Whenever Cub Swanson fights, there's a chance for an explosive finish. He won't have to hunt down his opponent Saturday night, as Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens is never one to back down from a brawl.
Swanson has made it clear: He believes he deserves a shot at the title.
He has already faced and been knocked out by current champion Jose Aldo, but that was in 2009 when both were in WEC. He wants his crack at the title soon, but Stephens stands in his way.
'Lil Heathen has been up and down over the past three years. He had lost three fights in a row but followed that up with his current three-fight win streak. A win over Swanson would make him a prime contender to fight for the title in the near future.
The two men headline UFC Fight Night 44 in San Antonio, Texas. It is the second card from the promotion on the day. Much earlier—at least stateside—UFC Fight Night 43 will commence in New Zealand.
Another interesting fight on the FN 44 card features the return of another talented featherweight. Ricardo Lamas lost a unanimous decision to Aldo in his last fight, but he is looking to rebound against Hacran Dias.
Lamas didn't like the way he fought against Aldo and has vowed to improve upon the performance. Per Kyle McLachlan of Bloody Elbow, Lamas said:
"I just didn't fight like myself. With a title riding on the line I didn't want to make too many mistakes and I was too conservative. I learned a lot from that fight and won't ever fight like that again."
Dias is a formidable opponent who is capable of testing Lamas.
Here's a look at the entire card, viewing information and predictions for the action in San Antonio. Just below the table is a closer look at the biggest main card bouts.
|UFC Fight Pass Prelim||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Anthony Hamilton||Heavyweight||Hamilton by KO|
|Fox Sports 1 Prelim||8 p.m. ET|
|Ray Borg vs. Shane Howell||Flyweight||Borg by submission|
|Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Andy Enz||Middleweight||Guimaraes by decision|
|Johnny Bedford vs. Cody Gibson||Bantamweight||Gibson by TKO|
|Colton Smith vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira||Lightweight||Smith by decision|
|Main Card||10 p.m. ET|
|Joe Ellenberger vs. James Moontarsi||Lightweight||Ellenberger by TKO|
|Clint Hester vs. Antonio Braga Neto||Middleweight||Hester by TKO|
|Ricardo Lamas vs. Hacran Dias||Featherweight||Lamas by TKO|
|Cezar Ferreira vs. Andrew Craig||Middleweight||Ferreira by submission|
|Kevin Gastelum vs. Nico Musoke||Welterweight||Gastelum by decision|
|Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens||Featherweight||Swanson by TKO|
Card per UFC.com, picks by Brian Mazique
Ricardo "The Bully" Lamas vs. Hacran Dias
Dias has put together a solid record outside of the UFC. He's 1-1 in his time with the promotion. Though he has a lot of experience in MMA, he hasn't faced fighters on par with Lamas.
With a renewed purpose, Lamas is even more dangerous now than he was before the loss to Aldo. His ground-and-pound game is among the best in the lower weight classes, and Dias' penchant to work from his back will put him in peril against the Bully.
Even if Lamas wasn't at his best against Aldo, he still did enough to keep the bout competitive. Against Aldo, that's an accomplishment.
Lamas will win it by TKO.
Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira vs. Andrew "Highlight" Craig
Coming off his first loss in the UFC, Ferreira has something to prove. Craig is a tough grinder who doesn't possess the natural athleticism that Mutante does, but he fights with heart.
What quality will win out on Saturday?
Bet on talent.
Ferreira has long been tabbed as a future force in the UFC. His speed, punching power and grappling make for an exciting combination of skills.
He is beginning to gain a reputation for having a weak chin, though.
He hit a speed bump in his knockout loss to C.B. Dollaway in March. Can Craig test Ferreira's chin? It's not likely. Keeping Ferreira from gaining the advantage on the ground will be Craig's biggest challenge.
Look for Ferreira to fight a smart, tactical fight that leads to ground domination and a submission win to re-establish his momentum.
Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens
The personalities and demeanors of the fighters in the main event are intriguing.
'Lil Heathen might be the funniest nickname in all of sports, but there's nothing comical about Stephens' relentless style. He comes to bring the pain like Method Man, and his intentions are apparent in every punch.
Swanson looks like an anti-hero from a Guy Ritchie movie, and fights with just as much attitude. This battle could live up to its billing as the featured attraction and earn Fight of the Night honors.
Both men can really bang if the fight takes place in the stand-up, but Stephens might have a slight edge when it comes to grappling. The question is this: Can Stephens' stamina hold up against Swanson, a noted horse in the energy department?
B/R's Sean Smith weighs in:
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.
Because of Swanson's fitness level, resolve and punching power, he should score a late-round stoppage in one heck of a battle.
Just for Kicks
EA Sports UFC just released on Xbox One and Playstation 4 on June 17. I used the game to simulate the main event for UFC Fight Night 44. Only Swanson is included in the roster at this point—although updates are said to be on the way—so I had to create Stephens.
The facial image came out decently and his ratings are based on stats from FightMetric.com. Here we go!
Follow me on Twitter.