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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Nashville: Swanson vs. Lobov - Fight Pass preview

Take a closer look at the Fight Pass contests this Saturday at UFC Nashville, headlined by former title contender Alexis Davis welcoming Cindy Dandois to the Octagon.

MMA: UFC 186-Davis vs Kaufman Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, there doesn’t appear to be anything too interesting on the Fight Pass prelims of UFC Fight Night Nashville. Sure, Alexis Davis is a former title contender, but that was almost three years ago and she has won just a single fight since then. Bryan Barberena was the MMA world’s darling about a year ago when he submitted Sage Northcutt, but it seems unlikely he’ll ever exceed the shine he got there.

Nope, there isn’t much intrigue behind these fights. However, they do offer potentially exciting stylistic contests with their opponents. And yes, I’m referring to the opening flyweight contest too. Isn’t entertainment the reason we watch the fights in the first place?

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Alexis Davis (17-7) vs. Cindy Dandois (8-2), Women’s Bantamweight

Interesting bit of matchmaking. Davis, a staple of women’s bantamweight ever since it was integrated into the UFC, welcomes Dandois to the UFC. Trust me though, there is a reason these two were paired together.

Many were questioning whether Dandois would fight at featherweight upon her signing given her experience there in addition to the complete lack of depth in the UFC’s newest division. After all, she does own a victory over current Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson. Instead, Dandois is deciding to use her size advantage at bantamweight rather than risk getting bullied by larger opponents.

Davis is used to being at a size disadvantage as she would fit better at flyweight as she was bullied and submitted by Sara McMann in her last contest. However, that was not only Davis’ first fight in 20 months, it was also her first fight since giving birth. Rust was to be expected. Nonetheless, she put up a good fight. Locking in a triangle from off her back, Davis’ submission game is still as effective as ever. Despite her grappling prowess, Davis has largely been overwhelmed in the wrestling department.

That could be troublesome against Dandois. Dandois isn’t the most technical wrestler, but she does have a sound double-leg. If Dandois is able to get the fight to the ground, she is just as savvy a submission expert as Davis is. Can you now see why Sean Shelby put these two together?

The standup game isn’t going to be nearly as exhilarating. Davis is a bit unorthodox, throwing a jab and kicks in large quantities without being much of a threat to end the contest. She also tends to get hit quite a bit, though her uber-toughness generally allows her to survive whatever her opponent throws at her. Dandois is more conventional, constantly prodding with a jab. She also has a bit more power than Davis, but she is also far more uncomfortable on the feet.

Dandois is a wild card. She could very well end up washing out of the UFC within a couple of fights or she could end up becoming a title challenger. If she loses, don’t be surprised if Dandois moves up to featherweight. Will she? Dandois is tough as nails too, so expect them to go the distance. Davis via decision

Bryan Barberena (12-4) vs. Joe Proctor (11-4), Lightweight

Barberena’s unlikely run of success came to a sudden end against Colby Covington, sending Barberena back to the lightweight division where Proctor awaits him.

Barberena moved up to welterweight when USADA got involved in the drug testing, which also coincided with the IV ban. Moving back down to lightweight will give Barberena a physical advantage against most of his opponents as he is a hulking 155er, which is also why he moved up to welterweight. Aside from a very deep gas tank, that’s about where his physical advantages end. He is a subpar athlete, isn’t a powerful striker, and isn’t a great wrestler either. That’s what made Barberena’s mini run of success so much fun as Barberena shouldn’t be winning the fights he has been winning on paper. It shows just how far you can go when you just won’t go away.

Proctor doesn’t have the same durability that Barberena possesses, being finished in the first round in his last two losses. That doesn’t bode well for him against Barberena as only two of Barberena’s twelve career victories have come via decision. Then again, a close look at Proctor’s recent record and you realize that it is only better athletes he is losing too whereas he is putting away those who are athletically inferior. Barberena is inferior athletically, though Barberena has also thrived in the underdog role. Something is going to give.

Proctor is pathologically aggressive, much like his mentor, Joe Lauzon. He puts together good punching combinations in the pocket with solid kicks from the outside. He also tends to leave himself wide open to return fire, the biggest reason he was finished so early in his recent losses. Barberena isn’t a defensive savant either, often eating a lot of damage as he tries to counter as he pressures. He almost always gives away the first round before finding his range and wearing down his opponent with his sheer volume. Despite not being the most powerful striker, his doggedness leads to the finish more often than not.

I’m going with Barberena here with the caveat that pushed me over the edge being Proctor’s total number of takedowns over his UFC career: zero. Covington exposed Barberena’s lack of wrestling, but Proctor isn’t the guy to expose him that area. Proctor will struggle to put him away and if he can’t do that, Barberena will make him pay the price late. Barberena via TKO of RD3

Hector Sandoval (13-3) vs. Matt Schnell (10-3), Flyweight

Given the cleansing of some of the more familiar faces in the flyweight division, the opportunity is there for Sandoval and Schnell to establish themselves as mainstays in the division. Could they become possible contenders? That’s pushing it.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this matchup was Joe Silva is no longer running things. With Sandoval coming off a win and Schnell off a loss, it’s safe to say his classic matchmaking style is largely a thing of the past. Just saying….

Sandoval is small for the division, though he has been able to make up for that with his pugnacious style. Out of Team Alpha Male, Sandoval exemplifies what the camp has come to represent: wrestling, guillotines, and hard hooks as the staple of his striking attack. Sandoval showed well by winning the wrestling battle against Fredy Serrano, a former Olympic wrestler. Then again, Serrano is similar in size to Sandoval while Schnell is monstrous for 125.

The problem for Schnell is that his wrestling isn’t particularly great. Part of that is due to Schnell being fine with being taken to the ground as he is an excellent scrambler able to get off his back quickly once taken down. From there, he proceeds to sniff out one submission attempt after another, easily the biggest strength of his game. Though he has some big defensive holes in his standup, Schnell has some good kicks from the outside. He’ll look to exploit his length as he has six inches both in height and reach on Sandoval.

These two should combine to form one hell of an exciting contest. Sandoval tends to go a million miles an hour at all times. While he can be a bit boring if he ends up attempting to grind his opponent into the ground, Schnell’s guard and sweeps should keep it from being boring at any point. Though Sandoval’s short frame and limbs makes it difficult to submit him, but I still think Schnell will get the job done. Schnell via submission of RD2