Two of the most entertaining featherweights in the UFC will match up this Saturday night (November 12, 2011) as perennial "Fight of the Night" winner Cub Swanson takes on the well-rounded Ricardo Lamas on the preliminary card of the UFC on FOX 1: "Velasquez vs. dos Santos" event.
After being delayed twice due to injury, Swanson will finally be making his UFC debut this weekend. The Greg Jackson-trained featherweight will likely be gnawing at the bit to get in there and make something happen as he hasn't been able to fight for almost exactly a year.
Ricardo Lamas looked terrific in his UFC and featherweight debut earlier this summer, knocking wrestler Matt Grice out cold with a beautiful switch kick and some ground and pound in the first round. A victory over Swanson would put him in high standing in the division.
Will Cub Swanson be able to overcome the rust after a year away from the cage? Can Lamas continue his strong momentum after dropping down to featherweight? What is the key to victory for each man on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 15-4 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
How he got here: After losing his MMA debut, Cub Swanson won 11 straight bouts, including avenging that first loss to eventual UFC lightweight Shannon Gugerty. After making it to the WEC, he would win his first two fights in the promotion before getting submitted by the debuting Jens Pulver after getting caught with a guillotine choke during a takedown attempt.
Pulver would earn a title shot after beating Swanson, as would eventual champion Jose Aldo, who famously knocked Swanson out with a flying double knee attack in just eight seconds. Swanson's other loss in the promotion was to current number one contender Chad Mendes.
Swanson had a very fan-friendly brawling fight style, he actually won "Fight of the Night" in his last three WEC victories, including one of 2010's most entertaining scraps against Mackens Semerzier. He was set to make his UFC debut twice this year in March and July, both times against budding contender Erik Koch but he would be forced to back out with an injury each time. Now healthy, the Greg Jackson-trained featherweight is ready to make a splash in the UFC.
How he gets it done: Swanson is good at everything, but not particularly great at anything. He's won a lot of his fights lately by pushing a tremendous pace, outworking his opponents and just being incredibly scrappy.
He's got pretty solid kickboxing and if he wants to win this fight, he should try to draw Lamas into a striking war. Lamas is coming off a strong knockout performance against Matt Grice and he might oblige him.
Don't be surprised to see the Palm Springs native do whatever it takes to keep this fight standing, whether it's in the clinch or at a distance. Swanson has incredible cardio and if he can draw this fight into the later rounds, he could take advantage of a fighter who's only competing at featherweight for the second time in his career.
Record: 10-2 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
How he got here: Ricardo Lamas was a successful wrestler while competing at Division III Elmhurst college, earning All-America honors as well as eventually become a wrestling coach there. He transitioned to mixed martial arts, turning pro in 2008 and winning his first six fights, including an impressive unanimous decision victory against IFL standout Bart Palaszewski in his WEC debut.
Lamas would unfortunately fall victim to Danny Castillo's superior striking in his next bout, but would win three straight in the promotion before again getting knocked out by powerful striker Yuri Alcantera at the final WEC event ever. The Chicago transplant would drop to featherweight for his UFC debut and would knock Matt Grice senseless with a head kick and follow up ground strikes at UFC on Versus 4 earlier this summer.
He's looking to keep the momentum rolling against Swanson on Saturday.
How he gets it done: While Lamas was able to score a tremendous knockout against Grice in his last bout, Grice is a pretty limited striker and he left a huge opening for him. That's not something he could get away with against a talented kickboxer like Swanson.
Swanson has had trouble in the past against top wrestlers like Chad Mendes, so perhaps if Lamas is able to utilize his very strong wrestling base, he can grind out a decision that way. Swanson is the type of fighter who's not afraid to throw very heavy strikes, the type of punches and kicks that leave openings for takedowns. If he does this, Lamas needs to immediately shoot in and put him on his back.
Swanson also has a good ground game, but Lamas should be able to nullify it with his brown belt under Daniel Valverde and instead pound away with punches. He does not want to have an extended brawl with the perennial fight night bonus winner on the feet.
Fight "X-Factor:" The are two X-Factors for this bout. The first is conditioning. Swanson pushes a high pace and while Lamas has gone 4-0 in fights that have gone to decision, he's never had the opportunity to go past the first round since dropping down to featherweight. Depending on how severe the weight cut is for him, Swanson could potentially take advantage of it.
The other factor is Swanson's ring rust. He hasn't fought since WEC 52, which will be almost a year to the exact day by the time the fight takes place on Saturday. He's been sidelined on consecutive occasions with injuries that delayed his UFC debut and with how strongly Lamas started against Matt Grice in his last bout, there could be an opening for him to hurt Swanson early in Anaheim as well.
Bottom Line: This has all the makings of a very entertaining battle. Swanson loves to stand and bang and Lamas, having won via knockout in two of his last three victories, will likely be game to at least see if he can hang with the Jackson's Submission fighter on the feet for a while. Neither of these guys have tremendous chins, so there's a very real possibility that the tide can turn from just one punch or kick at any given moment. The only way this fight is not entertaining is if Swanson finds himself on his back for three straight rounds. There is a possibility that happens, but the chances of an entertaining scrap are considerably higher. This should be fun.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FOX? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!