By Brian Hemminger
Mike "Quick" Swick has been a part of the UFC ever since he premiered on season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter as an undersized light heavyweight. He earned his nickname by finishing his first 4 UFC fights in 5:20 combined. The Swick hype train was halted when he ran into Yushin Okami, who controlled Swick with his wrestling to earn a decision victory at UFC 69. During the fight, Swick repeatedly told his corner "He's too big, he's too strong" and the loss prompted his decision to move to welterweight.
In Swick's welterweight bout for number one contender status, he didn't have an answer for a hungrier and more powerful Dan Hardy. One loss isn't a huge deal, but in Swick's next fight, another loss to rising welterweight Paulo Thiago (this time by stoppage), it was pretty apparent to me that it was time to Swick to move back up in weight. Here is my proposal for Mike Swick returning to the middleweight class.
Before his fight with Paulo Thiago at UFC 109, Swick posted a youtube video about his weight cuts among other things that take place leading up to his fights. In it, Swick looked pretty emaciated as he sweat out those last 7 pounds to make weight. Swick has looked noticeably thinner since he moved down to welterweight, take a look for yourself.
Swick at 170 Swick at 185
Mike Swick may have been a little small for a middleweight, but look at him at 185, he didn't have a lot of fat to lose. What he ended up doing was dropping muscle mass to make welterweight. I am not a fan of this at all. If you look at some of the biggest and strongest welterweights like Thiago Alves and Anthony Johnson, they have considerably more muscle and walk around at a much higher weight than Swick. How do they make weight then? Muscles contain a lot more water, which can be dropped quickly and replenished just as quickly (although Johnson has been having trouble lately as well). With Swick dropping muscle to make welterweight, he lost some of his power and also made it tougher for him to actually make the weight. He's not dropping as much water mass as he is depriving his body of the fluids he needs to function.
Here are a few other reasons for Swick to return to middleweight:
Speed Advantage: Swick's biggest strength was his speed at middleweight. He could dance around most opponents and pepper them with overhand punches or strong kicks while avoiding taking a lot of damage. Even in the Okami fight, Swick came as close as anyone has ever come to finishing Okami in the UFC, as Yushin was literally saved by the bell at the end of the second round. Down at welterweight, Swick is just as fast as everyone else. As evidenced by his last fight, Swick can't get away with those looping punches that AKA has become famous for. Welterweights with superior technical striking are making him pay. Also, instead of being physically more imposing, his muscle deprived body does not give him a strength advantage at welterweight to make up for the speed equilibrium.
Get the Power Back: If you haven't noticed, Swick has not been nearly as imposing in the cage lately as he used to be. As a middleweight, Swick was 4-1 in the UFC with 3 first round stoppage victories and two decisions. As a welterweight, Swick is 4-2 with only 1 first round stoppage victory and has been involved in 3 decisions. Also, that lone first round stoppage loses a bit of credibility when you consider that Jonathon Goulet was also stopped in 5 seconds by Duane "Bang" Ludwig at UFC Fight Night 3. Swick simply does not have the finishing power that he once had as a middleweight.
No AKA Teammates: We've heard it over and over again about the AKA trio at welterweight for the UFC and how they won't fight each other. What about middleweight? Nothing. The only significant middleweight training at the American Kickboxing Academy is Cung Le, and he's a little preoccupied with making movies and fighting in Strikeforce for that to ever be a problem. Swick would be free to fight whoever he wanted and would never have to worry about camp politics.
Less Crowded Division: The UFC welterweight division might have just become their most talent heavy. Besides Georges St. Pierre at the top, there are at just too many welterweights who are ahead of Swick at this moment in time. Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Paul Daley, Matt Hardy, Paulo Thiago, Matt Serra and Matt Brown to name a few. The middleweight division (while very entertaining) does not have the same level of elite talent as its welterweight counterpart. At the moment, there's only Marquardt, Sonnen, Belfort, Okami and maybe Bisping ahead of Swick if he were to return to middleweight. He could be tossed right in the mix immediately against a plethora of middle of the pack guys to see if he can hang, and that would certainly be a lot better than the gatekeeper status he's earned at welterweight.
He's Got the Time: With the recent announcement of a 6 month medical suspension due to an elbow injury, Swick has more than enough time to get involved with some top level strength trainers and start packing on muscle again. He's also only 30 years old, and he could easily squeeze out several more years of elite competition in the UFC.
I firmly believe in the mantra: Just because you can do somehing, doesn't mean you should. Mike Swick was given a choice after his loss to Yushin Okami at UFC 69. He could drop down to welterweight and potentially lose most of his advantages that he held over middleweights. That, or he could work with a strength and conditioning coach to help him pack on some muscle and become just as strong as his opponents without losing that quickness he had become famous for. He ended up moving down to welterweight, it's high time he made the correct decision.
I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter.