truth be told, the main card is as surreal and wonky as they come.
Then again, when you have a guy like Artem Lobov in the main event, the card is destined to be a weird one. On paper, the main card is all firefights. Joe Lauzon, Diego Sanchez, Eddie Wineland, Jake Ellenberger and Mike Perry, all of whom have been in several fights where the end result was a brutal finish, are all on the main card. To top it off, Cub Swanson returns, against Artem Lobov of all people.
Aside from the main event which could set the Featherweight division ablaze if Swanson loses, the rest of the main card doesn’t hold major stakes at all when it comes to rankings. However, a lot of the fighters may be fighting to stay in the UFC, and others have a lot to prove. It’s a very intriguing slate, and there can be a lot of fun to be had here.
The prelims are fine, and my predictions for the prelim fights are:
Matt Schnell over Hector Sandoval via second round submission.
Bryan Barbarena over Joe Proctor via decision.
Alexis Davis over Cindy Dandois via decision or late submission.
Jessica Penne over Danielle Taylor via second round submission.
Scott Holtzman over Michael McBride via decision.
Dustin Ortiz over Brandon Moreno via decision.
Sam Alvey over Thales Leites either by early KO, or a truly boring decision.
With that said, here are my predictions for the six-fight main card slate.
UFC Fight Night 108: Swanson vs. Lobov main card (10/9c, FS1)
(13) Jake Ellenberger (31-12) vs. Mike Perry (9-1)
The opening bout of the main card will either be brutal violence personified, or Ellenberger using his wrestling to grind away at a great knockout artist. Perry began his MMA career with a 9-0 mark, with all wins coming via knockout, including six in the first round. He lost his last bout against Alan Jouban though, so now, he’ll be trying to avoid losing his second straight bout after winning his first two UFC contests.
As for Ellenberger, the former NCAA Division 2 wrestler has 19 knockout wins, and 25 finishes overall. That said, he’s just 4-7 since starting his UFC career with a 6-1 clip, including 2-6 in his last eight. If he loses tonight, he’ll likely get cut. That’s why, even though he’s had a bunch of epic finishes in his career, he’ll need to make this one ugly. Perry has ether in his fists, and Ellenberger’s chin has been through a lot. If Perry connects, this fight can be over instantly. I see Ellenberger trying to make it a grinding bout. If he can, then he can get the win. If he can’t get the takedown though, or tire Perry out, then even though he’s got knockout power, Ellenberger will likely go to sleep. Head pick: Perry via ko, round 1. Heart pick: Ellenberger via decision or late tko.
Joe Lauzon (27-12) vs. Steve Ray (20-6)
Joe Lauzon is fighting tonight. That’s all one needs to know to be enthused into tuning in to this card. A submission specialist with 25 finishes in 27 career wins, as well as a UFC record 15 post-fight bonuses in 23 career UFC bouts, the veteran is still must-watch. He’s 14-9 in the UFC, and even though his last two bouts were arguably split decision losses, he’s still a fighter worth watching.
Meanwhile, Ray is a submission grappler who’s quietly amasses a 4-1 UFC record. Though his last three wins have all gone the distance, the former Cage Warriors Lightweight champion has finished 14 of his 20 wins, including eight via submission. That said, he’s also been submitted four times.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that even though Lauzon is a true finisher, he’s got a lot of mileage, is older than Ray, and very well might lose this fight. However, even though I do feel like Ray might win in the back of my mind, I cannot pick against Lauzon here. It’s a biased pick, but it’s also a somewhat logical pick. Prediction: Lauzon via submission, round 2.
(7) John Dodson (18-5) vs. (10) Eddie Wineland (23-11-1)
The next bout features top 10 Bantamweights and could either be really fun, or wind up being a game of cat and mouse. Not only does Wineland have a history of engaging in firefights in MMA, he’s also a ful-time firefighter in real life! After amassing a 5-2 record in the WEC including a Bantamweight title win, Wineland began his UFC career with a subpar 3-5 record. Granted, three of those losses came against then UFC champ Renan Barao, MMA legend Urijah Faber and top-level Bantamweight turned Flyweight Joseph Benavidez, but still, 3-5 isn’t a very good record. Since then though, Wineland has finished two straight, against Frankie Saenz and Takeya Mizugaki. In all, he’s won 15 times via knockout and four via submission, and will do all he can to chase John Dodson down and knock him out.
