Will Marlon Moraes or Aljamain Sterling get a big push with a win?
Coming into the UFC, Marlon Moraes was one of the more promising signings the company had made in recent years. A former champion under the World Series of Fighting banner, Moraes regarded himself as the best bantamweight fighter on the planet. It was a largely disputed declaration, given the existence of 135-pound talents Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw, who, among others, all had a strong claim to the throne as the sport’s best bantamweight.
He finally had his chance at the UFC earlier this year, stepping into the Octagon with a 13-fight winning streak. The UFC aimed to test him right away, pitting Moraes against perennial contender Raphael Assuncao in his debut. Moraes fought admirably, but was not rewarded with the close decision. In a lot of ways, it quieted the hype surrounding Moraes.
It’s a similar fate Aljamain Sterling suffered after dropping two straight fights. Regarded as one of the more promising prospects in the division, the steady-climbing Sterling fell flat in the two biggest tests of his career. He, like Moraes, has rebounded nicely by coming out on the winning side, but has yet to regain the sort of hype that once surrounded him.
With the two facing off on Saturday’s main card, will the winner be afforded a second chance at becoming a push-worthy face in the growing division?
Is Cub Swanson likely to leave the UFC?
Word got out in early October that perennial featherweight contender Cub Swanson was nearing the end of his contract, opting to fight out of his current deal in hopes of securing a bigger payday when testing the open market. Swanson decided, like many before him, to risk a lucrative deal by betting on himself.
Win and Swanson has five consecutive victories at 145 pounds, lining himself up nicely for a modest payday. Lose and he’ll be arguing for a similar payday on the heels of a defeat.
But, no matter what happens, there’s some reason to believe he’ll be on his way out of the UFC regardless. The biggest factor? The UFC’s consistent unwillingness to grant him a shot at 145-pound gold.
The first instance came in 2014, with Swanson being denied an opportunity for a title fight despite winning six consecutive contests — a run that included wins over Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira and Jeremy Stephens. The UFC instead went with Chad Mendes, leaving Swanson to face Frankie Edgar in what was considered at the time Swanson’s final test before a title shot. He lost that fight, but considering Conor McGregor’s rise at the time, there’s a slim chance Swanson would have been next anyway.
A long three years later, Swanson is once again on a winning streak, eager for the chance to cement himself as the world’s best. Though his current streak doesn’t automatically cement him as the No. 1 contender, he did seem like the most prime candidate for a shot at the crown when an opportunity was presented.
With Frankie Edgar was forced out of UFC 218’s title fight against champion Max Holloway, Swanson — who was competing just one week after at UFC Fight Night 123 — was passed up in favor of former titleholder Jose Aldo.
It’s unclear how big a commodity Swanson would be to a promotion like Bellator, but his chances of becoming a champion would become far easier if he decided to jump ship.
Where does a win put Brian Ortega?
Fortunately for Brian Ortega, it was Aldo — not Swanson — who was granted the short-notice opportunity at challenging for the belt at UFC 218. Given how far the UFC needed to reach in order to find a replacement for Aldo’s original opponent, Ricardo Lamas, it’s clear Ortega’s chances of making an impact against a worthwhile contender would have all but disappeared if Swanson was given the shot.
While Ortega is ranked sixth in the featherweight class and boasts an undefeated record, none of the fighters on his resume have been regarded highly enough to boost the 26-year-old’s stock as a true threat to the crown. An impressive 12-0 going into Saturday night’s main event in Fresno, Calif., Ortega hasn’t beaten anybody. His biggest win took place in July, defeating Renato Moicano, who coincidentally found himself in the same boat with an undefeated 11-0 record at the time.
A victory over Swanson would likely change everything. Though Swanson has never had the honor of being called a UFC champion, six of his seven career losses have come against those who have either held or challenged for the belt (Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway). Swanson is as talented as they come at 145 pounds.