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Breaking down Cub Swanson versus Frankie Edgar



Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar meet in a five round fight to most likely determine the next title shot against Jose Aldo. This is a matchup between two of the best and most exciting fighters in the UFC. They are part of why the featherweight class is one of the most electrifying in the sport today.

One of the most stacked and exciting divisions in the UFC right now is the featherweight one. Sitting at the top is the only champion that the UFC has ever seen in Aldo. He just defended his title against the number one contender Chad Mendes in the closest fight of his career. It was the kind of fight that elevated both fighters.

While Mendes is now 0-2 against Aldo, the latest fight was close enough that he is only a couple of wins away from challenging again for the title. There is a lot of hype for Conor McGregor and a spectacular finish of Dennis Siver in January could increase his title talk. There was also the Ricardo Lamas’ impressive win over Dennis Bermudez at UFC 180. With Mendes calling him out after the fight, the winner of that possible fight would find themselves very close to another title shot. Then there is this one. The Swanson and Edgar fight is easily one of the most anticipated of the year since its announcement.

This is one of the most technically exciting fights in the UFC this year between two of the more dynamic fighters in the featherweight division. They are both tough, intelligent and well-rounded fighters. Throughout their fights you hear the various announcers refer to each of them as to having some of the best technical boxing in the UFC.

That alone would make this an intriguing matchup but what sets it up as potential classic is the way each fighter does it. Edgar is tight, precise and textbook – these are the words that are used to describe his style. Then there is Swanson who is much looser, freer, wild and crazy – these are the words that apply to him. Even thought they do things differently, they both create excellent striking angles for themselves.

They both have great footwork and head movement. Swanson has more power. While Edgar tends to push a slightly higher pace and has more experience in five round fights. Swanson did it for the first time in his career in his last fight with Jeremy Stephens and looked strong in the final round. His opponent, Edgar, he has done it six times. Though he is 2-3-1 in those fights with the two wins coming against B.J. Penn and including a controversial SD loss to Gray Maynard.

Speed could be the determining factor in this fight. They both are fast and are used to enjoying the speed advantage. In this fight the edge will be slight if there is one at all. It could be dead even.

The differences between them are more stylistic ones. They both are superbly trained, talented athletes, that fight with intelligence and heart. Neither fighter has faced an opponent like the other. Each of them has ways to win this fight. It could all come down to rhythm and timing. Two of the more sublime and underrated elements of the fight game.

Here I will analyze each fighter and the areas they could exploit. How each of them can win the fight and who I think will emerge victorious. Be warned that there are GIF’s ahead.

Cub Swanson, the exciting fan favorite 

Swanson has been a fan favorite since his WEC days. During that time he went 5-3 with the losses to some of the best the featherweight division has ever seen in Jens Pulver, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. He followed each loss in the WEC with a FOTN victory. It was not just the wins or the fight of the nights but also the way Swanson has fun in the octagon that resonates with the fans. We love watching a fighter have fun in the octagon and Swanson definitely has fun when he fights. It is more than the fun and the exciting style, it is also the heart and passion he brings to every fight. You can see that he fights because it is a part of him.

When he dropped his UFC debut to Ricardo Lamas via an arm-triangle choke it seemed like we knew who Cub Swanson was as a fighter. An exciting one who would fight with heart, skill, passion and a willingness to try high risk moves. The type of fighter that is never in a boring fight. His was a style that seemed more geared towards the excitement side of the sport than winning it appeared. He was willing to sacrifice position for damage or a submission.

This is the kind of fighter fans love, especially when they see him do moves likes this in a fight. In the first, Lamas tries a capoeira style kick.

Lamas capo thats my move kick

Then Swanson responds with this spinning kick. The sequence is more like a kid playing and having fun than someone engaged in a serious battle. He is smiling after Lamas tries the kick and during the fight you can see him mouth to Lamas, “That’s my move.”

