There are a number of reasons why very few expect Artem Lobov to upset Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night 108 this Saturday.
For starters, the men will be fighting in Tennessee where Swanson will enjoy home support. Then there are their contrasting records – Swanson is 9-12 in the UFC, Lobov is 2-2. And that’s without even mentioning their vastly different standings in the game, with Swanson the No 4 featherweight in the world, and Lobov currently unranked.
But Lobov enjoys at least one advantage over Swanson, and indeed the entire featherweight division. Because he is the only one with two-weight world champion and cultural phenomenon Conor McGregor is corner.
Apart from this weekend, that is. McGregor – as well as Straight Blast Gym’s (SBG) head coach John Kavanagh – are both missing the most significant fight of Lobov’s career because of prior engagements. Not that Lobov is too worried.
“Conor not being here does not affect me because world champions do not need their hand held,” a confident Lobov said at the press-day ahead of the event.
“I’ve trained so much with Conor that every time I go into the Octagon he is right with me, in my head and more importantly my heart. John isn’t going to be here either because my fight was announced after he had agreed to some obligations. But I have Owen [Roddy] with me, one of the main coaches at SBG who has cornered me many times before, so I am not worried.”
Lobov will need to draw on the experience of all three men if he is to beat Swanson, who heads into this fight on the back of his ‘Fight of the Year’ winning three-round war with Doo Ho Choi.
After defeating Jeremy Stephens in June 2014 to extend his win streak to 6 fights, Swanson looked well-placed for a title shot and was handed a huge opportunity against perennial title contender Frankie Edgar. But defeat to Edgar, as well as a submission defeat to Max Holloway in his next time in the Octagon, left Swanson needing to rebuild his career.
He’s done that in style – with wins against Hacran Dias, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Choi – and feels that a win against Lobov will push him closer to a title shot against José Aldo.
“Basically I just want to go out there and showcase my skills,” Swanson commented on Thursday.
“After my losses every fight on the way back has been a step up and every fight between now and a title shot is just making me better and better.
“He has been talking a little smack in the media and online but I’m not worried. I’m prepared for everything, I’m a veteran and I’m not going to fall into a game.”
Where is it? Fight Night 108 will be held at the Bridgestone Arena, in Nashville, Tennessee.
What time is it? If you want the watch the action, prepare yourself for a late night (or very early morning).
The main card, which gets underway with Jake Ellenberger fighting Mike Perry, is due to get underway at 10pm ET. Which is 2 in the morning, in the UK.
Where can I watch it? The action will be shown live on BT Sport 2, with the Prelims show beginning at 1 in the morning and the main card likely to finish at 6.30.
If you live outside the UK, you can catch the action on the UFC’s Fight Pass.
On the main card
Al Iaquinta vs Diego Sanchez
29-year-old UFC stalwart Al Iaquinta is the favourite heading into his fight with veteran Diego Sanchez. The fight marks the return of Iaquinta, who hasn’t fought since early-2015 because of a contract dispute with the promotion.
He couldn’t have hoped for a kinder return: The 14 ranked lightweight’s superb wrestling ability will surely cause problems for Sanchez, while his effective counter-striking will also make him a threat if his opponent elects to stand and trade.
Iaquinta doesn’t sound too bothered how he achieves the result, although he has warned his fans not to expect a particularly thrilling contest.
“It’s only got to be an exciting fight if I choose, if I engage in that kind of fight,” Iaquinta told MMA Junkie. “He’s good at getting guys out of their game plan. I watched Myles Jury fight Diego, and that’s kind of like a blueprint for how I think the fight’s going to go.” This could be one for the purists.
Ovince Saint Preux vs Marcos Rogério de Lima
Saint Preux’s title fight against Jon Jones at UFC 197 seems a long time ago now. The American acquitted himself especially well in that bout – taking Jones to five rounds despite breaking his arm during the bout – and won himself a lot of credit with the UFC hierarchy.
However, two defeats followed. First he was knocked out by Jimi Manuwa in Manchester, before he lost a split decision to Volkan Oezdemir in February. He heads into this fight with just one win in his last five contests and desperately needs to impress in his home state.
De Lima is also at something of a crossroads, having alternated victories and defeats over his past five defeats. He also missed weight for his previous fight against Jeremy Kimball, and needs a way back into the UFC’s good books.
Any other business?
Keep an eye out for Dustin Ortiz’s flyweight contest against Brandon Moreno. Ortiz, once widely considered to be a future contender, is coming into this fight on the back of a decision victory over Zach Makovsky, while Moreno is one of the division’s hottest prospects.