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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 108’s Cub Swanson resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 108’s Cub Swanson, who will look to land another knockout this Saturday (April 22, 2017) inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Featherweight slugger, Cub Swanson, will face off with “The Russian Hammer,” Artem Lobov, this Saturday (April 22, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 108 inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Swanson’s been doing this for a long time. The World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran has spent a better part of the last 10 years duking it out with the top 145-pound fighters in the world. He hasn’t won every fight, but Swanson has won nine of his last 11 fights and become a staple of the Top 10. Interestingly, this match up is a considerable step backward compared to recent competition. On the bright side, it’s a chance for Swanson to show off his skills in another main event.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes him so dangerous:


Swanson is a fascinating and unique striker. On some levels, he fights like a boxer, relying on feints and smart combinations to piece up his foes. At the same time, he’s entirely willing to spin or throw a cartwheel kick at any moment.

He’s certainly a difficult man to read.

Swanson’s movement is a definite key to his success. He tends to work from the kicking range, switching stances and feinting smoothly. Much of Swanson’s boxing game begins from this range, as a big portion of his attack comes in the form of lengthy punch-kick combinations. When Swanson is punching in from distance, he’s vulnerable to counter punches. To diminish this risk, Swanson does an excellent job of ducking his head off the center line while punching. For example, it’s common for him to lead with the jab while ducking his head way off to the right, leaving him difficult to hit but still capable of throwing a big right hand.

Swanson does his best work with these lengthy combinations. He’s rarely finished after two strikes, and Swanson adjusts according to his opponent’s defense. If they’re backing up particularly far, Swanson will step deep on the right into the Southpaw stance, allowing him to fire off a nice left kick. Alternatively, Swanson can double up on the right hand if his foe stays closer.

It’s not uncommon for Swanson to throw himself a bit off-balance while punching. In numerous fights, he’ll be punching and rolling only to muster whatever momentum he can and direct it into a low kick. He’s unafraid to throw himself into odd positions so long as his strikes land (GIF).

Swanson thrives in the chaos he creates.

Once Swanson lands a hard shot, he begins feinting with it actively. Building off the threat of this strike, Swanson is able to create new openings, while keeping his opponent guessing on when he'll next return to it. For example, Swanson landed a hard uppercut against Dennis Siver. Then, he feinted with an uppercut and instead stepped into a left high kick.

Remaining unpredictable is a major key to Swanson's success. To make this easier on himself, Swanson routinely mixes up his targets with punches and kicks. The Californian punches to the body often (GIF), and his kicks can range from the top of his opponent's head to his calf muscle. Speaking of, the calf kick is a big weapon for Swanson. Aside from being painful and difficult to catch, the outside calf kick often knocks his foe out of their stance. That’s a small opening, but it’s all that Swanson needs to burst forward with a wild combination.

From the Southpaw stance, Swanson will look to dig into his foe’s body with kicks as well (GIF). Swanson generally sets up his left kick well, feinting and charging so rapidly that his foe’s hands raise enough to open up the strike. It will also commonly punctuate his stance-shifting combinations.

When Swanson's opponent looks to close the gap between them, Swanson is quite accurate with his counters. He repeatedly nailed Jeremy Stephens with several ducking jabs, which works just as well to counter as to lead (GIF). Additionally, Swanson will often look for the cross counter, meaning he'll slip inside his opponent's jab while heaving an overhand right. Notably, Swanson rocketed George Roop's mouthpiece across the Octagon with this technique (GIF).

Aside from that, Swanson’s check hook is a great weapon. After getting his opponent to watch for the counter jab, Swanson will switch to his check hook, working around the guard and catching his foe off-guard (GIF). Whether leading or countering, Swanson’s habit of getting his head off the center line is quite helpful.


There was a time when Swanson’s defensive wrestling was his greatest weakness. Over the years, he’s steadily improved in that aspect of his game. In recent years, the only wrestler to consistently force him to the mat was Frankie Edgar, who tends to make even great defensive wrestlers look mediocre. On his current win streak, Swanson has defeated a pair of top heavy grinders in Tatsuya Kawajiri and Hacran Dias.

Outside of the occasional running double leg — used more to prevent his opponent’s forward pressure than anything else — Swanson relies on hip tosses to counter his opponent’s clinch work. Often, Swanson’s style of distance and movement makes lining up a shot difficult, which forces his opponent to reach for the clinch.

In the clinch, hip position is key. If Swanson’s opponent is really stretched out and reaching for “Killer Cub,” there will be a good deal of space between Swanson’s hips and his opponent’s own waist. In that situation, it doesn’t particularly matter whether Swanson has a single underhook or none, as he can step across his opponent’s waist and flip them to the mat (GIF). While looking to land this throw, Swanson has to drive his weight forward, which also helps him get past his opponent’s hips. This type of throw is high risk, as Swanson can be reversed or fail to control position, but Swanson is quick to step into mount before his foe can scramble away.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Swanson is a highly aggressive submission grappler. Though he's finished just four of his opponents via tapout, Swanson is constantly on the offensive and creating opportunities off of his back. Swanson’s primary weapon from his back is the guillotine. There are some unique details to his guillotine, which is why I chose it for Swanson’s technique highlight.

It is worth mentioning that Swanson’s sit up into the guillotine has been countered before. Ricardo Lamas turned that attempt — which worked wonderfully in the opening round — into an arm-triangle choke. Swanson attempted to sit up and wrap the neck from side control, which allowed Lamas to counter by locking his hands and driving Swanson back to the mat. Once flat, it was Swanson who was stuck in a deep choke.

Outside of his guillotine, Swanson will occasionally look for the omoplata. Whenever his opponent places his hand on the mat, Swanson will use his excellent hip flexibility to pull his leg over the should and swivel his hips. Next, he locks his legs in a triangle and sits up quickly. By sitting up so soon, Swanson helps ensure that he'll succeed on either a stand up or sweep, as finishing the actual shoulder lock is unlikely.


This should be a showcase for Swanson. Lobov has never fought anyone nearly as good or experienced as him, and he tends to look pretty average against a lower level of competition. Destroying Lobov may not earn Swanson any forward momentum, but it should help earn him some more fans and create fodder for his highlight reel.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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