From the very beginning of his stint in the UFC, Artem Lobov has been branded a beneficiary of nepotism.
One can certainly understand the suggestion that Lobov has been fortunate over the last few years, fortunate to be a friend and teammate of the UFC’s most powerful star, Conor McGregor. After all, his pre-UFC record was barely superior to .500, not usually the sort of ledger that would earn someone a place on The Ultimate Fighter. Yet, Artem was selected to partake in season 22 of the show, on which McGregor acted as a coach. What’s more, Lobov lost his opening bout to Medhi Baghdad and should have played no further part in the reality show. However, he was given a second bite of the cherry.
Lobov went on to make the final, losing out on the TUF 22 crown via decision to Ryan Hall in December 2015.
A loss to Alex White followed, before Lobov rebounded. He easily overcame Nate Diaz teammate Chris Avila via unanimous decision at UFC 202 and then turned in a terrific performance to outpoint touted prospect Teruto Ishihara at UFC Belfast in November.
The SBG featherweight followed this up with his first appearance in a UFC main event on Saturday night in Nashville, where he faced the 145-pound division’s fourth ranked contender. That he found himself headlining a show and against a man so far ahead of him in the rankings, once again gave Lobov’s critics ammunition.
Even his Nashville opponent, Swanson, claimed in the run-up to their bout that Lobov didn’t deserve a place on the UFC roster.
However, while it may be the case that Lobov has been given a helping hand by McGregor and the promotion’s brass on a couple of occasions, one can’t ignore the fact that he has also routinely capitalized on those opportunities. Returning to the TUF competition following his loss to Baghdad, Lobov went on an absolute tear, scoring three stoppage victories in a row over opponent’s with much better records than his.
In Ishihara, Lobov faced the best opponent of his career to that point, but rose to the occasion and dominated the fight.
Though he dropped a unanimous decision to Swanson over five rounds on Saturday, Lobov continued that trend of capitalizing on opportunity. He entered a gritty, gutsy display and was competitive with Swanson throughout a really entertaining 5-round scrap. The reaction to the fight on Twitter shows that he swayed many people with his performance.
If you are still on the fence, however, or have chosen to remain a flat-out critic of ‘The Russian Hammer’ in spite of his gallantry in Tennessee, here is a statistic that will make your position untenable.
Artem Lobov hit Cub Swanson with 123 significant strikes. Cub's other 5-rounders: Frankie Edgar landed 93, Jeremy Stephens landed 65.
— Connor Ruebusch (@BoxingBusch) April 23, 2017
That Lobov was able to hit Swanson with greater regularity than former UFC lightweight champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar, proves that he is worthy of his place in the world’s premier organisation. He may not have earned it all by himself, through the strength of his pre-UFC performances, but, as it has turns out, he is more than good enough to defend that spot.
Proving what a war Lobov vs Swanson was, Cub set a UFC/WEC featherweight record for most significant strikes landed in a single bout, with 209. And the pair combined to land the second most significant strikes ever in a UFC fight, falling only two strikes behind a 2011 slugfest between Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone(via MMAJunkie).