Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson are two of the finest featherweights in the world, and it is quite possible that the two top-five-ranked fighters will square off sometime in the near future.
Edgar picked up his first win since October of 2011 at UFC 162. He controlled the action against youngster Charles Oliveira and picked up the decision. Currently, Edgar sits at the No. 3 spot in the division. One more win should thrust him back in to a title fight.
Swanson is also eager for a title shot, and it makes sense after a five-fight win streak with four TKO/KO finishes. George Roop, Ross Pearson, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver have all fallen to the rising featherweight, who comes in at No. 4 in the division. His last loss came at the hands of the No. 2-ranked Ricardo Lamas.
If Lamas is awarded the next title shot, Edgar vs. Swanson is the fight to make. It is a fan-friendly and divisionally important bout. This is how the potential title eliminator breaks down.
This is where the majority of the fight will take place. Both fighters love stand-up fights, and they get an opponent who will oblige happily.
Swanson's striking attack is more varied than Edgar's, and he possesses more raw power too, evidenced by his recent streak of finishes. When Swanson throws, he throws hard. Everything has bad intentions.
Edgar's striking is more boxing oriented.
Who holds the edge? Edgar. Clearly.
Swanson may have the power advantage, but Edgar is one of the best strikers in the sport—offensively and defensively. His footwork and head movement is second to none. He has stood with the best, including featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
He is, quite simply, the better technical striker.
Edgar has another clear advantage in the grappling department. All that really needs to be said is that Edgar has takedowns against B.J. Penn and Jose Aldo.
That says it all.
Swanson has a credible wrestling game as well, but it is nowhere near as effective as Edgar's. The former lightweight champion doesn't get all the respect he deserves in this department. Taking down the likes of Penn and Aldo is no small feat. Aldo is currently second in the UFC record books for takedown defense percentage, and Edgar knocked Penn off that list (Penn still has a 78 percent takedown defense percentage).
Edgar already had a wrestling-based attack when he entered the UFC, but the evolution of his boxing has only increased his takedown success rate. He has a quick level change that gives his opponent next to no chance of stopping the shot.
Edgar is ranked No. 9 on the takedowns-landed list with 46.
*All stats provided by FightMetric
Neither fighter goes for submissions often. As previously mentioned, they prefer to strike.
Swanson has seven submission finishes to his credit, while Edgar has three of his own. Neither have finished via submission since 2009. By numbers alone, one would have to side with Swanson, but, in this case, numbers lie. Edgar has yet another advantage over the Jackson's MMA product.
Three of Swanson's submission wins are via punches. And none of the wins are over top-shelf competition. So, what separates the two fighters in the submission department? Submission defense.
Edgar has incredible submission defense, while Swanson's isn't anything to write home about. Swanson has been finished three times by tapping out. That includes a 35-second guillotine choke at the hands of Jens Pulver.
Edgar has put his submission defense on display numerous times, and has not been afraid to go to the ground against the likes of B.J. Penn. He is that comfortable on the floor. The totality of his submission game is superior to Swanson's. He just doesn't choose to finish that way a lot.
Edgar's X-Factor: Level Changes
Edgar's ability to change levels may only be second to Demetrious Johnson. That is how quick they are. He will need that ability in a fight against Swanson.
Swanson is a very strong featherweight who has increasingly improved his takedown defense. Edgar's movement will help him avoid the power punches from Swanson, and then he can establish his boxing. Once he has that going, it will be easy for him to take Swanson down to score points.
Keeping Swanson guessing is paramount. It makes him hesitant to pull the trigger on his explosive striking and makes him an easy target for Edgar to repeatedly score points.
Swanson's X-Factor: Cut off the Cage
Edgar has fantastic footwork. It has given the elite strikers in the sport some trouble, and that is not great news for Swanson.
He will need to cut off the cage against Edgar.
Swanson has to force Edgar to fight in front of him, or else he will never catch him. Edgar can slip and circle away in the blink of an eye. Swanson has to avoid chasing Edgar. If he chases, he puts himself in prime position to be put off-balance.
Cutting off the Octagon against Edgar is no easy task, but Swanson has to do it for the win.
Edgar has the advantage everywhere in this fight, but do not be so quick to dismiss Swanson.
One shot is all it takes to change the complexion of this fight, and Edgar has been rocked in the past.
Unfortunately for Swanson, Edgar is a bit too good for him. And at featherweight, Edgar isn't giving up as many physical advantages. That only increases his skill set. Edgar should have no problem taking Swanson out of his game.
It is hard to see Edgar finishing Swanson, but it very easy to see this going to a 30-27 decision on all judges' scorecards. The quick takedowns will win the night for Edgar. He will make Swanson be a reactionary fighter for 15 minutes.
Edgar will be on his way to another title fight.
Prediction: Edgar defeats Swanson by unanimous decision