UFC Fight Night: Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens Preview and Prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Cub Swanson looks to inch closer towards title contention in the Featherweight division as he faces off against Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night in the land of Spurs and BBQ, and where the Tex meets the Mex.

Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens Featherweight

Alas...the moment only a handful of people have all been waiting for...

Which is what's so unfortunate. These guys would be better promoted by being on a stacked PPV card than headlining a Fight Night taking place behind a Bill Millers.

Great BBQ.

What???

Stop being a food snob. When you're middle aged, and work at a desk all day, even mediocre BBQ tastes good.

It's not about taste. It's about being able to live longer, and in good health instead of giving birth to genetically modified food babies all week.

But this is a really good fight right?

Pretty much.

Although the funny thing is that years ago I would have pegged both guys to be exciting journeyman. In 2011 Jeremy Stephens was bouncing back from a questionable but lackluster decision to Melvin Guillard while Swanson was getting submitted by Ricardo Lamas (who himself took a tough loss to Iuri Alcantara two fights before).

Now both men are putting themselves in prime positions to be contenders of sorts. Swanson has experienced the far more significant improvement. He's polished up his striking and grappling, and is on a tear that includes wins over Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier and now Dennis Siver. After getting pasted by Yves Edwards in what felt like karmic payback for getting arrested on previous assault charges, he went on to record some decent wins over Estevan Payan in a nonsensically bloody fight, Rony Jason, and Darren Elkins.

Needless to say, Swanson has the much better record. -240 is a bit much though. Cub is the favorite for many good reasons, but their clash of styles is not the most emphatic of them.

Just to be clear, I'm not bullish on Stephens and never have been. Even when he took a close decision loss to Anthony Pettis, all I could do was lament Pettis' ostensible regression at the time. It's not like Jeremy looked good. He looked like a guy knowing he might pick up a big win by scoring takedowns and doing nothing else.

He's basically never revealed himself to be particularly dynamic. Stephens is a good example of the illusion of progression. A good run can be the product of development, matchmaking, and/or a mixture of both. Stephens has benefited more by matchmaking in putting together a good winning streak than developing into a better version of himself.

Stephens is your classic brawler. He's always looking for the kill shot. He may miss 9 out of 10 strikes, but when you're confident that all you need is one shot, the shortcut strategy is just so tempting. This paints him up as a one dimensional fighter, which I don't necessarily believe. He's a pretty stout wrestler when he's committed. Even though I didn't think his performance against Pettis was impressive, he did accomplish what Shane Roller tried but failed to do; a fighter who was once thought of as a solid wrestler/grappler.

In addition to possessing an evil right hand, he's not just a one handed fighter. He'll put together combinations, throw kicks, and gets it done by being quicker than is assumed. In addition to the 'in addition', Swanson leaves himself open. A lot.

Cub has this weird rhythm to the way he fights on the feet. His hands are low, and he does something T.J. Dillashaw has perfected; ducking to feint a takedown or body strike only to chamber his kick high while moving in. He mixes up his punches, but only one shot at a time. And he throws from impossible angles. He's effective obviously...especially in the way he lunges into his right and left hands, but I also think Stephens has the perfect opportunity to counter with a big punch.

Dustin Poirier isn't even a particularly hard puncher, but he got Cub's attention by simply picking his shots and timing Swanson's erratic movement.

Still...this just means Stephens has less to work with to win the fight. Cub throws a lot of kicks down low, often getting fighters off balance. He's cornered by one of the best in the business, and his creativity alone should be enough to take the fight to Stephens, if not outright embarrass him with a quick finish. Cub isn't some lights out grappler, but his striking will open up opportunities on the ground because I suspect Stephens will get caught, like he does in a many of his bouts. Simply put, Cub is much improved. Stephens is not.

I don't trust a fighter who is not more violent today than he was yesterday.

Cub Swanson by TKO, round 2.

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