As or Dodson, as great as he can be, he’s also got a history of running during fights against tough customers. The TUF 14 winner after knocking out TJ Dillashaw in the first round in the finale, Dodson is 7-3 in the UFC. The only men to defeat him in the promotion are Demetrious Johnson, and then John Lineker, all via decision. He’s got nine knockout and two submission wins, but also seven decision wins. He’s never been finished, and has lost eight times, all via decision. Whenever he faces brutal finishers, he tends to run a lot and avoids confrontation more often than not. That cost him in his last fight against Lineker, but this is a three round fight. A finish would be awesome to see here, but I see it being another decision for Dodson. Prediction: Dodson via decision.
(8) Ovince Saint Preux (19-10) vs. Marcos Regerio de Lima (15-4-1)
Just under a year ago, Ovince Saint Preux was 7-2 in the UFC, and was a late replacement to face all-time great John Jones, in an interim Light Heavyweight title bout. He entered that bout with 14 finishes in 19 wins, and high hopes. He lost that fight via one-sided decision, followed up with a knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa, and then lost a controversial split decision against Volkan Oezdemir. Basically, in a year’s span, he’s gone from interim title challenger to being on a three-fight losing streak. If he loses tonight in his home city, he’s as good as cut.
Saint Preux’s latest opponent is fellow finisher Marcos Rogerio de Lima. With 13 finishes in 14 wins including 10 via knockout, including 11 in the first round, de Lima has never escaped the opening round since making his UFC debut in May 2014. Since that night, he’s 4-2 with all wins coming via first round finish, and both losses coming via first round submission. In fights that escape the opening round, he’s just 3-2-1. That’s why Saint Preux needs to escape the early fury and take it to the later rounds. If he does that, I like his chances. Add in the fact that de Lima missed weight and therefore might not have his head fully in the right place, and I’ll pick OSP to win with a decision or late finish. Prediction: Saint Preux via decision or late tko.
(14) Al Iaquinta (12-3-1) vs. Diego Sanchez (27-9)
In the co-main event of the evening, Al Iaquinta fights for the first time since “retiring” two years ago. The TUF 15 runner-up was 7-2 in the UFC and on a four-fight winning streak, when he decided to call it quits due to financial disputes after his last fight in April 2015. He’d fought nine times for the UFC in under three years until then, and now, is finally back.
Welcoming Iaquinta back is none other than the first ever TUF winner, a poster boy for exciting fights, Diego Sanchez. Part of three of the most entertaining fights in UFC history against Karo Parisyan, Clay Guida and most notably against Gilbert Melendez, Sanchez has been a part of seven fights that were regarded as Fight of the Night, with the three fights above all being regarded Fight of the Year in the past. He’s 16-9 in the UFC, and while there was a stretch when he went 4-6, with all four wins being extremely controversial decisions, he’s changed his tune since the start of 2016. He’s 2-1 since last year began, and while both wins were decisions, they weren’t controversial. In all, he’s had 19 fights going the distance, with 12 of them being wins.
I see this one either ending via tko for Iaquinta, or the fight going to a decision. If it goes the distance, it could be a controversial one for Sanchez. There’s also questions as to whether or not Iaquinta will be rusty. It feels like a tossup, and in the end, I’ll go with Iaquinta getting a second round tko, even if I don’t want it to happen. Prediction: Iaquinta via tko, round 2.
Cub Swanson (24-7) vs. Artem Lobov (13-12-1, 1 NC)
The main event of the evening just, wow. Artem Lobov is headlining a UFC card. A guy who lost his TUF entry bout and only got brought back because he’s Conor McGregor’s friend, the guy wound up making it to the finals, got dominated in the finale, before losing another decision, this time to Alex White. He’s won two decisions since then, and now, a guy who’s 2-2 in the UFC, shouldn’t have been in the promotion in the first place, is barely above .500 in his career and has gone the distance 17 times in 27 fights is facing the fourth-ranked Featherweight in the UFC.
That fourth-ranked Featherweight is none other than Cub Swanson. A black belt in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo, Swanson is 9-3 in the UFC, with his only losses coming via submission against Ricardo Lamas in 2011, and later against Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar, with the latter coming with just four seconds to go in the fight. The only other men to beat him since 2007 are UFC Featherweight champion and then WEC champion Jose Aldo, and Chad Mendes. Basically, unless you’re elite, you won’t beat him. Artem Lobov is not elite. He’s not even average. I don’t think Cub will finish him early per se, but I do see him surgically picking him apart, before ending the fight around round 2, in what should be a calculated and dominating performance. Prediction: Swanson via tko, round 2.