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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Fresno: Swanson vs. Ortega - FS1 prelims preview

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Get the scoop on UFC Fresno’s televised prelims, featuring a rematch between a pair of former women’s bantamweight title challengers, Alexis Davis and Liz Carmouche.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Davis vs Dandois Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The early televised contests for UFC Fresno are… nothing special. There are a couple of UFC debutants, a pair of action-fighting bantamweights, and a pair of former title contenders square off. That last bit may sound tantalizing, but no one has thought of Alexis Davis or Liz Carmouche in that light for at least a few years. Granted, these aren’t trash fights either – Luke Sanders and Andre Soukhamthath in particular looks like fun to me – but nobody is tuning into FS1 to catch any of these contests.

The FS1 prelims kick off at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Alexis Davis (18-7) vs. Liz Carmouche (10-5), Women’s Bantamweight

Did the UFC forget Davis and Carmouche already did the damn thing back in 2013? Is this a rematch that really needs to take place? I didn’t think so… but whatever.

The first contest was very nip and tuck, Davis pulling ahead slightly in the end as she upped her aggression as Carmouche continued to try and counter. Neither has made major changes to their game since then. Carmouche is still strong as an ox with a slightly stiff kickboxing game while Davis is still a scrappy striker and savvy grappler. So perhaps the question would be: what adjustments each could make, particularly Carmouche.

One surprising development was the lack of wrestling employed by Carmouche as ground-and-pound is her biggest strength. Was she respecting Davis’ grappling capabilities too much? Did she think she stood a better chance of ending the fight on the feet? Davis doesn’t have a lot of power, relying on her jab and a variety of kicks to score points. That was enough to keep Carmouche off-balance in the latter half of their contest. Strangely enough though, that was the only contest in Carmouche’s UFC run she didn’t actively look for the takedown with regularity.

I’m picking Carmouche as Davis doesn’t appear to be the same fighter she was four years ago. Davis’ contest with Cindy Dandois was an ugly striking display. Sure, Davis won and didn’t look nearly as bad on her feet as Dandois, but she didn’t look good in the process either. If her striking looks like that again, Carmouche should be able to handle her with ease. Carmouche via decision

Luke Sanders (11-1) vs. Andre Soukhamthath (11-5), Bantamweight

Soukhamthath may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Sanders. Originally scheduled to face the highly regarded Bryan Caraway, Sanders stands a much better chance of avoiding a second loss in a row to his short-notice opponent. Not that Soukhamthath is a walk in the park by any means….

Soukhamthath made a hell of an impression in his contest with Alejandro Perez this past summer. Despite coming up short in the win-loss column due to a fading gas tank – brought on in part by the high altitude of Mexico City – he managed to knock Perez to the ground three times before his output dwindled. For a smaller man, Soukhamthath packs quite a punch. He mixes punches to the body effectively and throws a stiff jab. What has been an issue for him – besides his gas tank – is his lack of volume as he tends to wait too long for the counter to materialize.

With only two UFC appearances – and 12 fights total under his belt – many view Sanders as a prospect. Given he’s already 31-years old, that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Measured aggression is the name of the game for Sanders, throwing a series of wide hooks with surprising accuracy, each one having the potential to turn out the lights. Though a simplistic approach, it works thanks to Sanders expert distance management. Where the Tennessee native really shines is on the ground, throwing brutal punches and elbows like a man possessed. Amazingly enough, he doesn’t seem to slow down despite the seemingly massive expenditures of energy.

Given the hard-hitting ways of both Sanders and Soukhamthath, you’d think a finish seems likely. Then you realize neither has ever been KO’d over the course of their careers, creating a conundrum. As far as the actual winner, Sanders’ better all-around attack makes him the more attractive choice, though Soukhamthath’s underrated takedown defense could cause problems. Regardless, I’m still selecting Sanders. Sanders via decision

Carls John de Tomas (8-1) vs. Alex Perez (18-4), Flyweight

Perez turned a bunch of heads with his dominant performance over Kevin Gray on the Contender Series this past summer. Though he is only 25-years old, he has been a professional for six years and picked up plenty of veteran tricks along the way and the ability to fight from any range. For instance, he disguises his kicks behind his punches better than most longtime veterans. Perez doesn’t do anything expertly, but is well-versed in every field with smooth transitions to every area. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

De Tomas shouldn’t be in the UFC… yet. He’s 21-years old without a single notable victory on his ledger. However, he’s also a solid athlete with a freakish 71" reach on his 5'5" frame. Possessing a solid wrestling base with a promising Muay Thai game, de Tomas has the look of a future contender. Plus, he showed great determination against submission expert Naoki Inoue to prevent from being subbed. He just very unpolished at this point without the knowledge of how to best utilize his physical gifts. Missing weight for his contest with Inoue doesn’t help either.

Perez is the easy favorite here as he has faced a who’s-who on the regional circuit of contenders. De Tomas’ wrestling is his biggest strength and could grind out Perez, but that’s an unlikely scenario at 125 as the competitors are too quick and slippery to stay down for long. Most likely, Perez uses his all-around skill set to confuse de Tomas at times and cruise to an easy decision victory. Perez via decision

Frankie Saenz (11-5) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (7-2), Bantamweight

This has to be the last stand for Saenz. He has lost three fights in a row at the age of 37. The former collegiate wrestler relied heavily on his base when he first entered the UFC. In his first three UFC contests – all wins -- he secured nine takedowns. In the three since, he has secured one. Granted, some of that has to do with Saenz facing a stiffer level of competition, but he’s also relied more on his striking. It isn’t that he is a poor striker. He’s quite good with faster hands than you’d anticipate. But he’s also become somewhat predictable in that field.

Dvalishvili is a former Golden Gloves boxer with great timing on the counter. Despite that background, he tends to forget all his technique and wing heavy overhands and bombs when he senses his opponent is on the ropes. Despite that, Dvalishvili doesn’t have a whole lot of power in his fists. He’s at his best when he can get the top position on the ground where he unleashes some brutal ground strikes, mixing punches with elbow brilliantly.

Dvalishvili has shown some solid trip takedowns, but I’m still very much in the dark on his takedown defense. Saenz has a strong chance of keeping his job if he can grind Dvalishvili into the ground, but there is no guarantee that he’ll take that route. Given that I’m guessing off a couple of uncertainties, I’ll opt for the younger fighter considered to be on the upswing. Dvalishvili via decision