At UFC Fight Night 44, Cub Swanson made his case to be the next featherweight title challenger with a convincing unanimous decision win over Jeremy Stephens.
The action began fairly evenly, with Swanson employing his diverse kickboxing arsenal against Stephens' trademark punching power.
The turning point in the fight may have occurred in the third round, when Swanson landed a stiff kick to Stephens' liver. Stephens was clearly hurt by the shot, and some of the starch seemed to come out of him as a result. Though he gamely continued and did inflict some damage, Swanson controlled most of the action from there.
Another factor in the fight may have been a hand injury, which Stephens said he sustained early in the fight.
"In the first or second [round], I threw a left hook and my whole left hand went numb," Stephens said in the cage after the fight.
After five rounds, all three judges saw the contest for Swanson, with scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47. Following the win, Swanson declined to explicitly demand a title shot.
When asked by Anik what he wants next, Swanson says, "I don't beg."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) June'>https://twitter.com/arielhelwani/statuses/483119089900994561">June 29, 2014
But he certainly has a good reason to be optimistic he'll receive such a chance sooner rather than later, perhaps facing the winner between champion Jose Aldo and challenger Chad Mendes, who meet in early August. The 30-year-old Swanson (21-5) is now on a six-fight winning streak, with wins over top players like Dennis Siver and Dustin Poirier along with Stephens.
The UFC did not make any definitive statements after the fight about who either man might face in his next contest. However, an interesting challenge to Swanson did emerge from another corner of the UFC universe: a tweet from Korean standout Chan Sung Jung, also known as “The Korean Zombie.”
@CubSwansonhttps://twitter.com/CubSwanson">@CubSwanson> Fight me.— Chan Sung Jung (@KoreanZombieMMA) June'>https://twitter.com/KoreanZombieMMA/statuses/483121870951043072">June 29, 2014
Stephens obviously loses some momentum following the loss, but he is still 3-1 since dropping to 145 pounds.
Both men received a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus for their performance at UFC Fight Night 44.