UFC Fight Night 44 preview: Cub Swanson closing in on his 'I told you so' moment

USA TODAY Sports

“It gets brought up to me all the time. People won’t let me forget it. I’ve heard it a million times. I wish they were clever about it. So much time has passed that I would laugh about it, but people are so lame. I’ll be like [on Twitter], ‘I went to the store today and this happened,’ -- something funny. Then somebody will go, ‘Like the time you got kneed in the face in eight seconds?’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, buddy. Exactly.’” --Cub Swanson (via ESPN) on life after Jose Aldo.

There comes a point in time when "Dude, you got lit up at WEC 41" no longer applies.

And it's not far off for Cub Swanson.

The streaking featherweight contender is oh-so-close to getting a 145-pound title shot, which could come against the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes, who bang for the belt at UFC 176 in August. Swanson was crushed by Aldo in just eight seconds back in June 2009, before Mendes dumped and humped him en route to a sweep on the judges' scorecards a year later.

But on the mixed martial arts (MMA) calendar, that's ancient history.

MMA years are like dog years and it's clear that Swanson is no longer the fighter he was under the employ of Reed Harris and Co., just like Aldo and Mendes. While his UFC debut was a less-than-memorable submission loss to future title contender Ricardo Lamas, the Californian did what all great fighters do.

He got better.

Swanson (20-5) spent the past two-and-a-half years tearing through the featherweight division, racking up five straight wins and securing four violent knockout finishes. During which his detractors continued to scoff at his plans for rematching Aldo.

The rankings would suggest otherwise.

The Jackson-Winkeljohn product is sitting pretty at No. 4 in the official UFC rankings. The three combatants ranked above him -- Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar, and Chad Mendes -- have already had a chance to pull the sword from the Brazilian stone, unsuccessfully, and "Money" is now onto his second go-round.

And if we're already into reruns, there's no reason to change the channel on Swanson.

Naturally, none of this makes a difference with a loss to Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night 44. "Lil Heathen" hopes to play spoiler and secure his own crack at the crown when they collide in the FOX Sports 1 main event later this month (Sat., June 28, 2014) inside AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas (full fight card here).

Stephens (23-9) is ranked No. 10 and has won three straight since dropping from lightweight in May 2013.

In the five years since losing to Aldo, Swanson has been telling anyone who will listen that he's going to get another shot at Aldo. But I'm sure if "Junior" loses at UFC 176, he'd be willing to settle for a "Money" rematch with the strap on the line.

Either way, Swanson will be at the top of the 145-pound mountain, where he can finally say, "I told you so."

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