When this fight was announced everyone with any cognitive function knew they were in for a treat. Cub Swanson and Dennis Siver are two of the featherweight divisions brightest lights and at UFC 162 one of them was going to go out.
The first round was almost all Siver. Much like in his fight against Nam Phan he showed a great mix of determined kickboxing and grinding wrestling. He was able to go strike for strike with Cub early and when he felt the standup slipping out of control he was able to drag the fight down and control it on the ground.
The second started much the same with Siver and Cub feeling out range, cub landing the occasional harder, and flashier strikes, and Siver dealing the more consistent damage. A beautiful headlock hip-throw from Swanson, midway through the round put Siver on his back and though he reversed late and took little damage his struggles to get out from under mount took their toll.
In the third, Siver looked to be slowing down notably, and Swanson wisely pounced on the opportunity to turn up his own offense for a violent finish. It was a fight that should have been stopped much sooner than it was, with Siver out after the first couple blows and eating another 16 or so (by my count) before Cub stopped the fight himself out of mercy. Cub Swanson def. Dennis Siver via TKO (punches) Round 3.
What was the high point?
The knock out was brutal, but really I remember the hip-toss as the OH WOW! moment of the fight. It didn't result in much instant offense, but the work that Siver had to do to reverse that position changed the complexion of the fight.
What was the low point?
Herb Dean's stoppage. He's still one of the best refs in the business, but he seriously switched off at a crucial moment. I can only hope that the damage Siver sustained as a result isn't long term.
Where do they go from here?
For Swanson, this inches him closer to that all important title shot. If he doesn't get it immediately off this performance, and I think he could, a fight with Frankie Edgar or Ricardo Lamas seem like they'd both be great for determining the next no 1. contender.
For Siver, this may end his run to the top of the division. He's still a top ten, maybe even top 5 fighter, but it'll take a few fights for a guy who's not that young before he's being talked at for getting a shot, and I just don't know if that happens. Whether it does or not a matchup against Hacran Dias would provide a good bounce-back for him and give the Brazilian prospect another chance to prove himself amongst the divisional elite.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Watch it now, without question. It's a highlight for Swanson's career and a great fight all around. It's a rare treat to see two experienced, and not deeply flawed, fighters go after each other at the height of their careers. As is so often the case the fight turned on the smallest of openings and Swanson took advantage expertly. The UFC's featherweight division may be the true deepest division in the promotion and fights like this reinforce that.