Frankie Edgar is putting together a hall of fame-worthy resume. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Texas for the third time this year with an outstanding offering on Fox Sports 1. This is essentially the best-case scenario on the UFC’s home network, featuring a presumptive No. 1 contender bout at the top, fantastic action fights sprinkled throughout the card and a nice selection of up-and-coming fighters. Seven ranked fighters -- a high number for a Fox Sports 1 event -- will grace the lineup.
In the main event, former lightweight champion and featherweight challenger Frankie Edgar takes on Cub Swanson in a highly relevant and stylistically intriguing fight that may well determine the next opponent for 145-pound kingpin Jose Aldo. Edson Barboza and Bobby Green meet in a matchup of peaking lightweights that promises fantastic entertainment, and former flyweight and bantamweight top contender Joseph Benavidez takes on quick-riser Dustin Ortiz. The rest of the card is not quite as stacked, but still includes a couple of interesting prospects, namely Ruslan Magomedov, Josh Copeland and Doo Ho Choi.
Let us take a look at each individual UFC Fight Night “Edgar vs. Swanson” matchup at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas:
FEATHERWEIGHTSFrankie Edgar (17-4-1, 11-4-1 UFC) vs. Cub Swanson (21-5, 6-1 UFC)
THE MATCHUP: The card’s headliner is one of the very best fights that can be made in the UFC today, as future hall of famer Edgar takes on streaking veteran Swanson in a keystone fight for the featherweight division. Edgar has won two straight since dropping a pair of bouts to Benson Henderson and one more to champion Aldo in his featherweight debut, while Swanson has won a staggering six in a row against brutal competition.
Swanson is a marvelous athlete, and to a considerable extent his unorthodox striking game is predicated on those physical gifts.
He leaps in and out with powerful kicks and one or two hard punches at a time while switching between orthodox and southpaw and circling to find advantageous angles. Although his output is limited, his timing, speed and accuracy are outstanding, and the bewildering variety of strikes he throws -- hooks to the body, overhands, front kicks, round kicks at all levels and cartwheel kicks -- help to draw his opponent’s hands out of position and create openings for his other shots. Swanson’s defense, however, is predicated on that movement and control of the range, and when he stands in front of his opponent, he is hittable; with that said, he is an excellent counterpuncher, and an aggressive approach essentially ensures Swanson’s opponent will eat shots.
Although he possesses sneaky hip tosses and shot takedowns, Swanson’s defensive wrestling was a problem for him earlier in his career, as he relied almost entirely on his athleticism rather than technique. Over his last few fights, however, Swanson has shown drastically improved takedown defense. He has a preference for butterfly guard on his back, owns a nasty guillotine choke and does solid work from the top, with an emphasis on quick transitions.
Edgar has substantially improved his game since his run at the top of the lightweight division. While he still favors a movement-based, in-and-out style and still works behind a crisp jab, he now strings together longer punching combinations that work both head and body, along with heavier kicks. A former collegiate wrestler, Edgar owns a unique set of technical skills in that phase. He favors a knee tap but also has a lovely single-to-double-leg sequence and a Thai-style or judo trip he likes at range. His takedown defense has not always been perfect, but he is an excellent scrambler and is almost impossible to hold down. Edgar’s control from top position has improved from his earlier fights, when he often struggled to hold down bigger, stronger opponents, and his ground striking packs a great deal more damage, as well.
BETTING ODDS: Edgar (-240), Swanson (+205)
THE PICK: This is a razor-close fight and a truly outstanding matchup between a pair of championship-level fighters in their primes. Both Edgar and Swanson prefer to work at striking distance, both like to hop in and out of range and both are highly skilled kickboxers, but the similarities end there, as Swanson packs much more power and variety in his arsenal. The pressing question here is whether and to what extent Edgar can use his circular movement and wrestling to disrupt Swanson’s rhythm and timing while limiting the Californian’s sometimes-questionable offensive output. While it seems like a relative certainty that Swanson will land some big shots, I tend to think Edgar is capable of following that kind of game plan. The pick is Edgar by close decision on the basis of volume and top control while overcoming a few scary moments along the way.
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