Last night (Sat., June 28, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens went to war in the main event of UFC Fight Night 44 from AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
To watch full Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens fight video highlights click here.
No. 4-ranked Swanson had been out of action since finishing Dennis Siver in UFC 162's "Fight of the Night," his fifth straight victory in the Octagon. A nagging elbow injury slowed the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran's rise, but he was knocking on the door of a title shot if he could beat Stephens.
And if Stephens' recent results were any indication, that promised to be no easy task. Since cutting down to 145 pounds, No. 11-ranked "Lil' Heathen" had won three straight bouts. He most recently outclassed Darren Elkins en route to a unanimous decision win at UFC on FOX 10 in January.
With both Swanson and Stephens known to go all-out for the finish, UFC Fight Night 44's main event promised fireworks. In the end, Swanson scored another big win to extend his win streak and stake his claim at a title fight.
The bout started with Swanson throwing a leg kick and Stephens looking for a big right over the top. Swanson snapped a good front kick as he controlled the Octagon. He landed a body kick and switched up his movement well. Stephens landed a stiff shot and missed with a combo.
Swanson threw a cartwheel kick but ate a few punches. Stephens blasted Swanson with a huge right hand, following with a body shot. Swanson threw a big right hand but was dropped by a strong counter. Stephens ended the first round in top position.
Stephens landed hard to start the second. Swanson pushed forward with a good combo, but Stephens scored with another right. "Lil' Heathen" was appearing to find his range. He landed a left and a right that dropped Swanson. Swanson smiled, but there was nothing to joke about.
With Swanson's volume slowing to a crawl, he responded with a right and a knee to the body. Kicks to the body landed, and Stephens got a quick takedown to clinch as the second frame wore down.
Stephens threw a looping right to kick off the third. Swanson began winging big uppercuts that missed, and he paid for it by eating a few punches. The fighters traded shots, and Swanson landed a big body kick followed by a flurry of hard strikes. Stephens was in big trouble as he backed up. Swanson smelled a finish, but Stephens sought a takedown.
He slowed the action down on the fence and Swanson rained down elbows to the head. Swanson reversed to press the pace with a spinning kick attempt. Stephens ended the round with some deep breaths.
The fourth round saw Stephens score with a combo. Swanson kicked Stephens' lead leg repeatedly as "Lil' Heathen" threw precious few shots. Swanson tripped and Stephens clinched on the cage, eating a strong knee for his efforts. Swanson broke and absorbed a right hand followed by a left. The final minute wound down with a great combo from Swanson and a stiff set of punches from Stephens.
Swanson was sticking and moving at the beginning of the fifth. An exchange ensued, but the pace slowed considerably after it. Stephens was bleeding from his nose as he went to the body. Swanson landed another big liver kick and a cartwheel kick, landing his jab to stalk Stephens with relentless strikes. The fighters went to war in the final minute, with Stephens landing two solid rights and a left.
It was too little, too late, however, as Swanson took home the unanimous decision in a very strong main event.
With six straight victories, there's not much else Swanson can do to make his case for a title shot. Depending on what happens at UFC 176's main event rematch between Aldo and Chad Mendes on August 2, Swanson could be fighting for the belt late this year or early next year.
He's earned his shot. The only criticism that could be drawn from his performance tonight is that he didn't finish the ultra-tough Stephens when he had him on the ropes, but that's a small concern at this point.
The loss is disheartening for Stephens, but he put on a valiant effort in defeat. He may have injured his left hand sometime early in the bout, and he just couldn't match Swanson's speed, movement, and volume.
Stephens should rebound strong. He's still a huge threat to most top-level featherweights in UFC, so a rebound fight against No. 9-ranked Nik Lentz could be a good bout for "Lil' Heathen."
Cub Swanson scored an impressive six straight wins with an exciting victory over a game Jeremy Stephens at UFC Fight Night 44. Will Swanson finally have his shot at UFC gold?