Two of the fastest rising UFC featherweights will collide this Saturday night (Sept. 22, 2012) as Brazilian standout Charles Oliveira takes on powerful veteran Cub Swanson in the opening bout of the UFC 152 main card in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Oliveira was a can't miss prospect at lightweight before being brought down to earth by top contenders Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller. Since dropping down to featherweight, he's been on a roll, stopping consecutive opponents via submission and showcasing a serious nasty streak on the ground. A victory over Swanson would get the hype train back to it's former levels from 155 pounds.
Cub Swanson is a WEC veteran who didn't get off to the best start in the UFC, surprisingly getting caught by Ricardo Lamas. Since then, he's looked incredible, knocking out both Georges Roop and Ross Pearson in devastating fashion to climb the divisional ranks.
Will Oliveira join the ranks of top featherweight contenders? Can Swanson follow his teammate Donald Cerrone's example? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Charles Oliveira
Record: 17-2 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-2 (1 No Contest) in the UFC
Key Losses: Donald Cerrone (UFC on Versus 5), Jim Miller (UFC 124)
How he got here: Charles Oliveira got his start in Brazil, going 12-0 before entering the UFC. His first MMA fight was actually a tournament where he had to win three fights in one night, and he did just that, all via stoppage at welterweight no less.
"Da Bronx" won two other one-night tournaments in Brazil, even finishing his last fight with a brutal knockout slam before making his way to the UFC to fight Darren Elkins on the UFC on Versus 2 card. He made a pretty damn good first impression, submitting the wrestler in just 41 seconds with a triangle arm bar combination.
He would immediately be given a tough fight against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season eight winner Efrain Escudero and the bold move by the UFC paid off. Oliveira outclassed Escudero standing, which surprised many and finished the fight in very exciting fashion by leaping on his back with a rear naked choke that also put tremendous pressure on the TUF winner's jaw to force a third round tap.
The Brazilian would again take a huge leap forward in progression, scoring a fight against current top contender Jim Miller at UFC 124, but after a wild scramble of submission attempts from Oliveira, Miller surprised him with a sneaky knee bar that forced an immediate tap to hand him his first loss.
He followed that up with a no contest against Nik Lentz after finishing his opponent with the help of an illegal blow and a TKO loss to Donald Cerrone had the young prospect in a tailspin.
Oliveira bounced back by making the decision to drop down to 145 pounds and he pulled off an incredible calf slicer against Eric Wisely this past January. He had his stakes raised against Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, winning via second round anaconda choke to remain unbeaten at featherweight.
Now he's got a tough task in front of him in knockout artist Cub Swanson.
How he gets it done: Since both men are so talented, it will all come down to aggression, at least on Oliveira's end.
If he can relentlessly push the pace, he may force Swanson to hesitate in the striking department despite Greg Jackson-trained fighter's advantages on the feet. Offensive pressure can be devastating if utilized properly.
Oliveira needs to be extremely cautious of Swanson's power as he's viciously knocked out two straight opponents, both men who chose to stand and trade with him. If "Da Bronx" wants to stand with Swanson, he'd better keep it limited only to the point where Swanson lowers his defenses to takedowns.
On the ground, while Swanson is a tough out due to having pretty solid jiu-jitsu skills, he's not impervious as evidenced by his loss to Lamas. If Oliveira is hyper aggressive on the canvas. he's got a good chance of winning via submission.
Record: 17-5 overall, 2-1 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.
He stepped up his competition level in a big way, knocking out Ross Pearson violently earlier this summer at UFC on FX 4. Now he's getting close to the elite levels of the division against Oliveira.
How he gets it done: Swanson is good at everythingm very well-rounded, but his striking has been putting him over the top lately. He's won a lot of his fights lately by pushing a tremendous pace, outworking his opponents and just downright being incredibly scrappy.
Swanson's striking style has become more refined in recent bouts and he's been able to outland two consecutive opponents on the feet before putting them away with a big right hand. If he can force Oliveira to stand with him, he'll be in the money.
If the fight goes to the ground, Swanson has some pretty solid grappling credentials, but he shouldn't risk it. He should use his strength to work his way back to his feet and keep the torrent of punches flowing. Oliveira's been stopped via strikes before and Swanson can definitely pull it off if he lands his heavy right hand.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this bout has to be familiarity. Cub Swanson has the perfect training partner to prepare for Oliveira....Donald Cerrone. Cerrone scored the first knockout of his career against Oliveira, battering him with punches and kicks before putting him away via strikes on the ground. He'll be the perfect fighter to bounce ideas off, learn tendencies and prepare for what "Da Bronx" brings to the table.
If Oliveira hasn't made the proper adjustments, history could repeat itself.
Bottom Line: This bout is screaming for a post-fight bonus. Both men have compiled four bonuses each in their respective UFC and WEC careers and it's a mixed bag of tricks with multiple Fight of the Nights, a Knockout of the Night and multiple Submission of the Nights between them. If the fight stays standing, Swanson has serious potential to end it with one punch. If it goes to the ground, Oliveira is capable of throwing up some incredible submissions that will dazzle fans. Don't avert your eyes during this one.
Who will come out on top at UFC 152? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!