UFC Fight Night 44 June 28, 2014 Featherweight Matchup: Cub Swanson vs Jeremy Stephens By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: Jose Aldo has already fought and defeated the entire top five of the UFC’s Featherweight division, yet already several of those fighters are making noise for a rematch. Chad Mendes will be the next fighter to be granted a second shot, but Cub Swanson wants his too despite suffering a highlight reel eight-second knockout to Aldo back at WEC 41 in 2009. Five years later, with a five-fight win streak in the UFC, and #4 ranked Swanson has certainly made a solid case for his first title shot, and a second chance at Aldo. Standing in his way is another notoriously heavy-handed Featherweight, current #11 ranked Jeremy Stephens. The line on the favored Swanson is currently a solid -250, with the comeback on the underdog Stephens +210. It’s a fan-friendly fight in that most expect these two to stand and trade, but who has the statistical edge on those metrics? Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The Tale of Tape favors the underdog at a glance, but not really with any significance. Both fighters are still in their prime and are separated by less than three years in age. Stephens will be taller and longer, but not with a meaningful advantage. So the Tale of the Tape is a wash here, and that leaves the performance stats to consider. Striking Matchup: We see a lot of small edges favoring Swanson, but with even more meaningful advantages when we account for the strength of schedule of the two fighters. Swanson has now fought the who’s who of the division, losing only to title/contender caliber opponents. Meanwhile Stephens has alternated between top talent at lightweight to losing to non-contender opponents. Swanson will be the much more precise striker, and likely also has the stronger defense. The one area favoring Stephens is his Knockdown Rate, which has led him to score eight career knockdowns in his lengthy UFC career despite only being dropped twice himself. And although he’s powerful, he’s also been somewhat tentative, and relies on a higher mix of kicks at a distance. In addition to precision, Swanson is also the more active fighter, averaging a higher pace of exchange while standing and slightly better cage control than Stephens, who has been more likely to be on the defensive against superior strikers. This will likely remain true in this matchup, so expect Swanson to be the one initiating and getting the better of the exchanges. Both guys swing hard, and also use less of the jab than is normal, so each must worry about getting caught on the chin. But round by round Swanson’s edge will increase as he is also the better conditioned athlete. Grappling Matchup: The ground game is a tighter matchup, but one that won’t necessarily come into play. Each fighter attempts an equal rate of takedowns, while Swanson has the better success rate, and Stephens has the better defense. Once on the ground, the key difference is how the two fighters position themselves. Swanson has been much more successful advancing position, while Stephens tends to stall out in guard more often. A grappling battle will likely slow down the pace of the fight, and also possibly tire them out. Again, we may not see it go to ground as these two guys normally like to stand and trade and likely have confidence in their own hands, but if we do Swanson is the more capable fighter to threaten there. Reed’s Pick: Swanson to win (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The striking advantages to Swanson here should be enough to sway the fight his way, whether it’s over in one round or takes all three. Cub Swanson continues to improve his overall MMA game under Greg Jackson, and should earn the next title shot after Chad Mendes with his performance in this main event. That will give Swanson a chance to redeem himself from likely the most regrettable eight seconds of his life – although only if Aldo gets past Mendes in August. The Over/Under of 2.5 rounds is much trickier, and has a close line leaning slightly towards the Over at -165, the Under at +135. Lightweights are normally a coin flip to finish fights, so the small plus money on the Under is appropriately priced. Both guys tend to finish their opponents, and they’ve each also been susceptible strikes and submissions in defeat. That all suggests a slight lean towards the Under, but not a large enough edge for a strong play. “Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon! Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis.