Returning after over a 2-year absence, welterweight striker Mike Swick meets TUF 9 finalist DaMarques Johnson to light off Saturday's UFC on Fox 4 broadcast at 8:00 p.m. ET. The bout is among 4 total offerings on the main card, the cardinal of which is a light-heavyweight affair pitting Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Brandon Vera. A 6-fight preliminary card on Fuel TV will precede the Fox card at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Mike "Quick" Swick (14-4), a TUF OGer, once contested Dan Hardy in a #1-contender match with the winner (Hardy) moving on to face welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. After his unsuccessful bid for top contender status, Paulo Thiago's 2nd-round D'arce choke put Swick on a 2-fight skid. Since then (February of 2010), a series of debilitations have sidelined the AKA slugger, starting with an esophagus issue that caused in excess of 30-pounds of weight loss and later, when training to face Erick Silva at UFC 134, a humdinger of a knee injury that resulted in severe ligament damage.
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DaMarques Johnson (15-10) is a TUF alum as well, battling his way to the finals on the show's ninth installment where James Wilks tapped him out with a 1st-round rear-naked choke. Post-TUF, Johnson surged forward by defeating and finishing 3 (Edgar Garcia and Mike Guymon by sub, Brad Blackburn by TKO) of his next 4 opponents (lost to Matt Riddle by TKO) but, in his recent stretch, dropped 2 by submission (Amir Sadollah via punches, John Maguire by armbar) with a dominant 1st-round shellacking of Clay Harvison in between.
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Swick and Johnson have quite a few similarities: they're fairly tall (6'1") welterweights with lanky reach (77" for Swick, 75" for Johnson) and serviceable submission grappling to supplement their core competency of striking. Both stand orthodox and are boxing-heavy in their strike selection but do throw kicks sparingly; Johnson a bit more often than Swick.
By all accounts, this should shape up to be an entertaining, back and forth volley of blistering punches on the feet. Johnson has more of a traditional boxing style with tight and straight punches while Swick earned the nickname "Quick" for battering foes with a berserk medley of wide-swooping hooks in rapid succession.
Swick's long reach, hand speed and power can produce deadly barrages with a frenetic rate of fire. This trait, always unhinged at close range, is easily his most fearsome attribute but Swick has struggled with jousting from a distance. Out on the fringe, he typically paws with a lazy jab or left hook (with his hands low, leaving his chin exposed) while circling left to center up his power hand, or he throws 2-punch combinations while shrinking the distance, such as a left hook and right straight, the standard 1-2 or a left jab and hook combination.
The bulk of what Johnson unhinges is straight rights and lefts with an occasional hook tacked on. His stance, form, timing, footwork and head movement are a notch above Swick's from a fundamental standpoint, and this composure makes him the more accurate and defensively sound of the pair. Johnson uses more knee attacks, both in the clinch and of the flying variety from outside, and maintains steady tempo and volume with his strikes while Swick flings out a few to set up his vicious salvos in tight.
While Swick's protracted layoff and tumultuous injuries are a concern, he did spend a good chunk of his hiatus training at Tiger Muay Thai with Roger Huerta, so his potential advancements in striking could off-set the ring-rust. The other trick up Swick's sleeve is that he's pursued takedowns and initiated clinches against striking specialists in the past, such as Thiago (1st-round takedown) and Dan Hardy (a lot of clinch-based control).
Even though Swick isn't a particularly talented wrestler, just the fact that he's wily enough to suffuse his striking with those elements could pay off on the score cards. In those matches, Swick went low in the clinch and dug underhooks to work trips while Johnson usually goes high with the plum grip and stays busy with knees while avoiding takedowns. Additionally, and again, even though Swick isn't a sub wizard, Johnson has shown a consistent susceptibility to submission grapplers, as catches account for 6 of his 10 losses. I wouldn't rule out some takedown attempts and top play from Swick as a secondary option.
While Johnson's cleaner and more technically complete stand up could decide the outcome, I'll side with Swick for his punching power, quickness and tactical willingness to rely on other assets.
My Prediction: Mike Swick by decision.