Contender or Gatekeeper? Mike Swick's Destiny Will Be Decided at UFC 109

Robert GardnerSenior Analyst IJanuary 29, 2010

Mike Swick is a stud, plain and simple. As an explosive fighter with a great skill set and world-class training partners, the sky’s the limit for Mike Swick.

Well, at least it was until a couple of untimely events that occurred just a few short months ago.

The first opportunity lost came just weeks before UFC 103 and Swick’s No. 1 contender bout with Martin Kampmann when Swick was forced to withdraw from the fight due to an undisclosed training injury.

Luckily for Swick the injury was not serious and he was able to resume his training quickly. So, when Kim Dong-Hyun was forced to pull out of his of UFC 105 bout with Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy, Swick was quick to fill the void.

Since the UFC was still in need of a challenger to George St. Pierre’s title, Swick against Hardy became the UFC’s best option to name that challenger.

Going into UFC 105 many saw Swick as the challenger-in-waiting and that the fight with Hardy was nothing more than a mere formality. Oh how quickly things can change once that cage door closes.

From the onset of the fight it was apparent that Hardy was far more than a formality. Rocking Swick early in the first round, Hardy controlled the action in the fight all the way to the final bell; earning a unanimous decision victory and a guaranteed shot at king St. Pierre’s throne.

After two missed opportunities and a fight with Brazilian Paulo Thiago at UFC 109 now looming, Mike Swick finds himself at a career crossroads.

A win over Thiago instantly put Swick back into the title picture, and likely only one or two wins away from finally earning a shot. But, winning against Thiago is much easier said than done.

Paulo Thiago is a hard hitting BJJ black belt who trains with some of the best in the business as a member of the famed Black House gym.

Should Swick, who is filling in for fallen teammate Josh Koscheck, not win against Thiago he would find himself in UFC purgatory. A loss would be Swick’s second in a row and it would force him into the role of welterweight gatekeeper.

Once you have been condemned to that role in the UFC there is little hope that you will ever claw back into contention. Just ask Keith Jardine.

With fighters like Paul Daley, Ben Saunders, and Anthony Johnson all chomping at the bit for their opportunity to ascend the rankings, Mike Swick must not squander another golden opportunity. If he does he will forever be left on the outside looking in.