FeatherweightsKron Gracie (5-0) vs. Cub Swanson (25-11)
ODDS: Gracie (-160), Swanson (+140)
The UFC finally has a relevant Gracie on its roster once again. Somehow, Gracie’s win over Alex Caceres marked the first win for the First Family inside the Octagon since 1994, and judging by this matchmaking, the UFC is already interested in seeing if he can become an actual featherweight contender. Gracie obviously has grappling credentials, but it has been a bit of an adventure when it comes to his actual fights. His wins over Hideo Tokoro and Tatsuya Kawajiri were solid enough despite the age of both men, but Gracie’s performances were somewhat meandering until he managed to lock in the fight-ending submission. That is what added an extra level of impressiveness to his win over Caceres. Not only was it a win over someone close to his prime, but Gracie did not spend much time messing around, quickly getting things against the fence, working for the submission and ending the encounter in a shade over two minutes. Gracie could probably use a bit more proof of concept against well-rounded opposition, but the UFC is not exactly known for being patient, so he gets a tough fight here against an erstwhile vet in Swanson, who needs to answer some questions of his own.
Swanson has constantly found ways to give his career new life, but this most recent stretch is starting to test things. Back in World Extreme Cagefighting, Swanson was known as a top prospect, yet he managed to derail his hype train in spectacular fashion, suffering a quick upset loss to Jens Pulver and winding up on the receiving end of an eight-second knockout from a surging Jose Aldo. However, Swanson eventually found his footing, and by the time the UFC absorbed the WEC, he managed to rattle off a six-fight winning streak that included some brutal knockouts. Just as quickly as Swanson got his career going, things turned after two one-sided losses to Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. Edgar crushed Swanson with his wrestling game and beat him from pillar to post, while Holloway simply made Swanson look slow. With his future as a fighter suddenly coming into question, Swanson took a year off to regroup, and the result was another winning streak, this time with four straight victories that included a 2016 “Fight of the Year” contender against Doo Ho Choi. Swanson looked set to possibly get a long-awaited title shot nearing the end of 2017, but after losing to Brian Ortega, Swanson’s career hit a wall. Swanson has looked unmotivated in his performances since. Edgar beat a flat version of Swanson in a rematch, Renato Carneiro managed to blow Swanson out of the water and an April fight against Shane Burgos saw the Team Tiger Schulmann rep constantly beat Swanson to the punch in a manner reminiscent of the Holloway fight. Swanson may yet have another run left in him, but as he nears his 36th birthday, a loss here could just as easily mark the end of a strong career.
This is a simple fight to break down. Gracie should look for the takedown and the submission early and often, and it is up to Swanson to knock him out before he gets it. Two or three years ago, this would be a much easier pick in Swanson’s favor. While Swanson has always been prone to submissions, Gracie’s formless approach in Rizin Fighting Federation would leave him a sitting duck for the punches of a prime version of the WEC veteran. However, with Swanson looking more tentative and Gracie signaling that he was ready to just play to his strengths, this looks like it could be a quick night at the office for BJJ royalty. The pick is Gracie via first-round submission.
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