UFC Fight Night 44 was all about the main event, and against Jeremy Stephens (23-10 MMA, 10-9 UFC), Cub Swanson (21-5 MMA, 6-1 UFC) delivered the goods with his sixth consecutive UFC victory.
Between his UFC and WEC careers, Swanson has established himself as one of the top featherweight fighters in history. He showed why inside San Antonio’s AT&T Center with a gutsy, yet technical, showing over five rounds to walk away with the decision win.
Swanson wasn’t the only fighter to get his hand raised at the FOX Sports 1-televised event. Kelvin Gasteum (9-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), Cezar Ferreira (8-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC), Ricardo Lamas (14-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC), Clint Hester (11-3 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and Joe Ellenberger (15-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) were also victorious.
After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Joe Silva’s (and Sean Shelby’s) shoes, and play UFC matchmaker.
* * * *
Should fight: Carlos Diego Ferreira
Why they should fight: Ellenberger was successful in his UFC debut by the narrowest of margins, which, despite his impressive record, proved he needs some more time to develop before facing top-tier UFC lightweights.
The twin brother of UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger defeated James Moontasri by split decision in a fight that was far from pretty. Just before that, Ferreira (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) needed just 38 seconds to run through Colton Smith in his promotional debut.
Both men are new to the UFC and own stellar pro records. They’re both 29, and if one has to suffer a bump in the road, it’s best that it takes place now while they still have plenty of time to bounce back.
Should fight: Winner of Tim Boetsch vs. Brad Tavares at UFC Fight Night 47
Why they should fight: After eking out his fourth consecutive UFC victory with a split-decision win over Antonio Braga Neto, Hester now looks to break into the middleweight division’s top 15.
“The Ultimate Fighter 17” cast member has started his UFC career on a roll, but as Neto exposed, his ground game is in desperate need of improvement. If he aspires to be a title contender at some point, he’ll need to continue to shore up the holes in his game.
Two middleweights hanging on to their spot at 185 pounds are Boetsch (17-7 MMA, 8-6 UFC) and Tavares (12-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), who fight at UFC Fight Night 47 in August. The loser is likely to be bounced from the upper tier of the division while the winner will be holding on by a thread. Hester would have the opportunity to steal that position.
Should fight: Chan Sung Jung
Why they should fight: Lamas rebounded from his February defeat to UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo with a respectable effort against Hacran Dias to avoid the dreaded second consecutive loss after a failed bid at the title.
Lamas remains a relevant contender with the win, but as long as Aldo has the belt around his waist, “The Bully” is unlikely to be matched against anyone seriously flirting with title contention.
Jung (13-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is in a similar situation following a one-sided defeat to “Scarface” this past August, and he’s also looking at a long climb back up the ladder.
While there’s clearly still hope for both men to make another run at the belt, a signature win is needed. This matchup could provide one.
Should fight: Ed Herman
Why they should fight: It’s always interesting to see how a fighter rebounds from a knockout loss, and after he was finished with strikes in just 39 seconds in his previous bout, Ferreira came back with a strong showing against Andrew Craig.
“The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” winner and Vitor Belfort protege has performed well in his young UFC career and appears ready for the next level of competition in the middleweight division.
Ferreira needs to face a durable veteran to see what he’s really made of, and when it comes to UFC vets, they don’t get much more experienced than Herman (22-10 MMA, 9-6 UFC), who’s been with the organization since 2006.
Herman’s record in the past few years features a mix of wins and losses. He may never progress to the championship level, but he’s certainly capable of separating the pretenders from the contenders. A fight with Ferreira would reveal which category the Brazilian falls into.
Should fight: Stephen Thompson
Why they should fight: The UFC produces many “TUF” winners, but Gastelum looks to be one of the best in recent years. The 22-year-old is improving with every fight, and if he can get his weight issues in check, he’s a dangerous prospect in the welterweight division.
Gastelum entered the UFC a little more than a year ago and was viewed as mostly a grappler. In his past three fights, though, his path to victory has come through beating his opponent on the feet. If he’s determined to keep his fights standing in the future, a fight with Thompson (9-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) may force him to reconsider that decision.
“Wonderboy” is one of the best strikers at 170 pounds and is riding a respectable three-fight UFC winning streak. Thompson most recently defeated “TUF: Smashes” champion Robert Whittaker, and a fight with Gastelum would allow him the opportunity to add another “TUF” champion to his resume.
Should fight: Winner of Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes at UFC 176
Why they should fight: Swanson used his first UFC main event as a platform to make his case got a featherweight title shot. After an exciting decision victory over Stephens, there’s a good chance he punched his ticket for a shot at the winner of Aldo (24-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) vs. Mendes (16-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) II, which takes place at UFC 176.
Since a setback to Lamas in his UFC debut, Swanson has reeled off six consecutive victories and has impressed in each one of those showings. While he holds notable losses to Aldo and Mendes under the now-defunct WEC banner, it’s clear the 30-year-old is seeking a rematch with the champ.
“Scarface” finished Swanson in just eight second in their 2009 bout, and that fight has haunted the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA product ever since. Even though he would happily fight Mendes again if the belt were on the line, Swanson wants to erase the memory of the humiliating flying-knee loss to Aldo.
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 44, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.