Preview: UFC Fight Night – Swanson vs. Lobov

The UFC is in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday night for UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Lobov. While the headliner seems like a bizarre match up, and the card is light on bouts with much relevance at the top of divisions, there are plenty of fun fights here.

Artem Lobov is one of the most unlikely UFC headliners ever. Lobov spent the early part of his career taking fights all over the world against hyped prospects. He beat people like Dave Hill, Shay Walsh and Andrew Fisher and dropped fights against people like Andre Winner and Mike Wilkinson. It left him with an 11-10 record when he went into the Ultimate Fighter house, but while those numbers are not impressive it gave him an incredible amount of experience.

Lobov had an incredible run on The Ultimate Fighter as he knocked out three fighters on his way to the final. Unfortunately he was out grappled by Ryan Hall in the final and dropped his next fight in the UFC to Alex White. With his record at 11-12 and 0-2 in the UFC Lobov’s back was against the wall but he has refined his style and beat Chris Avila at UFC 202 and Teruto Ishihara in Belfast in November to get things back on track.

Lobov’s game revolves around his accurate and powerful punches. He likes to pressure his opponent and gauge the distance with his lead hand while throwing hard low kicks. He will then look to explode with a big hook or uppercut. He has great timing on his counters, and his game is so unconventional that fighters can struggle to deal with it.

Cub Swanson has been in the WEC/UFC for 10 years now and fought the best that featherweight has to offer. He went on a six fight winning streak in the UFC and was on the verge of earning a title shot before he suffered heavy defeats to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. He took a lot of damage in those fights and it seemed as though his days at the top of the division were numbered. He bounced back impressively by beating Hacran Dias and Tatsuya Kawajiri, and took on much hyped prospect Doo Ho Choi in December. That fight ended up being one of the best fights of the year, a back and forth brawl with Swanson coming out on top which brought his winning streak to three and has him on the cusp of fighting the elite of the division yet again.

Swanson is a much more well rounded fighter than Lobov but his main strength is also his boxing. Swanson is an incredibly smooth operator, his footwork is excellent and he has great speed and timing with his hands. He is comfortable both at range and in the pocket, while he has preferred to work a slightly more methodical game in recent years, the Choi fight showed us he can still survive in a firefight.

Swanson has certainly showed more grappling chops in his career than Lobov, although neither really excel in this department, especially when it comes to defensive wrestling. Swanson has some really good takedowns in his arsenal and Lobov has struggled to get up off his back in the past so this is a potential route to victory for Swanson.

While Lobov certainly has a chance in this fight due to his unorthodox style and one punch knockout power he is certainly a large underdog. Lobov is prone to large periods of inactivity where he may only throw the occasional leg kick as he waits for the perfect moment to land a punch. Not only does Swanson possess more top level experience and a deeper more varied skill set, but he will have a huge speed advantage that I cannot see Lobov successfully overcoming.

I think Swanson will control the action in the early part of the fight and as Lobov has to open up more and get more aggressive, Swanson will land a big shot and get him out of there. No matter what happens in this one though, it should be fun while it lasts.

Veteran lightweights Al Iaquinta and Diego Sanchez will do battle in the co-main event. Iaquinta is coming off a long absence from MMA due to a contract dispute with the UFC and it seemed like he had retired at one point. His last fight was a split decision victory over Jorge Masvidal but that was two years ago. Sanchez went 2-1 in 2016 and pulled off a very impressive victory over leg lock specialist and former Bellator title challenger Marcin Held in his most recent fight. It was a good year for Sanchez, who had been looking shopworn in recent years.

Sanchez will want to get this to the ground but Iaquinta is incredibly strong and has very stout takedown defence. If Sanchez can’t get the fight to the ground then Iaquinta should be able to control things on the feet and outpoint him at least, possibly get a stoppage should Sanchez get reckless.

Another great lightweight fight to keep an eye on on this card is Joe Lauzon vs Stevie Ray. Ray’s technical outside kickboxing game looked great against Pearson, but Lauzon is a legend of the game at this point and has a well rounded enough game to make this fight very close.

FIGHT PICKS

Main Card (3 AM, BT Sport)

Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov – Swanson will land a big shot after two or three rounds and finish the fight
Diego Sanchez vs. Al Iaquinta – Iaquinta to take a clear decision
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima – de Lima in a mild upset
John Dodson vs. Eddie Wineland – Dodson
Steven Ray vs. Joe Lauzon – Ray
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Perry – Perry

Preliminary Card (1 AM, BT Sport)

Sam Alvey vs. Thales Leites – Alvey
Brandon Moreno vs. Dustin Ortiz – Moreno
Michael McBride vs. Scott Holtzman – Holtzman
Jessica Penne vs. Danielle Taylor – Penne

Early Preliminary Card (11:30 PM, Fight Pass)

Alexis Davis vs. Cindy Dandois – Davis
Bryan Barberena vs. Joe Proctor – Barberena
Hector Sandoval vs. Matt Schnell – Schnell

BETTING TIP

Brandon Moreno on Points – 3/1