One of the UFC's most entertaining welterweights finally returns after an extremely long layoff this Saturday night (August 4, 2012) as Mike Swick hopes to shake off the rust against DaMarques Johnson in the opening bout of the UFC on FOX 4 main card.
Swick has been on injured reserve for nearly two and a half years and is coming off a lengthy knee rehabilitation, but he's finally back and ready to go. He was once considered a top contender for Georges St. Pierre's welterweight title and the American Kickboxing Academy fighter is hoping to build some momentum again at 170 pounds.
DaMarques Johnson can always be counted on for an entertaining fight. "Darkness" has a "finish or be finished" mentality and that feast or famine approach has given him mixed results in the Octagon. He followed up a first round knockout win by being submitted at UFC on Fuel TV 2 and he's hoping to turn it around against The Ultiamte Fighter season one alumni.
Can Swick return to his "Quick" ways after so much time off? Will Johnson play spoiler to Swick's comeback party? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out:
Record: 14-4 overall, 9-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Mike Swick got his first big break in the WEC, although he would lose his undefeated record at the hands of Chris Leben. The UFC was so impressed with both fighters that they invited both Swick and Leben to be cast members of original season of The Ultimate Fighter where Swick competed as an extremely undersized light heavyweight.
He would lose to Stephan Bonnar on the show, but Swick made a huge impression in the UFC, winning his first five fights in the promotion including two in under 30 seconds which earned him the nickname "Quick" Swick.
After a loss to Yushin Okami, Swick felt he was overpowered by the bigger, stronger grappler and decided to make the cut down to welterweight. He was on the verge of title contention after four straight victories but a loss to Dan Hardy at UFC 105 changed everything as "The Outlaw" stole his heat and got the shot instead.
Swick tried to have a quick turnaround against Paulo Thiago but was choked unconscious by the Brazilian special forces member and that was the last time we've seen him in the Octagon. Since then, he's suffered from all sorts of ailments from strange misdiagnosed diseases to a brutal knee injury last August which have kept him from the Octagon for nearly two and a half years. He finally returns this Saturday night on the big stage.
How he gets it done: Swick needs to be extremely aggressive again. That's what got him here and that's what made him a contender at both middleweight and welterweight. He earned the nickname "Quick" for a reason, because he would blitz opponents, overwhelm them and force an extremely quick finish.
I would love to see the American Kickboxing Academy fighter rush forward, press Johnson into the fence and go for his patented "Swickotine."
If he can't pull that off, expect to see Swick work his stand-up with powerful kicks and punches. There's no telling what he's been working on or improving in these past two and a half years but he's spent a lot of time in Thailand and around the world trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible.
As long as he's aggressive and his gas tank holds up, this fight should be his.
Record: 13-10 overall, 4-4 in the UFC
How he got here: DaMarques Johnson learned jiu-jitsu while in the army and got into MMA after meeting Jeremy Horn once his service was over. He did not get off to a terrific start to his MMA career, losing four of his first six professional fights, but eventually he got the hang of it.
After winning seven out of eight bouts, Johnson would become a castmember of The Ultimate Fighter season nine. He became known on the show for his feud with Michael Bisping, but also won three straight fights to advance to the finale, where he would come up short to James Wilks.
He's won three of his five UFC fights since, but none of the men he defeated are still employed with the promotion. Most recently, he stepped up on very late notice and put up a tough fight against Amir Sadollah before being overwhelmed by the TUF season seven winner on the ground with elbows.
Johnson crushed Clay Harvison in 94 seconds but couldn't keep his momentum rolling, getting submitted by John Maguire at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden. Now, he's set to welcome Swick back to the Octagon after a very long layoff.
How he gets it done: Johnson has a very exciting and aggressive fight style and while he's dangerous on the ground, whether he's on his back looking for a triangle choke or even finishing a fight with a body triangle, this is a fight where he needs to try to put Swick away on the feet.
Johnson has some solid grappling skills, but he also has found himself on the receiving end of chokes from strong grapplers and Swick has one of the nastiest guillotines in the UFC. I can definitely see him succumbing to it if he shoots in for a takedown.
Instead, Johnson should stay standing and try to land his big power shots like he did to Harvison. Also, it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and test Swick's cardio. He'll likely be receiving a huge burst of adrenaline since this is his first UFC fight in two years and he could definitely fade after a round or two.
The longer this fight goes, the better Johnson's odds are.
Fight X-Factor: This X-Factor is as obvious as it gets. Mike Swick hasn't fought since February of 2010 and he hasn't won since June of 2009. If any fighter in UFC history is expected to have cage rust, it's him. Cage rust can affect fighters in all sorts of ways. They can start slow, being unfamiliar to the Octagon after being so far away, or they can start too quickly and blow out their gas tanks.
On paper, Swick should win this fight by a landslide, but if he is affected badly by the time he's missed, that could definitely even the odds for Johnson.
Bottom Line: These are two very exciting welterweights and both men have something to prove. Swick wants to get back on track after nearly two and a half years of being sidelined from the sport while Johnson may be fighting for his job after a submission loss in his last bout. Both fighters bring it in the stand-up and with submission skills so I'm expecting this fight to be awesome wherever it goes. If Swick tries to channel his old "Quick" self, you won't want to blink during this fight.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FOX 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!