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UFC Vegas 25 card: Cub Swanson vs Giga Chikadze full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Tampa-Swanson vs Gracie Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight strikers Cub Swanson and Giga Chikadze will duel this weekend (Sat., May 1, 2021) at UFC Vegas 25 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Swanson rebounded from a pretty nasty knee injury and some early adversity back in Dec. 2020, returning to action with an impressive knockout over Daniel Pineda. “Killer Cub” has become something of an elder statesman of Featherweight violence; he may not be in the title mix anymore, but Swanson promises to bring the fire every time. Alternatively, Chikadze is on the rise. Kevin Holland may have gotten all the fame for his 2020 run, but Chikadze fought four times, “Giga-kicking” all his foes around the ring and very much looking the part of a contender. Now, he’ll receive his hard-earned step up in competition.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Cub Swanson

Record: 27-11
Key Wins: Kron Gracie (UFC Fight Night 161), Jeremy Stephens (UFC Fight Night 44), Hacran Dias (UFC on FOX 19), Charles Oliveira (UFC 152), Doo Ho Choi (UFC 206)
Key Losses: Frankie Edgar (UFC Fight Night 128), UFC Fight Night 57), Max Holloway (UFC on FOX 15), Brian Ortega (UFC Fight Night 123), Renato Moicano (UFC 227)
Keys to Victory: Swanson could be accurately described as a technical brawler. He’s quite willing to bite down on his mouth piece and trade power shots, but more often, Swanson pushes the pace with tricky footwork and oddly angled punches. He’s also an underrated kicker, able to rip into the calf and liver quite well.

It’s always difficult to fight an opponent who’s better at one’s primary skill set. Swanson is a great MMA striker, but Chikadze has fought for Glory and holds 38 wins in professional kickboxing. Those are simply different levels of striking.

Of course, that’s not to say that Swanson should abandon his strikes and spend 15 minutes desperately diving towards legs. What it does mean, however, is that Swanson has to ensure this is an MMA fight rather than kickboxing match. The threat of the takedown changes the flow of the fight, and Swanson has to use that in his favor.

In general, Swanson wants a closer distance fight than Chikadze. Punch-for-punch, Swanson can probably hang with his foe quite well — it’s those power kicks that separate Chikadze from the pack. Therefore, Swanson should be pushing forward, firing in combination, and looking to finish in the clinch, where he’s always been slick with his Judo tosses.

Swanson has derailed many prospects over the years, and he typically does so with a mix of guts and smarts. This bout calls for both!

Giga Chikadze

Record: 12-2
Key Wins: Jamall Emmers (UFC 248), Brandon Davis (UFC Fight Night 160), Omar Morales (UFC Fight Night 179)
Key Losses: Austin Springer (DWTNCS)
Keys To Victory: It’s easy to forget considering Chikadze has since proved doubters wrong, but there was not a ton of faith in “Ninja” ahead of his UFC debut. Each of his seven pre-UFC victories came in Gladiator Challenge, where the competition is absolutely abysmal (I would know, I fought for them twice!).

He’s really proven himself though, denying takedowns well and left kicking everyone.

Swanson is a serious step up in competition. A fair few of Chikadze’s recent wins were over short-notice replacements, which certainly isn’t his fault, but it doesn’t necessarily prepare him for a vet like “Killer Cub.” Fortunately, if Chikadze keeps the fight at range, none of Swanson’s other skills will matter.

He’ll be stuck in Chikadze’s world.

At distance, Chikadze has to give Swanson reasons to be hesitant to close that distance. For example, a stiff jab or punishing teep kick will make anyone second guess forward movement. Similarly, Chikadze has to fire back counter combinations when Swanson does fire, as that negative reinforcement will help convince Swanson to accept a kickboxing match.

Bottom Line

It’s a great test for Chikadze.

Look, I say this with zero intended disrespect: Swanson isn’t chasing the title anymore — 37-year-old Featherweights are not in the mix. That’s just how it is. Fortunately, Swanson is still fighting at a very high-level, and he’s still quite entertaining. That makes him perfect for veteran vs. veteran fights, as well as match ups like these, designed to test up-and-comers. Win or lose, Swanson’s position remains largely unchanged.

As for Chikadze, this is a big step up. He’s off the undercard, placed in a co-main event slot against a well-known name. If Chikadze can score his sixth straight UFC victory in such a scenario, it really goes a long way in pushing him forward. Very likely, he’ll leave the cage with a number next to his name, ready for another high-profile bout next.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 25 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 25: “Reyes vs. Prochazka” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC Vegas 25, Cub Swanson and Giga Chikadze will collide in the co-main event. Which man will earn the victory?

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