The race for the next shot at Jose Aldo’s featherweight crown is currently in full force, and the main event tilt between Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar at UFC Fight Night 57 was set to clear up that particular picture.
Swanson brought his six-fight winning streak and red-hot climb up the 145-pound ranks into Austin, Texas on Saturday night, while the resilient former lightweight champion hoped to make the Palm Springs native a crucial rung on his ladder back toward another championship opportunity.
Yet, while both fighters had momentum coming into the bout, it was the Jackson/Winkeljohn-trained fighter who carried the highest stakes. In the weeks leading up to the event, UFC President Dana White promised Swanson a title shot should he defeat The Answer at Fight Night 57, therefore setting the table for the opportunity Killer Cub had been battling to obtain for the past two years.
That said, the pressure was equally as heavy on Edgar’s shoulders. The scrappy New Jersey native broke out of a three-fight skid in mid-2013 by collecting back-to-back victories over tough competition. The 33-year-old former 155-pound titleholder’s most recent win came at the expense of MMA legend BJ Penn, as Edgar beat the proverbial brakes off of The Prodigy to sweep their trilogy at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale back in July.
Nevertheless, despite notching two solid victories in the featherweight ranks, his loss to Aldo back in 2013 has kept him somewhat landlocked in the 145-pound title picture. A victory over Swanson on Saturday night would drastically change that situation, while a loss would bump him out of contender status for the foreseeable future.
Both knew what was at stake coming into Fight Night 57, and it was all Edgar when the cage door closed. The fighting pride of Toms River put Swanson on his back consistently throughout the fight and battered him from top position with punches and elbows. With the final seconds of the bout ticking down, Edgar took Swanson’s back and locked in the fight-ending neck crank to get the victory.
It was Edgar’s biggest win to date as a featherweight and catapults him back into title contention in the 145-pound mix.
In addition to the lopsided main event, there was plenty of face-punching action on Saturday night in Austin. Let’s take a look at the good, bad and strange from Fight Night 57.
The Frankie Edgar who showed up at Fight Night 57 is quite possibly the best Frankie Edgar to ever step inside the Octagon.
I know that seems strange to say considering the impressive run he made as the lightweight champion, but there is just something different about the current version of The Answer. The 33-year-old New Jersey native is keeping Father Time in check, and that showed on Saturday night in his bout against Swanson.
Whereas the Toms River representative has historically taken damage early on and has been forced to battle through adversity, this current version of Edgar has the former champion working a systematic game plan that goes full throttle from start to finish. That was the approach he took when he battered BJ Penn back in July, and then he repeated a similar performance against Swanson.
After a brief period where the two fighters felt each other out, Edgar secured the takedown and put Swanson on the canvas. The Answer would repeat this process for the next four rounds as he pounded away on Swanson with punches and elbows until he locked in the fight-ending neck crank with just seconds remaining on the clock.
By defeating Swanson, Edgar not only notched his third consecutive victory but solidified himself in the crowded title picture. To put it in simple terms: Edgar is on a tear, and it’s going to be interesting to see what route the UFC travels with the resurgent scrapper.
Keeping with the theme of bouncing back, Edson Barboza‘s performance against Bobby Green on Saturday night certainly qualifies.
The Brazilian striking phenom came into the tilt one win removed from being submitted by Donald Cerrone back in April and needed a victory over the surging Strikeforce crossover to keep things rolling. And that’s exactly what he accomplished at Fight Night 57. Despite Green’s taunts and constant forward pressure, Barboza kept his composure and capitalized on opportunities left and right with big kicks and punching combinations.
Granted, Barboza took off the proverbial gas in the final seconds of the fight, but that didn’t take away from the impressive performance he put on to derail Green’s 10-fight winning streak and pick up his fifth victory in his past six outings.
While it’s going to take something special for Joseph Benavidez to get another flyweight title shot while Demetrious Johnson holds the belt, the Team Alpha Male staple hasn’t slowed his efforts to get back into contention. The Sacramento-based fighter took another strong step on Saturday night when he went toe-to-toe with surging prospect Dustin Ortiz in what turned out to be an action-packed, rock em’, sock em’ affair. When the proverbial smoke cleared, it was Benavidez with his hand raised as he picked up his fifth victory in his last six showings.
Staying in the flyweight division, Chico Camus made the drop down to 125 pounds to try to re-ignite his career after a tough run of luck at bantamweight. The Milwaukee-based fighter drew a tough task in Brad Pickett for his divisional debut, but his improved speed and footwork allowed him to take the edge in a close call on the scorecards in what was a solid first showing in the 125-pound ranks.
Tides can turn quickly when two heavyweights are slinging leather, and Jared Rosholt found out the hard way against Alexey Oliynyk at Fight Night 57. While the Team Take Down fighter was battering the 37-year-old Russian, The Boa Constrictor dug deep and landed a huge left hand that sent Rosholt crashing to the canvas in the first round. With the win, Oliynyk secured his second UFC victory and the 50th win of his professional career.
When a fighter is away from the cage for nearly two years, a bit of ring rust is to be expected, but that wasn’t the case with Matt Wiman on Saturday night. He stepped in against seasoned veteran Isaac Vallie-Flagg and outlasted the Jackson/Winkeljohn-trained fighter in a gritty three-round war where both fighters exchanged shots in close quarters. When the final bell sounded, it was the The Ultimate Fighter 5 alumnus who took the unanimous decision on the scorecards and picked up his first win since September 2012.
James Vick’s undefeated record appeared to be in trouble when Nick Hein dropped him twice in the opening round, but The Texecutioner rebounded in the final two rounds. The TUF alumnus used his length and movement to counter the power shots the bulky German prospect was throwing and turned the tides to pick up the unanimous-decision victory. With the win, Vick has now found success in all seven of his showings as a professional, with three of those victories coming under the UFC banner.
The lightweight division is arguably the most talent-rich weight class under the promotional banner, and Akbarh Arreola came into his tilt with Yves Edwards looking to establish himself in the 155-pound fold. The touted submission specialist wasted zero time taking it to the savvy veteran as he steamrolled the Thugjitsu Master with heavy kicks and punches until he locked in a fight-ending armbar for the first-round finish.
Paige VanZant may have been bumped from Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter due to being under the legal drinking age, but she made the most of her time under the bright lights at Fight Night 57. The 20-year-old strawweight worked a relentless pace against Kailin Curran until she finally put the Team Reign representative away with a flurry of ground-and-pound in the final frame. While 12 Gauge Paige found herself in some tough spots in the opening round, she battled through and put an impressive cap on her official UFC debut.
There was solid hype behind Doo Ho Choi’s arrival to the UFC, and the South Korean prospect only needed 18 seconds to put a stamp on his debut. The Korean Superboy blasted Juan Manuel Puig with a counter right hand that put the AKA-trained fighter on the canvas. With his opponent hurt, the 23-year-old talent pounced to seal the deal in an impressive first showing inside the Octagon.
While it wasn’t the best performance of his young career, Ruslan Magomedov did enough to get the job done against UFC newcomer Josh Copeland on Saturday night. The Russian heavyweight prospect kept the Denver-based slugger at bay by mixing up his punches and kicks in solid combinations that never allowed Copeland to unload his powerful right hand. When the final bell sounded, the AKA product took the victory on the judges’ scorecards to earn his second win under the UFC banner.
Edwards’ time competing inside the Octagon may have come to an end on Saturday night.
The American Top Team staple was once considered to be one of the best lightweight fighters on the planet, but the past four years have told a much different story, as the savvy veteran has struggled to stay in the win column. And while he has notched some solid victories and performances over this stretch, the past year has been nothing short of disastrous for the lightweight pioneer.
Coming into his tilt with Arreola at Fight Night 57, the Thugjitsu Master had found victory in only one of his past five showings and desperately needed a win on to hold onto his roster spot. Unfortunately for Edwards, things wouldn’t shake out that way as he was submitted via armbar in the opening round of the bout. Arreola pressed the action from the opening bell, and Edwards had no answer to the onslaught that came his way.
While the loss won’t do any favors for Edwards, it could signal the 38-year-old veteran to bring to an end what has been a solid career.
A third consecutive loss inside the Octagon is never a good thing, and that is the reality Vallie-Flagg is now facing. The gritty veteran suffered his third straight setback on Saturday night when he came out on the business end of a unanimous decision against Wiman. While Ike gives everything he has when the cage door closes, it ultimately comes down to winning fights, and he hasn’t notched a victory since his UFC debut back in February 2013.
That said, his fighting style and personality are fan-friendly, and if he gets another chance inside the Octagon, he has to make the most of it.
While this category is usually filled with a few curious happenings that went down on fight night, there wasn’t much strange to be found on Saturday night in Austin. All the ruckus inside the Octagon was fairly straightforward, and no fighters were stricken with digestive issues or uniform malfunctions as we’ve seen in the past.
Outside of Edgar looking more like 23 than 33 years old, and the mysterious re-emergence of Wiman to take and win his first fight in nearly two years, things were pretty much calm in the typically chaotic waters of UFC Fight Night. That’s strange enough for me and a telling sign to get out of Dodge while the getting is good.
Take care, fight fans. Until next time.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC