Two very promising UFC featherweights will meet this Friday night (June 22, 2012) as The Ultimate Fighter season nine winner Ross Pearson takes on WEC veteran Cub Swanson in the opening bout of the UFC on FX 4 main card in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Pearson has put together a serviceable 5-2 record in his UFC career thus far and is hoping that a recent drop to 145 pounds can turn him into a potential title contender. He didn't turn too many heads in his featherweight debut against Junior Assuncao, but that has a very strong likelihood of changing against a gamer like Swanson.
Cub Swanson was a staple for exciting fights in the WEC. He was on the verge of title contention in that promotion at one point and now, after a destructive, mouthguard-spitting knockout against George Roop in his last bout, he's hoping to raise himself up a few pegs on the 145 pound divisional ladder.
Will "The Real Deal" take care of business against Swanson? Has Greg Jackson come up with the perfect gameplan for Swanson to derail Pearson's featherweight ambitions? What's the key to victory for both men on Friday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 13-5 overall, 5-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Ross Pearson infamously planned to be a bricklayer, but after training in some martial arts, he decided to make a very severe change in careers. After building up a respectable 8-3 record in England, he was invited to participate in season nine of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), which pitted UK fighters against Americans.
The lightweight cruised through the season, improving each time out and would go on to defeat Andre Winner in the finale to capture the TUF 9 lightweight contract.
Pearson made a splash in the UFC 155 pound division, winning his first three bouts before losing in a rather large upset to Cole Miller at UFC Fight Night 22. He briefly got back on track against veteran Spencer Fisher but would go on to lose a very close decision to Edson Barboza in Brazil last summer.
The loss to Barboza fueled a decision to drop down to featherweight and he also started spending much more time at Alliance MMA in San Diego. In his 145 pound debut, Pearson edged out a decision against the elusive Junior Assucao and he's hoping to look a little more impressive this time around against Swanson.
How he gets it done: Pearson's game almost exclusively revolved around forward pressure and tight-compact boxing. He'll occasionally use his solid wrestling to take opponents down and work ground and pound, but I don't think he'll be looking to do that against Swanson, who's a pretty solid ground technician.
Expect to see "The Real Deal" constantly moving forward, looking to cut off Swanson against the fence and then fire away with crisp punches. As long as he can keep the Greg Jackson-trained fighter moving backwards, he should be winning rounds.
Swanson loves to brawl, but Pearson should try to avoid that if at all possible. No matter what happens, he should keep his hands up, his guard tight and should keep frustrating the Palm Springs native at every turn.
If Swanson gets too reckless in pursuit of a less technical battle, that's when Pearson can pounce with big shots.
Record: 16-5 overall, 1-1 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.
He finally made his UFC debut against Ricardo Lamas last November, but would be upset after taking the Chicago fighter lightly in the second round and was forced to tap to an arm triangle choke. He bounced back with authority this past January, however, knocking out George Roop in impressive fashion.
Now, he's hoping to make his mark against a bigger name in Pearson.
How he gets it done: Swanson is good at everything very well rounded, but doesn't stand out in one particular trait. He's won a lot of his fights lately by pushing a tremendous pace, outworking his opponents and just downright being incredibly scrappy.
He's got pretty solid kickboxing and if he wants to win this fight, he should try to draw Pearson into an all-out brawl. Pearson usually tries to remain composed on the feet, but perhaps Swanson could sucker him into something a little less technical.
I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see Swanson drop his hands, perhaps do a little taunting in an effort to disrupt Pearson on the feet. The Brit has been hurt on the feet by Cole Miller, and I believe that Swanson hits significantly harder than Miller so if he can connect with something solid, he could really put Pearson in serious danger.
If the fight goes to the ground, Swanson has some very solid submission skills and could put "The Real Deal" in some seriously rough situations.
Fight X-Factor: I hate to have to include this an an X-Factor, but it's got to be whether Ross Pearson is distracted by his arrest on suspicion of DUI less than two months ago. The news was perhaps starting to get buried but Jon Jones' arrest brought it right back into the forefront. That has to be incredibly distracting and who knows where his head is at heading into this bout.
If he's distracted even the slightest bit, that could be all it takes for Swanson to take command of the fight.
Bottom Line: Both of these young men have a very exciting striking style and I expect this bout to be thoroughly enjoyable whether Swanson can draw Pearson into a brawl or not. Pearson didn't have the greatest performance in his last bout, but he was facing a man who was trying more to avoid getting hit than actually fight. This time, Swanson is going to take the fight to him and I expect fireworks. Swanson has a certain reputation for great fights, whether he wins or loses, so I expect nothing but good things here.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!