UFC Nashville will have exciting names like Cub Swanson, but timing leaves this card as a precursor to a summer of blockbuster MMA action.
When Cub Swanson emerged victorious at UFC 206, it was hailed as a classic that songs could have been written about. While the capital of country music is the perfect place for an encore, it’s his dance partner for UFC Nashville that has drawn a raised eyebrow.
Artem Lobov is 13-12-1, just a touch above .500 as a professional. While his career highlight was reaching the final of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber, he is best known for being a friend and teammate of lightweight champion Conor McGregor. His most recent victory was over relatively unknown Teruto Ishihara in November and hardly warranted a shot at the top-ten ranked Swanson.
Swanson went on The MMA Hour and stated that the UFC accommodated his request to be able to fight before the birth of his child. They granted him the main event in Nashville but stated that the best opponent available was Artem Lobov. Champions José Aldo and Max Holloway are already scheduled to face each other in June. Top-ranked Frankie Edgar is set to face Yair Rodriguez next month and the Korean Zombie is unavailable.
Artem Lobov found himself in a headliner after taking a page from his training partner and calling out Swanson. Only 2-2 in the UFC, there is no question that he has a huge opportunity if he can dispatch “Killer Cub” on Saturday night. He will have plenty of opportunities to get the job done. Swanson is unorthodox and durable but only has one victory in the first round since 2009. Swanson is the heavy favorite, but history leans toward Lobov having time to figure out an opening.
While the card is lacking relevant star power, there are plenty of match-ups look to provide fireworks on the night in Tennessee. Diego Sanchez and Al Iaquinta stylistically will feature two fighters with similar skill sets. As any fight the last few years in the career of Sanchez, each appearance carries the suspense of whether it will be the night he can no longer keep up with the fighters of the UFC or if he will turn back the clock one more time.
John Dodson will be facing former title challenger Eddie Wineland in a bout between two of the heavy hitters in the bantamweight division. The perennially exciting Joe Lauzon will fight the up and coming Stevie Ray who is 4-1 in the UFC. The card will also feature the UFC debut of Cindy Dandois at bantamweight, with hopes that she could become a player in the new featherweight division down the line.
For now, fans should enjoy watching the talent of Cub Swanson and keep an open mind on the rest of the night’s talent. MMA is approaching a summer of blockbuster events, and UFC Nashville looks to be the final speed bump before one of the best stretches in recent history.