Swanson spinning kick Lamas

He was 28-years-old on the night of that fight. His birthday was just ten days before their battle. His record was still stellar at 15-5 but he was now 5-4 under the Zuffa banner. It looked like he was going to be a gatekeeper to the top ten to fifteen tier of fighters. He was capable of beating some of the better competition in the UFC but faltered against the top five fighters.

Tell me who are you

Life as a fighter is tough and involves daily sacrifices. The further a fighter gets into their career the more those sacrifices can weigh on them. It is those little daily moments that often end a fighter’s career. Devastating injuries can also do that as well.

Going into the Lamas fight, Swanson had spent a year off rehabbing from a facial fracture suffered during training. It was the type of injury that often makes a fighter and their family question their career. If Swanson had decided to stop fighting then people would have understood. He would have been regarded as another fighter who had their career cut short by injuries. One who never quite fulfilled the potential he showed early in his career.

Instead of retiring, Swanson went back to work. He worked on his wrestling and tightened up his mental approach. This has resulted in a six fight win streak, one that includes four TKO/KO finishes. That streak has him poised to finally get his rematch with Aldo. All he needs is a win in this fight and the next title shot could be his. Depending on how he wins and what happens in the McGregor versus Siver fight.

Now if Swanson stops Edgar then it really will not matter what happens in the other fight. That, along with what would then be a seven fight win streak would get him the second chance at Aldo that he so badly desires.

Frankie Edgar is another fan favorite

As well as being a close matchup in the octagon it is as close when it comes to fan popularity with these two fighters. Edgar is no stranger himself to FOTN’s collecting seven bonus checks for them in his UFC career to go along with a KOTN for his KO of Maynard.

Like Swanson, it is Edgar’s style that has helped him gather those bonuses and win the hearts of the fans. While his is less flamboyant it is still aggressive. He puts pressure on his opponents with his pace and he is constantly in motion. Attacking and moving, attacking and moving, forcing you to match his pace or get overwhelmed by it.

Besides his attack being relentless it is also a varied one. Edgar incorporates all elements of the sport as a complete fighter. The completeness as a mixed martial artist is something he shares with Swanson and this allows them to attack in many different ways, from multiple angles, ranges and distances. This forces their opponents to be vigilant at all times and if they make a mistake both of them will capitalize on it.

The other element that Edgar possesses and shares with Swanson is his will and heart. Nothing touches fans more viscerally than seeing a fighter get rocked and keep coming forward. It is that willingness to absorb punishment and keep fighting that separates the true warriors from the average fighters. These two are warriors and it is seeing Edgar take shots like this,

Aldo Front kick 3rd round

and this,

Hendo upkick Frankie

and still keep fighting on.

His place in history still being written

Edgar is one of the greats and most likely a future Hall of Famer but if he could capture the featherweight title it would place him in the one of the all-time greats talk. As a champion in two different weight classes in the UFC he would join B.J. Penn and Randy Couture. If he wants another chance at the title he needs a win in this fight.

Edgar is 11-4-1 in the UFC and 17-4-1 overall but he is just 5-3-1 in his last nine fights. If you remove the three B.J. Penn fights he is 2-3-1. A loss in this fight will drop him down into the deep end of the contender pool. If he loses here he will need to put together an impressive little streak to get back to the title.

 The Jazz rhythms of Swanson and Edgar

To me jazz and fighting just fit together. They both are built around toiling away for hours learning the details of their art forms to help them understand the rhythms and spaces of others so they can be ready to act in the moment. All to create art in the space and time of those transitory moments of the music or the fight.

In this fight Edgar is like a big band jazz band and Swanson is like a be-bop quartet. With Edgar it is like reading a classic textbook when it comes to the technical side of the sport. Every fight you see him with his chin tucked, using proper footwork, head movement and mixing the elements of the sport together. It is like a big band working together but within all of the technique there is still room for the improvisational side of the sport.

