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It is impossible to know whether a fight card will live up to fans’ expectations, especially in MMA.
Fighters can get injured, miss weight or simply not have a great performance on any given night.
However, UFC Fresno was undoubtedly an incredible way for the promotion to debut in the Central Valley on Dec. 9 at the Savemart Center.
The card was filled with many fresh faces in the sport, including Central Valley native Alex Perez.
Perez made a successful debut and finished his opponent, Carls John De Tomas, with an anaconda choke three minutes into round two.
Perez showcased his excellent wrestling and conditioning, pushing the pace and never allowing his opponent to quite settle into the fight.
Eventually Perez took De Tomas’ back and transitioned from ground and pound into an anaconda choke to seal the deal and win his UFC debut in spectacular fashion.
“It’s amazing and it was destined to be,” Perez said. “I got signed and all of a sudden there’s a show in Fresno– it couldn’t be any better,” he said to MMAjunkie following the fight.
Perez was forced to take the fight at 135 pounds rather than the previously agreed upon 125 pound weight limit.
Apparently De Tomas was unable to make the lower weight limit in time for the fight so the UFC reset the weight class, leaving Perez more depleted than his opponent.
“I was kinda mad,” Perez said. “I paid a nutritionist to help me get down to the weight…and to tell me the week of that he can’t make it?”
De Tomas was not penalized for being unable to make the weight and the UFC refused to make the fight a catchweight bout.
Perez was very frustrated at the lack of accountability the UFC had for his opponent’s shortcoming during the weigh cut.
Still Perez was able to come out with the win and set his UFC career off to a sensational start.
After the prelim fights, more fresh faces entered the octagon as bantamweight contenders, undefeated Benito Lopez made his debut when he faced off against Albert Morales.
The two California natives were apparently set to trade blows previously,on the regional level, but the fight was prolonged due to Lopez suffering a head injury.
The fight was all action; Lopez landed a head kick in the opening moments of the fight and the fight only became more violent from there.
Morales was able to drop Lopez with a well-timed jab in the first minute of the fight, however Lopez was able to cause a momentum shift by almost immediately landing a flying knee to Morales’ head.
Morales tried to retreat and attempted to steady himself against the cage to land counter shots against the forward pressing Lopez, but Lopez was able to land a second flying knee that floored Morales up against the fence.
Lopez subsequently secured a mounted guillotine that appeared to be the finishing move of the fight, but Morales was able to shift his hips out, get to his feet and land bombs, chasing Lopez down.
The back and forth battle lasted the entire scheduled three rounds and Benito Lopez was able to win the unanimous decision over Morales.
In the next match up two undefeated fighters faced off in the middleweight division as Eryk Anders spoiled the debut of Markus Perez.
Anders demonstrated great power in his striking, intelligence in his forward pressure and ability to cut off the octagon and phenomenal control in his grappling.
Perez was simply never allowed to get comfortable, Anders out landed him and never gave him a break.
Credit must be given where credit is due, and Perez survived all three rounds after absorbing several blows and being put in danger multiple times.
In the lightweight division, another dominant performance was put on. Scott Holtzman manhandled Darrell Horcher for three rounds, demonstrating commanding top control.
Though many fans were not pleased with the fight, and booing could be heard echoing throughout the Savemart Center.
The referee even stood the fight up from the ground on multiple occasions, much to the confusion of UFC lightweight and commentator for the night, Paul Felder.
Apparently the referee did not believe Holtzman’s work from guard was enough to justify leaving the fight on the ground; Felder disagreed.
“I don’t understand why they’re standing this up,” Felder said. “It makes no sense.”
Holtzman was able to pick up the unanimous decision victory regardless and the night’s action continued in one of the most devastating first round knockouts in the bantamweight division.
Former World Series of Fighting Bantamweight Champion Marlon Moraes knocked out bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling.
Sterling had previously lost to former UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao, but showed great durability and tenacity.
But Sterling’s durability was not enough against a well-timed switch knee by Moraes as Sterling shot for a take down.
Sterling was taken to the back on a stretcher and no word was given about his condition until after the main event, which was very concerning given the fact that Sterling was knocked out cold.
Sterling regained consciousness and made a speedy recovery after the fight.
In the co-main event of the night, Gabriel Benitez defeated Jason Knight in a lopsided fight in which Benitez outclassed Knight darting in and out of exchanges and never allowing Knight to land anything substantial or take the fight to the ground.
Knight made a valiant effort to turn the fight into a brawl, but Benitez would not be pulled into a firefight with Knight.
Benitez opted for a strategic and meticulous fight that eventually won him the unanimous decision.
The final fight of the night truly delivered on the hype of a prospect with great potential against a tenacious and gamebred veteran.
Brian “T-City” Ortega submitted long time top five featherweight contender “Killer” Cub Swanson in the second round of a closely contested and suspenseful fight.
Swanson immediately took control of the fight with unpredictable and quick combinations as well as superb defense.
The fight nearly ended in the first round when Ortega and Swanson briefly clinched and Ortega was able to threaten Swanson with a standing d’arce choke that Ortega later transitioned into an anaconda choke.
Swanson was dominating the fight until that point but was nearly choked out in a back and forth battle as the two competed for position on the floor.
Just as it seemed Ortega had the submission, the first round ended and Swanson was safe.
Going into the second round it was clear that Swanson’s strikes did not phase Ortega.
“T-City” came out calm and composed and Swanson appeared to be very aware of his opponent’s submission prowess.
Swanson quickly picked up where he left off on the feet and began lighting Ortega up with shots, landing all his strikes at will and without Ortega being able to counter.
But Ortega was able to put Swanson up against the fence and secure a guillotine choke during a clinch battle, submitting Swanson in the second round.
“I felt like I was picking him apart,” Swanson said to MMAjunkie, “I thought it was one of my best performances before getting caught.”
Swanson has been a serious contender and threat in the featherweight division for many years. Ortega’s victory puts the young fighter on a very short list of fighters who have been able to beat “Killer” Cub.
“He’s got some work to do but all the tools are there,” Swanson said about his opponent.
The fight against Ortega was the last one on Swanson’s UFC contract and though it is still unclear what the veteran fighter’s next move will be, one thing is certain, Cub Swanson is still one of the most dangerous featherweights in the world.
As for Brian Ortega, the young fighter is hoping to continue his undefeated streak against top-ranked featherweights but is down for any fight thrown his direction, “If I can get the winner of Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway, that’d be great,” Ortega said to MMAjunkie following his win. “If not, I’m just going to do what I do.”