Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson 2 co-headlines UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee this April 21, 2018 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
One sentence summary
David: Ortega’s last win versus Ortega’s win before that
Phil: “I can get that loss back” vs “I’ve still got it”
Odds: Frankie Edgar -225 | Cub Swanson +205
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: Edgar has been elite for so long that it’s hard to get used to his current role. He’s not quite a gatekeeper, but his loss to Ortega solidified his status as a contender; which is to say, ‘not anymore.’ Is on the cusp of Carlos Condit territory, another loss away from a tough downward trajectory? I don’t think so. His style just doesn’t lend itself to tough losses against multiple fighters. But he’s no longer in the UFC’s megacity as the once-diminutive judge, jury, and executioner.
Phil: In many ways, Edgar has been rolling the dice throughout his career. Hell, every fighter does, but Frankie has always had those close shaves that he’s just about managed to pull through, from the Maynard uppercut back in the day to the Stephens headkick more recently. Eventually you spin the wheel a few too many times, and Father Time ensures that the odds get a bit worse with every repetition after a certain point. Him getting knocked out doesn’t mean he’s a non-factor (especially as there are literally no compelling contenders past Ortega at the moment), but it definitely highlights the fact that he doesn’t have long left as an elite contender.
David: I’ve always thought (personally, anyway) that Cub was the kind of fighter whose timeline was the other shoe dropping. He’s a high octane fighter who gets in street fights, and one day he’s gonna get brutally stomped the fu — but no, he just keeps on trucking. He’s well rounded in meaningful ways, and I always forget that because the nuances of his game are rarely in explicit display. This isn’t a good fight for both men (IMO), but it is a good fight.
Phil: I’m glad Cub didn’t choose to go to Bellator, not least because this way we get to see him fight more often. Like Edgar, he feels like he’s closing in on the end of, if not his career, then his prime. Unlike Edgar, he never tasted championship gold (and never even got a shot at a belt), and that’s something that I think is driving him onwards at the moment.
What’s at stake?
David: Hopefully just a good story. Both men have the ability to dig deep for another run only to lose violently to Max Holloway (again) or Brian Ortega (again). But only one will get that theoretical opportunity.
Phil: This is still such a strange booking. Props to Swanson for taking a degradingly one-sided asskicking and then coming back and asking for the do-over. Props to Edgar for taking a fight which he wouldn’t really have much of a chance of winning any more impressively than he did the last time.
Where do they want it?
David: Edgar is gonna Edgar and by that I mean cut up a lot of rug in order to hit combinations, pivot out, slam some poor mark with a brilliantly timed takedown, and get busy on top. Lately he’s been a lot more commanding with his left jab, darting in to land it with more aplomb, allowing him to get under and snap his combinations off with a heavy overhand right. His raw speed and movement keep away from obvious counterattacks, and the general pressure he maintains provides its own form of defense. Not long but still didn’t read version; Edgar’s a really good fighter.
Phil: Authoritative combination punching has been more of the Edgar watchword in recent years. Undeniably slower and stiffer, he’s been able to go the Bisping route of being able to sit down more on his volume and put a hurting on people who used to just be annoyed. From top position he’s one of the most underratedly violent ground-and-pounders in the sport, who holds a tight half guard methodically pounds and passes. In the lower weight classes it’s basically Edgar, DJ and then everyone else a good long way behind for top position players who can hold a position and put a serious hurting on their opponent. Like his teammate Corey Anderson, Edgar can occasionally outstay his welcome by becoming predictable with his defense, but it rarely happens more than once. It’s just that in his last fight, once was enough.
David: Swanson is a fan favorite in every sense of the word. He’s a flashy fighter, but unlike a Yair Rodriguez (the gods bless him), the flash has real purpose and insight behind it. With his deft, subtle movements, he keeps himself in secure positions to unleash cartwheel kicks, oblique meat soothers, that stuff they do from Only the Strong, and overhand rights that are not thrown, but teleport. But focusing on footwork, he’s not as out of position as you’d suspect, and so he continues to carve out a very successful career for himself even when some hot shot prospect (no not Artem Lobov) is looking at him like a stepping stone.
Phil: Cub Swanson is a strange mixture of organic and well-coached. He has a great jab when he uses it, but often eschews it in favour of throwing huge arcing shots from outside his opponents vision. He needs to step inside in order to make sure these shots aren’t just telegraphed flailings, by stepping up the middle as his strikes come in around, and so this requires a very specific kind of courage. This is one of the reasons why Swanson is such a favourite not just among fans, but among other fighters. Like a Diaz, or a Condit, you get the impression that he simply fights exactly how he wants to.
Insight from Previous Fights
David: I don’t think there’s much to be learned from their respective fights with Brian Ortega, but a few things are worth nothing. One, I’ve always thought of Edgar as a better striker. But Swanson’s style lent itself to better success against Ortega, which doesn’t have anything to say about the interaction between Edgar and Swanson itself since they’ve already fought. But it’s interesting how both guys got finished once they were effectively crowded. Edgar’s finish was obvious, taking an elbow that caved in his hippocampus and all — but Swanson was getting jabbed pretty good until they clinched. My point? Swanson should cut in with those elbows like Ortega. Edgar doesn’t have great head movement, but his legs move around to keep away from the center, making it easier to avoid counters — if we’re talking about a punch at least. Swanson’s the one who needs to make the adjustments in this one. Not Edgar.
Phil: The Ortega fight specifically showcased one of Edgar’s weaknesses, which is same-time counters. He generally does a pretty good job of rolling his head away after he throws (reference the Mendes fight, when they both threw hooks, but Edgar evaded and then hit the fight-ending followup because he always moves his head after punches). Like Ortega, Swanson would do well to figure out how to hit Edgar as he comes in. It’s not really Swanson’s forte- he really works best when he’s terrifying people with a blizzard of boxing, bolo punches and capoeira, but it’s something to keep in mind.
David: How much more mileage can we get out of a dolly breaking a bus window? Don’t answer, dear readers.
Phil: Gotta be Edgar’s turnaround. It’s very fast, and quick comebacks have not traditionally gone well. See: Bisping, Michael.
David: Edgar is obviously the better fighter between the two. But I keep getting his nagging sense of Swanson pulling it off. Not because there’s some grand pattern to be gleaned from their histories or futures. But because a hockey team that didn’t exist a year ago just beat a team that won 2 of the last 5 Stanley Cups. This is the year to gamble, so I’m gambling. Cub Swanson by TKO, round 1.
Phil: I can respect it. Their first round was competitive, and if Edgar comes in slow, or nervous in front of the home crowd, Swanson is simply the far more dynamic fighter. That being said, Swanson’s ability to get people out of there has quietly been degrading over his recent career. His most recent finish? Dennis Siver in 2013. If he can’t get that finish, it’s hard to see his takedown defense as taking the large strides that it needs to to win on the cards. Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision.