Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight contenders Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson will collide this Saturday (April 21, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 128 inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Fun fact: I spent the better part of five years — something like 2009-2014 — anxiously waiting to see Frankie Edgar fight live in New Jersey. I would’ve had to remain in “The Garden State” another four years to see it happen, but Edgar will finally come home on Saturday night for the first time since 2007. Sadly, the return is not under the best circumstances, as “The Answer” was finished by strikes for the first time in his career less than two months ago. Like Edgar, Swanson was on a strong win streak and close to a title shot before Brian Ortega ended his rise. The more recent news regarding Swanson has been about whether or not he would resign with UFC, but luckily it all worked out and Swanson will receive a chance to avenge a previous loss.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 57), B.J. Penn (TUF 19 Finale, UFC 118, UFC 112), Chad Mendes (TUF 22 Finale), Urijah Faber (UFC Fight Night 66), Gray Maynard (UFC 136), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 205)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 200, UFC 156), Brian Ortega (UFC 222), Ben Henderson (UFC 144, UFC 150)
Keys to Victory: One of the sport’s best wrestle-boxers, Edgar is a nonstop fighter who pushes the pace constantly. Edgar moves laterally at all times, bouncing forward with quick combinations to the head and body before level changing into a powerful shot.
When Edgar last faced Swanson, he didn’t just win that fight ... he absolutely dominated. After the first takedown, Swanson found very little success for the rest of the fight, taking a beating on the mat that resulted in a very late neck crank stoppage. It’s one of the most brutal wins in Edgar’s career. As the dominant winner, Edgar doesn’t have to change anything in the lead up. Swanson is the man forced to make adjustments from his usual strategy, whereas Edgar merely has to adapt to whatever Swanson tries to bring to the table this time.
Chain wrestling and top control allowed Edgar to dominate once, and there’s no reason to move away from that here.
Key Wins: Doo Ho Choi (UFC 206), Jeremy Stephens (UFC Fight Night 44), Hacran Dias (UFC on FOX 19), Charles Oliveira (UFC 152)
Key Losses: Frankie Edgar (UFC Fight Night 57), Max Holloway (UFC on FOX 15), Brian Ortega (UFC Fight Night 123), Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 1)
Keys to Victory: A long-time veteran of the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and UFC, Swanson is one of the craftiest kickboxers around. His punches may be looping, but there’s a lot of critical thinking that goes into Swanson’s wild combinations and crazy kicks, and that — along with a healthy dose of heart — is the reason Swanson has been around the top of the division for so long.
In the first fight, Swanson made the mistake of committing too much to his punches. In particular, he tried to land a looping uppercut on Edgar numerous times, which was promptly ducked for an easy takedown entry. There’s nothing wrong with using the uppercut opposite Edgar -- just look at the Ortega knockout — but staying in position to defend the takedown is pivotal.
The single biggest adjustment that Swanson needs to make is tightening up his punches and staying long. He cannot try to swarm Edgar with heavy shots — at least not until Edgar is already stunned. That’s giving up an easy takedown, which is a truly awful situation for “Killer Cub.” Swanson has range tools. His calf kick is nasty, and he can follow up with hard punches. If Swanson tries to fight long and connect on Edgar without falling into the pocket, this could be a very different fight.
Bottom Line: Both contenders have losses that make title contention difficult, but a win definitely helps.
Edgar is definitely in the better situation. If Max Holloway successfully defends his title opposite “T-City,” it’s almost like his recent loss didn’t happen. If Edgar wins here, Edgar vs. Holloway is still a highly intriguing title fight. Although, if Ortega wins, Edgar is somewhat screwed regardless of this fight’s outcome.
As for Swanson, this is definitely a must-win fight if he’s to remain in the title mix, as a loss would leave him in need of another big win streak to recover his momentum. The bright side of that risk is that Edgar’s name value is still huge. What better way is there to prove that Swanson has evolved and can defeat a man who once bested him — the reason that Swanson has struggled to achieve a title shot is that the champion has always held a win over him — than by earning an upset win over a foe in a similar situation? It won’t earn him a title shot, but defeating Edgar makes Swanson’s chances in a rematch opposite Holloway/Ortega look much better.
At UFC Fight Night 128, Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will return to the win column?