This is a potential pink-slip match for the loser with both men coming in off of a spotty track record of late.
For Mike Swick, health issues have made for one of the longest-running absences in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) among its marquee fighters, as he's been out since his Jan. 2010 stunning submission loss to Paulo Thiago. Originally a middleweight from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Swick's sparked high expectations during his run at 185-pounds, stringing together an impressive five wins that were equal parts diverse and exciting. His blend of slam-bang submissions and aggressive stand-up suggested he could wage a serious campaign amidst the elite of the division.
That was scuttled by the brutal horsepower of Yushin Okami, whose size and numbing top game prompted Swick to drop down to 170-pounds. Since then, he's won four in a row against modest welterweight foes, but looked listless in dropping a decision to Dan Hardy prior to the Thiago defeat.
DaMarques Johnson, Swick's opponent tonight (Sat., Aug. 4, 2012) on the main card of the UFC on Fox 4: "Shogun vs. Vera" event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, has faced a similarly rocky road, with middling results. The TUF 9 finalist has the requisite fine-tuning you'd expect from a Jeremy Horn protégé, but his inconsistency has flared up in key matches, where tactical mistakes have cost him dearly.
Given the desperate straits both men are in, and the hot-and-cold tendencies both have shown, this one is an oddsmaker's nightmare.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC on Fox 4 main card match-up pitting Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson.
Swick's inactivity could be a huge factor, particularly since he lacks that one requisite "go-to" skill set that an elite wrestler or striker can always fall back on when they're having an otherwise off night. The recent trends in MMA of the long-term physical effects of deterioration are ever-apparent as the sport's stars age and wear down from years of preparation, weight-cutting and assorted punishment (Tito Ortiz is a prime example), and Swick's 2.5-year layoff could seriously affect his timing with his striking.
However, to his benefit, Johnson doesn't have one particular skill set that poses a stylistic ace he can play; Swick's years at AKA training with powerhouse wrestlers like Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck make him exceptionally durable and wily off his back, and he showed a boatload of heart surviving the three-round drubbing by Yushin Okami.
For Johnson to win, he's going to have to build confidence fast, seize the lead early, and plant doubts in Swick's head. If Mike lets his hands go in the first round, he could seize the initiative early and never relinquish it. He's exceptionally dangerous when he has momentum on his side.
At this point it's reasonable to say that both of these guys need a solid showing to justify staying in the UFC. Swick's rust and time off could play serious factors, but Johnson isn't likely to lay-and-pray his way to a decision because, to his credit, he does try and make fights exciting, often to his detriment. Johnson will trade on the feet and that is definitely Swick's chance to end it. After a feeling-out opening round, Swick will dial in and catch Johnson in the second, dropping him en route to a submission finish.
Swick by submission in round two.
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC on FOX 4 results of all the "Shogun vs. Vera" network television action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the FUEL TV "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the main FOX broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org.