Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens: Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
The second of two UFC fight cards this weekend will be headlined by Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens.
With five consecutive wins, Swanson has emerged as one of the top contenders in the 145-pound class. Now ranked No. 4 among featherweight title hopefuls, Swanson will look to earn a shot at the 145-pound championship by beating Stephens impressively on Saturday.
After losing three in a row at 155 pounds, Stephens made a desperation move to the featherweight class. The weight cut has produced immediate results for Stephens, who is 3-0 at 145 pounds and will have a chance to break into the Top 10 against Swanson.
Here is a closer look at how Swanson and Stephens match up against one another as their important clash approaches.
With four knockouts in his past five appearances, Swanson is getting it done with his striking.
He'll be facing a fellow knockout artist on Saturday, though. With 15 knockouts in 23 career victories, Stephens hits as hard as anybody in the featherweight class.
Swanson has only been knocked out once in his MMA career, and that loss came against Jose Aldo, who might be the most talented striker in the sport right now. A more diverse and technical striker than Stephens, Swanson should be able to avoid his opponent's haymakers.
He only has to land one punch to change everything, but Stephens has had the most trouble against skilled strikers who force him to stand. In his two most recent losses, Stephens was outstruck by Yves Edwards and Donald Cerrone, and he was knocked out by the former.
While Stephens might not be able to slug his way to another knockout win on Saturday, he does have other options against Swanson.
Having scored seven takedowns in seven rounds as a featherweight, Stephens has some underrated wrestling. With three takedowns against now-champion Anthony Pettis, Stephens also took one of the best fighters in the world to a split decision without much success with his striking.
Stephens has also only surrendered one takedown in his past five bouts. Considering he has not outwrestled any of his past four opponents, Swanson probably won't be shooting in on Stephens' legs at all this weekend.
Only shutting down 47 percent of opponent takedown attempts, Swanson is susceptible to being shut down with wrestling. In his past two losses, Swanson was outwrestled by Ricardo Lamas and Chad Mendes.
Swanson and Stephens have both had their successes and failures on the ground.
With three submission losses each, neither is unstoppable on the canvas. However, with seven submission victories, Swanson is more capable of ending this fight via submission. He's been shut down when in the bottom position multiple times, but Swanson's guard might be threatening enough to create openings in this matchup.
Can Swanson do what lightweight champion Pettis couldn't against Stephens? I don't think so, but his submission attempts could be all it takes to dissuade Stephens from riding out a decision.
With two decision wins since moving down to 145 pounds, Stephens has handled the cut well. Conditioning has not been too much of an issue for Stephens in the later rounds, and his power does not appear to have been sacrificed either, considering his nasty knockout win over Rony Jason.
Five rounds could be a different story for Stephens, but Swanson has never gone that deep either. Besides, should Stephens win, it will likely either be via early knockout or by maintaining the top position without expending much energy.
Because he has shown he can last a few rounds in the featherweight division, Stephens' size is becoming an important asset in this weight class. In a matchup where he may be looking to muscle Swanson around in the clinch and on the ground, Stephens should be able to impose his will, should he find a way inside on Saturday.
With both fighters having multiple, realistic methods of victory, Swanson and Stephens should engage in a very competitive bout this weekend.
Stephens' knockout power makes him a scary opponent to stand with. However, a more polished Swanson should be able to frustrate Stephens enough to force Lil' Heathen to use his wrestling.
Although Stephens can definitely take Swanson down and might be able to grind out a decision win, it'll be tough for him to keep that up over 25 minutes. Swanson is strong enough on the ground to work some escapes, and he might even be able to wear Stephens down as the fight goes into the later rounds.
Swanson will give himself enough opportunities to strike and should eventually stop Stephens with speed.
Swanson defeats Stephens via (T)KO in the fourth round.