When you watch him fight you will see that Edgar makes adjustments throughout his fights reacting to his opponents and what they are doing in the octagon. As he gains a greater understanding of their timing and feel for their rhythm he starts to take over the fight. He fights in a very technical, fast and smooth style much like the jazz you see big bands play.

Across the octagon will be Swanson who fights in a more be-bop style of fighting. A much more violent style of music and fighting. One that results in more finishes. During his six fight win streak Swanson has finished four of his opponents via TKO/KO. He does this due to the speed at which he fights much like be-bop jazz it is fast and in your face.

Swanson puts pressure on his opponents right from the start of the fight. He is able to do this in part because he seems to pick up their timing quickly. When he sees an opening he strikes quickly and powerfully like be-bop jazz. At times, the music and Swanson seem like they are on the verge of being out of control, but they both know how to walk that edge. The one that allows them to take the risk and go for the big moment.

Who wins?

There are several ways each of these fighters could win this fight. With Edgar, it seems like a five round decision is the most likely outcome. His four losses have all been by decision and he has only four finishes in the UFC and one of those was over an aging B.J. Penn in his most recent fight. In that way Edgar is much like a factory worker ready to put in his time and work the full-shift.

If Edgar is going to win a decision he cannot afford to get off to a slow start. Too often in the five round fights it seems like he is down going into the third round. While he often starts to take over the fight in that round it has come too late in his losses to Henderson and Aldo. This seems to be a part of his style and strategy. He uses his movement and pace to wear his opponents down while getting a better sense of their timing.

Here is an example of that in his Aldo fight. In the first round it is Aldo slipping and connecting.

Aldo slips and uses jab 1st rd

There is also this one from earlier in the sequence.

Aldo slips Edgar lands right hand

Then in the third round we see Edgar’s movement is still sharp.

Edgar's movment vs Aldo 3rd rd

There you see him angling and parrying Aldo’s footwork with his own and this is an example of him slipping and scoring a little later in the round.

Frankie slips and scores late 3rd rd

And another one later in the third round.

Frankie slips and score uppercut 3rd rd

In the first Aldo slipped and scored easily showing a slight speed advantage. By the later part of the third round Aldo had slowed slightly and Edgar was finding his range and timing. It was enough for him to make the fight competitive in the later rounds but not to beat Aldo.

Now Swanson does not have the same five round experience but he did go the distance with Stephens. He slowed down in the later rounds but was fresher than Stephens. Swanson’s cardio is sharp and he is known for being a hard worker in the gym. If it does go the distance Edgar would be the favorite but he cannot get off to a slow start. Especially against someone with the power of Swanson.

They share a common opponent in Charles Oliveira. Edgar won a hard fought UD against Oliveira at UFC 162. While Swanson KO’d him in the first round of their fight at UFC 152. First came the liver shot.

Cub LIVER SHOT to Ollie

This froze Oliveira up and slowed him down enough for Swanson to land the knockout blows.

Cub KO's Ollie 2

The big right hand comes in and landed cleanly. Here is another angle.

Cub KO's Ollie

Oliveira looks slow here because the liver shot did slow him down. This allowed Swanson to step-in with full power and Oliveira could not avoid him. He dropped down after he got to the cage and Swanson finished him off quickly on the ground. Edgar cannot get off to a slow start and get caught cleanly by Swanson. This is what he does when he lands a solid shot.

Swanson KO Roop 1

Now this not only shows the power that Swanson possesses, it also gives a glimpse into his high level striking technique. First comes the faked jab which induces the counter left-hook from Roop. Swanson anticipating it ducks under it and into his counter righthand that blast Roop’s mouthpiece out. It really is beautiful destruction achieved in the octagon.

Cub Blast Michah Miller

Now in this one against Micah Miller we see his timing and speed. Swanson perfectly caught Miller as he moved his left leg and brought the righthand. Miller tried to block it and counter with a lefthand but he could not get there in time. Swanson read the move and was fast enough to land the big powerful strike. Edgar wants no part of one of those even with his iron chin.

