Cub Swanson was close to a featherweight title shot a few years ago before decisive back-to-back losses against Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway derailed his momentum.
The Palm Springs, Calif., native has since gotten back on track after what could have been a pair of demoralizing defeats, and he continued that climb on Saturday night, as he took a convincing five-round verdict over Artem Lobov in the UFC Fight Night 108 headliner in Nashville, Tenn. Swanson has now won four straight and nine of his last 11 in the Octagon overall.
That extended run of success leads him to believe that a title shot against the Jose Aldo-Max Holloway winner should be on the horizon. Aldo and Holloway will square off in the UFC 212 headliner in Rio de Janeiro on June 3.
“I feel like the winner of that fight is the only one that makes sense unless they offer me a lot of money to take a different fight,” Swanson said on Fox Sports 1. “I’ll just be hanging out at home with my family to be.”
Swanson was seemingly booked in no-win matchup on Saturday. Lobov lacked the resume of many of Swanson’s previous opponents, and his greatest claim to fame seemed to be that he was a training partner of the UFC’s biggest star, Conor McGregor. To his credit, Swanson didn’t underestimate his opponent.
“I knew that watching his tape he kept getting better and better,” Swanson said. “He got with a good team later in his career, so I expected to see the best version of him so far and we did.”
Lobov proved himself a worthy adversary with a strong opening stanza in which he outlanded the Jackson-Wink MMA member and took him down.
“He surprised me and he was pretty strong and explosive. I underestimated him there,” Swanson said. “It just took me off guard. I was just trying to let him wear himself out. It reminded me of my fight with Dennis Siver. He felt really strong, but I knew he couldn’t maintain it. I was letting him work really hard and try not to take too much damage. I picked up the pace every round and tried to take him out.”
That plan paid off well, as Swanson gradually asserted his will thanks to a versatile striking arsenal. While Lobov’s chin held up under heavy fire, he was overwhelmed by volume down the stretch. All told, Swanson landed 209 significant strikes in the bout, a UFC/WEC featherweight record.
“After about the second round I knew that I landed big enough shots to put him away if I could, and he wasn’t going anywhere,” Swanson said. “[Trainer Greg Jackson] told me to pull back a little bit and go about 70 percent power and more volume. That’s what I tried to do.”
Coming off a 2016 “Fight of the Year” candidate against Doo Ho Choi, Swanson was confident he could absorb anything Lobov had to offer. While Lobov landed some decent offense of his own, he could never put his opponent in real danger.
“He doesn’t really have lot of pop on his punches like [Choi]. It was more of a push because he’s got that big back,” Swanson said. “It definitely felt like a strong push punching right through me, but I didn’t think it was going to knock me out at all.”
Whether Swanson gets his wish remains to be seen. Yair Rodriguez is a rising talent in the featherweight division and could jump to the head of the line if he gets past Frankie Edgar at UFC 211 next month.
“I want the biggest fight possible. The title fight is right there and I want that, but we will see what’s next,” Swanson said.