Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Cub Swanson and Max Holloway will scrap this Saturday night (April, 18, 2015) at UFC on FOX 15 inside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
After building an impressive six-fight win streak, Swanson's title run was derailed by Frankie Edgar's vicious top game. Now, he'll begin to rebuild against a fellow kickboxer in Holloway.
Holloway has been improving dramatically between fights since he entered the UFC as an inexperienced 20 year old, but the Hawaiian's skills have really exploded in the last year or so. He's currently on a five-fight win streak and will look to insert himself into the title picture here.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters.
Key Wins: Jeremy Stephens (UFC Fight Night 42), Dustin Poirier (UFC on Fuel TV 7), Dennis Siver (UFC 162)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (WEC 41), Frankie Edgar (UFC Fight Night 57), Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 1)
Keys to Victory: One of the smoothest strikers in the division, Swanson has finished eight of his opponents via knockout. In addition, Swanson is a very dangerous grappler, particularly from his back.
For the first time in a long time, Swanson is facing an opponent who won't be attempting to put him on his back at the first opportunity. Without really having to worry about the takedown -- Holloway doesn't have the wrestling or jiu-jitsu to keep Swanson down even if he did go for them -- Swanson can really open up with his kickboxing.
In Holloway's loss to McGregor, the Hawaiian's offense was really stymied after the Irishman got off to a quick start. Swanson should look start the fight quickly and land some solid punches before Holloway gets into his rhythm.
While the "Blessed" striker is very dangerous once he establishes his range and settles into the fight, he's a bit sloppier beforehand. If Holloway isn't given the opportunity to fight his fight, his volume will drop, and he'll rely more heavily on flashy strikes that aren't likely to land.
In that situation, Swanson is at major advantage.
Key Wins: Andre Fili (UFC 172), Cole Miller (UFC Fight Night 60), Akira Corassani (UFC Fight Night 53)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC Fight Night 26), Dennis Bermudez (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Holloway is a high-volume kickboxer that mixes plenty of flashy techniques into his attack, but he's most effective when digging into his opponent's body and throwing quality boxing combinations. In addition to his technical prowess, Holloway has a great build for a striker and uses his length well.
As mentioned, this fight is almost certain to be a kickboxing battle. That will be a difficult battle, but Holloway can make it easier for himself by utilizing his kicks to knock Swanson off balance.
Though Swanson can definitely kick with some power, he's more of a boxer overall. Due to his stance and head movement, Swanson is vulnerable to being kicked out of his stance, leaving him rather vulnerable to follow-up punches.
In order to out-strike "Killer Cub," Holloway should look to keep Swanson at the end of his jab. From that distance, Swanson will have to close the distance to land his power shots, making it easier for Holloway to counter. In addition, Holloway will be at the perfect range to knock Swanson off balance with low kicks and then step in with his combinations.
By keeping Swanson at the end of his range, Holloway is placing himself in the best position to out-strike his opponent.
Bottom Line: While there are already three men who have a legitimate claim to facing Aldo -- McGregor, Mendes, and Edgar -- the winner of this bout is not too far behind.
Before his loss to Edgar, Swanson was closing in on a title shot. A win over Holloway wouldn't immediately put him back in that position, but stomping out the fastest rising prospect in the division would definitely be a big feather in his cap.
If Swanson loses his second bout in a row -- the first losing streak of his entire professional career -- it would likely signal the end of Swanson's time as a potential contender. There'd still be plenty of entertaining match ups for him, but Swanson probably wouldn't be getting matches with fighters ranked above him.
This is a huge opportunity for Holloway. He's built up a quality win streak, and those victories have earned him a bout with a top-five contender. If Holloway earns the victory, he takes Swanson's position among the elite and is just one more win away from a title shot.
On the other hand, Holloway is only 23 years old. If he loses, there will be other opportunities in the future, and a loss to a veteran like Swanson can only help him develop.
At UFC on FOX 15, Cub Swanson and Max Holloway will slug it out. Which man will leave the Octagon with a victory?