The fourth ranked featherweight contender in the UFC, Cub Swanson (24-7), takes on unranked Artem Lobov (13-12) this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 108. Not everyone is happy that such a fight is headlining a UFC event, but with all the disappointing cards this far in 2017, is Swanson-Lobov bound to be better than anything we’ve seen this year?
After all, Swanson did give us the 2016 fight of the year with his UFC 206 showdown against Dooho Choi which saw Swanson put a beat down on Choi and then show resiliency after Choi’s comeback nearly knocked out Swanson. The Killer Cub won via unanimous decision and rose up in the rankings because of it.
Artem Lobov on the other hand, is not your typical headliner of a UFC Fight Night. He’s not in the top 15, his professional mma record is nearly at .500. A lot of people like to put his success on the fact that he’s close with Conor McGregor (which is probably 100 percent accurate) but the lack of wins on his resume doesn’t change the fact that Saturday’s fight will still be the best headliner or co-main event you’ve seen all year. Which by the way, probably isn’t saying all that much.
In the three PPV cards all year, UFC 208 and 210 saw controversy on both of their top two fights and UFC 209 didn’t even get to have two main fights as Khabib Nurmagomedov was hospitalized the morning before weigh ins and the main event of Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson saw four rounds of Wonderboy and Woodley staring at one another and a 10 second spurt of Woodley nearly knocking him out in the fifth round, eventually leading to a Woodley majority decision in what probably should of been a Thompson UD or draw. UFC 210 was suppose to feature a Chris Weidman or Anthony Johnson signature knockout but led to a controversial win for Gregard Mousasi after kneeing Weidman in the head and the ref stopping the fight to review it (which he learned you cannot do in New York) leading to a Mousasi technical knock out (technically wrong). Then, in what was supposed to be an exciting stylistic match up of a five round war between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson led to a submission in round two.
Now the other fights on the cards were worthwhile for the pay per view buys, but people buy PPV’s for the names not the match ups. Heck, the real fight of the year that saw Darren Elkins miraculously come back from way behind and knock out Mirsad Bektic was played on Fox for free before UFC 209!
In the non PPV cards this year, we’ve seen some decent headliners. Kelvin Gastelum put on a show against Vitor Belfort, but Belfort was clearly not the same fighter we were accustomed to before father time caught up with him. Gastelum’s self proclaimed “legend ass-kicking” tour was in full effect that night. But the fight itself from the beginning felt predictable, especially in the second round of action where Gastelum was just punishing Belfort for what seemed like forever before the fight had stopped.
The Korean Zombie’s return to the featherweight division might be the high point of the year so far as far as feel good stories go, as Chan Sung Jung knocked out Dennis The Menace Bermudez after a four-year layoff. The win was a couple of weeks after Ronda Rousey’s one year layoff turned out to be a dud and many saw Korean Zombie’s win as proof that the one year layoff wasn’t what was wrong with Rousey. Once again, that fight ended early and the out of ring action surrounding Zombie’s return was the best part about it.
In what was a really underrated and underwatched card, last weekend’s card of Demetrius Johnson defending his belt against Wilson Reis was really high on entertainment. Johnson showed just how dominant he really was in the division, toying with Reis for three rounds before nearly knocking him out before switching to a quick armbar and finishing the fight. The card also had fantastic performances from Rose Namajunas and Robert Whittacker, along with a fiesty win from another flyweight Tim Elliott. Also Roy Nelson lost again, and what’s a good card without a Roy Nelson loss. The card ended up bringing in the worst ratings for a UFC on Fox fight in history, so even on the good days this year it’s felt worse than it actually is for the UFC.
Swanson vs Lobov won’t change that dynamic no matter what happens in the ring, but with a likely good fight between a striking magician in Cub Swanson and a powerful featherweight in Artem Lobov who are likely to take this to the distance or at least far into it. The Russian Hammer has only been knocked out once in 25 fights and Swanson who has also only been knocked out once in 31 fights. With both of these fighters wanting the fight to stay on the feet and neither one going into it expecting an early knock out, you can expect to see some really good striking from both of these guys for 25 minutes before one of them (Cub) is declared the winner. This should be an all out brawl and a lot of fun for both of these guys, as Lobov called out Swanson after seeing him fight Choi at UFC 206 and Swanson didn’t take lightly to a guy that was unranked thinking he would win. Swanson should win this one, but don’t expect it to be an easy fight. Lobov is strong for 145 and Swanson might spend a lot of energy in his flurries and could get caught with Lobov’s patience in the octagon and get counterstruck. After all, what kind of friend would Conor McGregor be if he didn’t teach Lobov the beauty of counter punching.