The takedown

One difference maker could be the takedown. Edgar has shown an excellent ability to score them in the UFC due in part to his relentlessness with them. Even if he does not get the takedown he makes you aware of it as an opponent. Giving them one more thing to think about during the fight. He has also displayed an excellent timing in getting them. Here is one against Aldo.

Frankie gets the takedown in 4th rd

In this one Edgar slipped under an Aldo punch and came in from the side and not the front allowing him get the takedown. Now Aldo did his Aldo thing and got right back up to his feet but Swanson has run into trouble on the ground. He lost to Lamas via submission after this takedown.

Lamas gets takedown vs Swanson

In this Lamas backed up then ducked under the strike into the takedown. Once it went to the ground, Lamas was able to sink in a choke against the talented grappler. Joe Rogan noted that Swanson looked a little too comfortable on the ground. He does have some serious skills on the ground and Lamas is not known for his submissions but that could have led to Swanson being lax for a moment.

If Swanson gives Edgar the opening he is capable of finishing it with a submission. He is not known for his submissions but has trained with some of the best in the world in Renzo Gracie and John Danaher. While he works regularly with Ricardo Almeida, who is in his corner for his fights, Edgar is not know for his submissions, but if Swanson makes a mistake – Edgar can finish it.

Now Swanson has been a different fighter since the Lamas fight. A little more focused and a little meaner. He is capable of winning this fight and could be the first to finish Edgar.

The Check-hook

The check-hook recently received a lot of attention after Ovince Saint-Preux used one to knockout Shogun. It is also an effective weapon to keep an opponent at a distance like Aldo here against Edgar.

Aldo check hook Edgar

Aldo backed up, angled out and used a couple of quick check-hooks to score and keep Edgar away.

Swanson used one to KO a charging Ross Pearson.

Swanson KO Pearson 2

This is another beautiful piece of work from Swanson. Pearson caught his kick and Swanson used his balance and jab to fight him off and free his leg. Once it is free he backs up to reset himself, angles off and threw the perfectly placed check-hook.

I know what you are thinking, there is no way Edgar goes chasing after him like that. Even though Pearson is an excellent boxer, Edgar is too technical to rush in.

Frankie rushes in Aldo could be Check hook time

You see Edgar race forward and even stumbled a little. At this point, Aldo was content to back out and pick apart Edgar, but there was an opening there. One a predatory fighter like Swanson can exploit. One way for a fighter to get KO’d is to get caught cleanly while off-balance. We have seen that Swanson is adept at creating and exploiting those kind of moments in fights.

Who wins?

This fight could go many different ways with each fighter capable of winning it. Swanson will fight Edgar very differently than any of Edgar’s other opponents. He will attack him more openly. Edgar does not give many openings to his opponents but Swanson’s style creates openings and he is very good at seizing those moments. He is capable of catching Edgar cleanly while he is off-balance and ending the fight.

A knockout finish is not the only way he can win the fight. Of the two fighters it is Swanson who usually has his timing down early in his fight. He can get up in the early rounds, battle in the final two and take a decision win.

Look for him to also use the low kick to the calf. It is a weapon that has been a part of his arsenal for sometime now. It is the area of the leg that Henderson targeted in his second fight with Edgar who is a master at catching kicks. This kick comes in too low for Edgar to catch. It will not do the damage that the ones to the thigh and knee nor will it likely end the fight, but it could slow Edgar down just a tick. At their level just a tick can make all of the difference in a fight. It is all it takes for a strike to land.

I would not be surprised to see Edgar win this fight he is one of the best in the UFC but I like Swanson to find a way to win. As I mentioned earlier there has been a change since the Lamas fight and I like everything to come together for him in this fight. The safe call is UD but my gut tells me a third round finish from Swanson to make a statement. Do not be surprised if the check-hook plays a big part in the fight and the finish.

However it ends and whoever wins it will be a great fight. It has potential to be one of the best this year and maybe of all time. It is what happens when two talented, tough and special fighters meet in the octagon.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny