Swanson got to this point of seemingly a win away from a title shot, by winning six in a row, earning two Fight of the Night honors and two more KO of the Night rewards during this streak. Edgar, the former UFC lightweight champ, has won two straight and after a year absence, he returned in July with a spectacular TKO win over the great B.J. Penn.
Penn announced his retirement after the fight, his third loss in a never to be forgotten trilogy with Edgar. True to his form Edgar was mixed almost to the point of apology for beating Penn again. Such is the dignity, along with a rapid fire pacing he brings to every fight. Rematches and title chances are the norm as well for Edgar. He lost his lightweight title to Benson Henderson via unanimous decision and then dropped a controversial split decision rematch in 2012. He followed that by dropping in class to featherweight and immediately getting a title shot against Jose Aldo at UFC 156. He lost by unanimous decision, his third straight loss. It was unprecedented territory for the 33 year old. Still he has never been finished, all decision setbacks, which makes this matchup so interesting.
Though coming off a unanimous decision victory over Jeremy Stephens, the 31 year old Swanson is regarded as a finisher, 15 of his 21 triumphs have been decided by either knockout or submission. He has been the gate keeper along the way for the UFC, Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver, Charles Oliveira, Ross Pearson all have had to go, unsuccessfully, through Swanson to move up the ladder of the division. With a win over Edgar, he’ll have his first opportunity at a belt since dropping a title eliminator in the WEC to Aldo in 2009. So, is he the man who will finally stop Edgar? Before and during a recent taping for Inside MMA, Swanson downplayed anything other than “this will be a full out fight,” while throwing in words “respect,” “tough opponent,” and “great challenge” in praise of Edgar.
Another thing that makes this fight so intriguing is the demeanor of both men. It’s about merit, not about who reigns on social media, or postures better for the cameras. It is the essence of martial arts, at least what it once was, where two fighters are focused on the matter at hand with discipline and a nod to their fellow combatant for the effort. The most publicity generated outside of that for this fight, has been the tweets and interviews from the colorful Conor McGregor who is hyping himself as the guy who should be facing Aldo next. He’s even slid in some verbal shots at Swanson, who has deflected them with deftness, not allowing anything or anyone to upstage what is his biggest career fight.
This has all the intensity of a title fight and Edgar is at a stage where an amazing seven of his last nine fights have been title fights. This is possibly his final chance to show that he is deserving to be right in the middle of conversation, that will no doubt be the right of the winner in this one. It is a deep division, and neither man can afford to slip down in the rankings with others also eagerly and deservingly awaiting their moment.
That’s it, two of the best in their weight class, with exciting histories in the octagon, with a belt dangling just out of reach. Nothing more needs to be said and these are two men who’ve always done their best talking with action. If that’s old school, pay attention—class is in session Saturday night.
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