UFC Fresno: Ortega taps Swanson, Valley native Perez makes statement in debut

Brian Ortega punches Cub Swanson in their featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Save Mart Center on December 9, 2017 in Fresno, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

UFC’s main event featherweight bout on Saturday at Save Mart Center featured a veteran on a four-fight win streak in Cub Swanson and an undefeated up-and-comer in Brian “T-City” Ortega.

But it was the veteran who got the short end of the stick as he was forced into submission after Ortega secured a standing guillotine choke at 3:22 of Round 2.

“This was a huge win but I’m just happy it’s over,” said Ortega, who is now 13-0. “The fighting game does bring a lot of nerve especially this being my first main event. I’m glad it’s over and I was successful.”

T-City set the tone in Round 1, delivering a couple shots before grappling with Swanson and taking the fight to the ground. A grappling specialist, Ortega used his specialty to gain position for a submission attempt toward the end of the opening round but unable to finish.

“I felt it was really close [in the R1 submission attempt],” Ortega said. “If I had 10 seconds more I would have had him. I could hear him gargling as he was circling away from the choke. I knew I would have this opportunity again later in the fight and obviously it did in the second. My game plan has always been to look for the kill. Cub [Swanson] is an amazing fighter and I give all respect to him. He was in there trying to get in my head and he was landing some good shots. I knew I just had to keep my cool and don’t go all-out. I was going to put the pace on him a little more in the third but I’m happy it didn’t go that far.”

In addition, Ortega earned Performance of the Night honors and the bout was named Fight of the Night.

After the match, Ortega had a chat with UFC President Dana White and while many speculated the meeting was regarding a title shot, it was actually about charity work and giving back.

“I really love to help kids that are struggling and going through a tough time and I want to be a positive light on them,” said Ortega. “I want to use this platform to not be selfish but I want to use the light to help people. Now I just want to go travel and help a lot of people out.”

As for Swanson (25-8), this was his final fight under his current UFC contract. He was offered a contract post fight by UFC President Dana White, but declined the offer. He is undecided if he’ll re-sign with the UFC.

“[The loss] stings. I’m going to enjoy family over Christmas and try not to be in bad spirits,” Swanson said. “I fought great but just didn’t get the result I wanted.”

Lemoore’s Alex Perez wins UFC debut

Alex Perez celebrates his submission victory over Carls John De Tomas of the Philippines in their flyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Save Mart Center on December 9, 2017 in Fresno, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

UFC’s first visit to Fresno was like a homecoming for Lemoore’s Alex Perez, and after proving himself on “Dana White’s Tuesday Contender Series,” he was ready to prove himself in front of the Central Valley crowd.

Facing off against the Philippines’ Carls John de Tomas, Perez did just that as he submit de Tomas with an anaconda choke in the second round.

“It felt amazing to go out there in front of all my fans and get the finish,” Perez said after the fight. “I put a lot of hard work and time into this. I believe in myself and this is an amazing feeling. I knew he [de Tomas] was strong and has composure but I trust my game.”

After putting some pressure in the first round, Perez returned in the second with that same aggressiveness to take down De Tomas and eventually gain position for the choke.

For Perez (19-4), it was his fourth win of the year, but first on a major stage. Saturday’s match was originally supposed to be a flyweight bout, however, the California State Athletic Commission elected to move it to the bantamweight division as they were concerned with De Tomas’ weight during fight week.

I’m going to go back down to flyweight and see what goes from there,” Perez said. “I’m hoping to get in on that Vegas card in March. I also just wanted to thank all the fans that we’re in Fresno tonight rooting for me! This was a dream come true! Making my UFC debut in my hometown, it can’t get much better than this.”

UFC Prez: ‘We’ll be back’

MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and in UFC’s first visit to Fresno, the Fight Night attracted an attendance 7,605 for a gate of $568,290.

In his post-event press conference, UFC President Dana White was asked about a potential return to Fresno.

His response?

“The crowd was great, the people here are awesome” White said. “We came in here with a Fight Night card and hit a $600,000 gate. It was a good night, so we’ll definitely come back.”