Photo by Esther Lin/MMA Fighting.com.
The main card kickoff at tonight's (Sat., Sept. 22, 2012) UFC 152: "Jones vs. Belfort" event pitting Cub Swanson vs. Charles Oliveira is a perfect fit, in terms of a nice clash of styles and mutually fitting career trajectories.
After emerging from his first two UFC bouts as the Next Big Lightweight Thing, Olivera was subsequently schooled in stoppage losses to Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone, sandwiched around an uninspiring no contest performance against Nik Lentz. Undersized for 155-pounds, Olivera's since gone 2-0 10 pounds south at featherweight, with slick submission wins, including one over the durable Jonathan Brookins last June.
Swanson has improved considerably in the standup game since his WEC days, where he was as reliable, mid-level talent. He's put together an excellent pair of UFC performances in going 2-0 since the WEC merger, including a gritty stoppage of heavy-handed Ross Pearson in a bout where Swanson was getting hammered only to rally for an impressive comeback win.
This is the kind of bout where both men can prove considerable bona fides with an impressive victory. For Olivera, it's demonstrating that he can take out a proven commodity in Swanson, who's gone the distance in losing to the likes of Chad Mendes; for Swanson, it's the chance to knock back a rising young talent whose talent is obvious, and steal some of his thunder, lest he be relegated as a permanent steppingstone with an uncertain future.
The jury's still out on how much of a front-runner Olivera is. Unable to bully Donald Cerrone early, he simply folded when he couldn't dictate how the bout was fought. The loss to Miller was as much a mental mistake as anything, as Olivera's aggressive, submissions-oriented style forget that every move gives a talented opponent a potential counter. Swanson's seen a lot of adversity and his performance against Pearson was a reminder of why it's better to be experienced than super-talented, in some situations, given the choice. Olivera still may be liable to being bullied by overpowering wrestler types at feather, but Swanson isn't that; Cub's not a takedown specialist and his surging confidence in his standup game will probably dictate a sprawl-and-brawl approach to wear Olivera down. It will be critical early for him to stay on the feet, as Olivera's fast subs and lightning transitions remind me, at least, of Rani Yahya when he was tearing the WEC up.
Olivera has a great opportunity at feather, where the depth of talent is far lower than at 155, where you practically half to beat half the damn world to even enter the title shot conversation. Charles' standup is a bit frenetic but it's capable enough, as he flits in and out mainly to set up mat work. That's where Swanson's heavy hips and ability to wrest himself out of clinches will be key. Olivera isn't strong enough at feather to bully people but with good enough standup, he can perhaps transform himself into a featherweight version of the Diaz brothers - the dude nobody wants to take down because his jiu-jitsu is so dangerous. However, mental lapses and Swanson's experience will come into play over the second half of the bout, as Cub strings together combinations and mixes in kicks with punches once Olivera realizes he can't outpoint him on the feet. Swanson will stuff takedowns and use his excellent ability to transition between tie-ups and striking ranges to score points and gut out a close, unanimous decision.
Swanson via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Sept. 22, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 7:15 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst