The Good, Bad and Strange from UFC Fight Night 57

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 Good

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. 

 

The Bad

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.

 

The Strange

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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4 Fights to Make for Joseph Benavidez

Joseph Benavidez is in a rough spot within the UFC flyweight division. After facing and falling to Demetrious Johnson two times in just about 15 months, he is well out of the title picture. However, he is still ranked No. 2 behind John Dodson. With his win over Dustin Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 57, he moved his record to 8-2 within the Octagon.

The following fight suggestions would allow him to stay active while not eating too many up-and-coming contenders at flyweight. These men are all ranked within the division but are not big-name prospects who would derail their momentum if they lost to Benavidez. These fights will keep him active while allowing him to put together a worthy resume in pursuit of third title shot if he can stay victorious.

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3 Fights to Make for Frankie Edgar After UFC Fight Night 57

Frankie Edgar is somehow still improving, ladies and gents.  

At 33 years old with 23 pro fights under his belt, Edgar should have shown us his full array of skills inside the cage by now.

We’ve seen him in title fights and in No. 1 contender’s fights, we’ve seen him traverse two weight classes, we’ve seen him coach The Ultimate Fighter and, if you were paying close enough attention, we also caught a glimpse of his home and his personal life. 

Really, there isn’t much about Frankie Edgar we haven’t been tuned into, and yet “The Answer” stepped up at UFC Fight Night 57 and looked better than ever, dismantling top challenger Cub Swanson for five rounds before finishing the deed with a last-second submission (literally). 

The win was arguably the best of Edgar’s career, and such a performance begs the question: “Just how good is Frankie Edgar anyway?” 

He’s damn good. His heart, his cardio and his will to win isn’t going anywhere, and his offensive wrestling and top control have looked downright phenomenal in his past two fights, one against BJ Penn and one against Swanson. 

He finished each fight before the final bell and barely ate a punch while doing so. Before the fight with Swanson, Edgar was ranked No. 3 in the division, so there’s not much more vertical movement he can achieve before challenging for Jose Aldo’s title (again). 

Is that what’s next? Edgar certainly seems to think so

Let’s take a look at three fights that make sense for the former UFC lightweight champion moving forward. 

We’ll start with the least likely scenario and progress from there. 

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Diego Sanchez: Frankie Edgar Is the ‘Best Wrestler in MMA,’ Better Than GSP

UFC featherweight contender Frankie Edgar is receiving high praise from fans, reporters and fellow fighters alike after his brutal mauling of Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night 57, but the highest praise may have been that given by lightweight staple Diego Sanchez

Shortly after The Answer scored the latest submission in UFC history, tapping Swanson with a neck crank with just four seconds remaining on the clock, Sanchez took to Twitter to evaluate his performance. 

Georges St-Pierre, the longtime UFC welterweight champion who is currently on a hiatus from the sport, is notorious for being able to get his opponents down to the mat at will. 

Despite not having a decorated amateur wrestling background, St-Pierre’s takedowns have always been regarded as second to none inside the cage. 

Edgar, a standout Division I wrestler during his college days at Clarion University, put on a stunning wrestling clinic in his bout with Swanson. 

Also an assistant wrestling coach at Rutgers University, Edgar went seven for 10 on his takedowns and had no interest in letting the Greg Jackson’s MMA product back up once the bout hit the canvas. 

Additionally, the former UFC lightweight champ utilized slick guard-passing and vicious ground-and-pound before scoring a rare finish with a neck crank in the bout’s waning moments. 

Routinely undersized at lightweight, Edgar managed to score power double-leg takedowns against much larger opponents (such as Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson) on more than one occasion. 

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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UFC Fight Night 57 Results: Winners, Scorecards from Edgar vs Swanson Fight Card

It’s clear Cub Swanson’s takedown defense still needs some work. Frankie Edgar dominated him with excellent wrestling skills en route to a last-second submission win in the fifth round. Per MMA Junkie, Edgar said he would take Swanson’s title shot, and he seemed to have done just that.

Edgar maintained top position for much of the bout and subsequently eliminated Swanson’s striking prowess. From top position, Edgar rained down elbows and punches in a one-sided beatdown.

By the time the fight was over, Swanson’s face was a bloody mess. Per UFC.com, Edgar had landed seven takedowns.

Edgar came in to the fight a lock to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. At 33 years old, The Answer looks to be ready for another title shot. He faced Jose Aldo in Feb. 2013 and lost a close unanimous decision.

It will be interesting to see what he does with another opportunity.

Swanson will likely see his chances at a world title put off once again. After such a decisive loss, it’s hard to tell just where this loss places him in the title picture.

Here’s a look at the rest of the results from Saturday night’s scraps. Just below the table is a brief summary of every bout leading up to the main event.

 

UFC Fight Pass Prelims

Doo Ho Choi Eliminates Juan Puig…Quickly

Choi needed just 18 seconds to stop Puig in the event’s opening fight. The 23-year-old South Korean flattened Puig seconds into the bout and reigned down shots on his fallen foe to get the quick stoppage.

That’s how you make an impression in your UFC debut.

We’ll have to wait to see him in the cage against better opposition, but Choi has the look of an exciting fighter.

 

Knockout Scores a…Knockout

No, this is not a ring-card girl. Paige VanZant is a pretty vicious and relentless strawweight who made an explosive UFC debut of her own. Despite a great effort from her opponent, the 20-year-old stopped Kailin Curran in the very first round with a barrage of punches.

With a very marketable look and some skills to match, VanZant could be on her way to stardom at 115 pounds.

 

Fox Sports 1 Prelims

Akbarh Arreola Overwhelms Yves Edwards

Arreola looked sharp in his stand-up game and even smoother in his transitions from striking to grappling.

A hard right-hand uppercut dropped Edwards early. Arreola pounced and worked his way into an armbar submission win. 

This makes five losses in a row for Edwards. The cut line cometh.

 

Robbery

The first controversial decision of the night came when James Vick somehow won a decision over Nick Hein. Despite a six-inch height disadvantage, Hein floored Vick twice in the first round. He hurt him again in the second round.

Vick showed nice recovery skills, but it seemed as if Hein deserved a 29-28 decision win. Instead, Vick got the decision, and some of the judges even had the bout scored 30-27 in his favor. The MMA community frowned upon these numbers.

 

Roger Narvaez Pulls out a Tough One

For a little over a round, Luke Barnatt looked to be getting the better of Roger Narvaez. The Texan known as The Silverback took over midway through the second round.

In the third, he hurt Barnatt bad and battered him until the final bell.

Narvaez tried diligently to grab a submission victory in the final two minutes, but Barnatt survived with some solid submission defense. Still, two of the three judges were impressed enough with Narvaez‘s work to give him the decision.

Several folks of note didn’t agree with the decision.

 

Ruslan Magomedov Outstrikes Josh Copeland

When the big fellas take the cage, the expectation is that fans will see an explosive knockout. This one went the distance, but it wasn’t because Magomedov and Copeland weren’t throwing with bad intentions.

As it turned out, Magomedov‘s kicks were the story of the bout.

He kept Copeland off balance and hurt the girthy American on one occasion in the second round. Magomedov showed great dexterity for a heavyweight. It’ll be interesting to see him in the future.

 

Main Card

Matt Wiman Outlasts Issac Vallie-Flagg

In a bout that wasn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing, Wiman did the better work from the clinch and showed himself to be the better man on the mat.

He had Vallie-Flagg in danger of being submitted on multiple occasions but couldn’t get the finish. The most compelling part of this scrap came after the final bell. The two men jawed at each other and had to be separated.

Still, it was good to see this one end.

 

Benavidez Wins a Thrilling Scrap

Joseph Benavidez and Dustin Ortiz came to throw bombs. Benavidez rocked his opponent a few times, but to Ortiz’s credit, he bounced back and fired his own shots.

Despite Ortiz’s efforts, Benavidez‘s hands were quicker, and his scrambling was far better when the fight went to the mat. Benavidez needed to string some wins together after being knocked out by flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in Dec. 2013.

Benavidez submitted Tim Elliott in April, and he now adds another strong win to his resume. 

 

Camus Outworks Pickett

One judge for the Brad Pickett-Chico Camus bout must have been blindfolded for 15 minutes. That judge scored this bout three rounds to none in favor of Pickett. Camus didn’t exactly dominate Pickett, but he clearly won the fight.

It might have been feasible to see a scenario where Pickett won two rounds, but to imply that he pitched a shutout was absurd.

In the end, the right man got the decision. Pickett has now lost two fights in a row. At age 36, that’s a dangerous spot for the man from London, England.

 

Barboza‘s Striking Too Much for Green

Edson Barboza‘s kicks troubled Bobby Green from the beginning of the fight. A spinning kick connected in the first round that wobbled Green. Barboza also landed a few hard counterpunches that got Green’s attention. More than anything, the threat of the kicks to the head and legs kept Green from doing the work he normally does in the striking game.

Barboza has won five of his last six fights. He is quickly moving into a place of contention in the lightweight ranks.

 

Follow Brian Mazique on Twitter. I dig boxing and MMA.

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