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This weekend the UFC featherweight division may find its next title contender as Frankie Edgar squares off against Cub Swanson in a matchup between two of the best in the world at 145 pounds.
Edgar has won his last two fights, beating Charles Oliveira before retiring BJ Penn in his third victory over the UFC legend. Swanson is riding an even more impressive six-fight win streak, with five of those victories coming by way of knockout. The winner will be in prime position to ask for a title shot, so this is a huge fight for both competitors.
Also on the card, Bobby Green looks to keep his UFC record perfect when he takes on Edson Barboza, who has become one of the deadliest strikers in the entire sport with his unorthodox and paralyzing kicks.
To gear up for this weekend's card in Austin, today’s fantasy preview will focus on the main card for UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson, breaking down the key matchups, including the five-round featherweight main event.
FRANKIE EDGAR (-260 FAVORITE) VS. CUB SWANSON (+180 UNDERDOG)
Say what you will about BJ Penn's lone performance at 145 pounds, but Frankie Edgar's complete domination of the former lightweight champion showed that he might be the best he's ever been as he approaches this weekend's fight against Cub Swanson. Edgar has been a champion or title contender for the biggest part of the last four years, and that won't likely change this weekend.
Edgar has developed some of the best boxing in the sport, with lightning quick combinations helping him to land the third most significant strikes in UFC history, while his good head movement and footwork showcases the third best striking defense in lightweight history. It's hard to forget, based on Edgar's hands, that his bread and butter is still a stifling wrestling game where he's put lightweight opponents down a total of 42 times. He also remains the only person to ever take featherweight champion Jose Aldo down twice in the same fight.
Swanson certainly won't back down from the challenge because he knows with one more win he could be staring down a title shot in 2015. Swanson is a dangerous finisher with the second most knockouts in UFC/WEC featherweight history and what bodes well for him is the fact that he's a distance striker. He lands 75.7 percent of his strikes from the outside, which helps considering he'll employ his hands to try and keep Edgar away from his takedowns.
If there's one style that's given Swanson trouble during his career it's been wrestlers who can impose their will and put him on the mat repeatedly. He struggled against Ricardo Lamas and did the same against Chad Mendes. If Edgar approaches this fight with the same kind of ferocity that he did the Penn fight, he could turn this into a painfully long evening for Swanson
Prediction: Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision
EDSON BARBOZA (-145 FAVORITE) VS. BOBBY GREEN (+105 UNDERDOG)
The odds are on the side of the lower-ranked fighter in this matchup, as Edson Barboza takes on Bobby Green in the co-main event from Austin. Barboza has earned favor with betting experts based on flashes of brilliance where he can decimate an opponent with just one punch or one kick. Barboza has knocked on the door of the top 10 of the lightweight division on a few occasions, but hasn't been able to break through just yet. Is beating Green the way he gets there?
Green is a tough matchup for anyone at 155 pounds. His mix of striking, where he lands 4.56 significant strikes per minute with over 50 percent accuracy, can be tough to handle over the course of three rounds. He also mixes in a good wrestling game, putting fighters down over one-and-a-half times per 15 minutes in the Octagon. What helps Green the most in this matchup is his outstanding defense. He avoids over 70 percent of his opponent's strikes, and that will definitely help him as he faces a striker as dangerous as Barboza.
The fight really comes down to Green putting together combinations to hurt Barboza and back him off his stand-up attack or whether the Brazilian can find the slightest opening to slip through one of his kicks to put Green out once and for all. Green has never actually been knocked out (there’s one TKO on his record when he retired between rounds) and he's taken on some very good strikers during his career. If Green can avoid Barboza's explosive kicks, he should be able to rack up enough points to eke out a decision. But don't be shocked at all if Barboza cracks him with a few leg kicks and then goes upstairs to put him away before the final bell sounds.
Prediction: Bobby Green by unanimous decision
JARED ROSHOLT (-230 FAVORITE) VS. OLEKSIY OLIYNYK (+170 UNDERDOG)
If there's another potential upset to watch on the main card, it comes in the heavyweight bout between American wrestler Jared Rosholt and submission machine Oleksiy Oliynyk.
On paper, this looks like it could be another wrestling-heavy performance from Rosholt, who has shut down virtually every opponent he's faced in the UFC with his high-level grappling, takedowns and ability to grind somebody into the dirt. There may not be a better heavyweight wrestler in the UFC right now outside of champion Cain Velasquez. Rosholt lands takedowns with just over 45 percent accuracy, and once he's on top he's a load to handle.
Oliynyk could be an interesting test, however, because he also loves to drag fights to the mat and he has a devastating submission game from the top. He has a variety of finishes, including a variation of the neck crank that he's won his last two fights in a row with, and if Rosholt isn't careful, he could be number three. Oliynyk isn't a bad striker either, landing just over 45 percent of his shots, but he'll be looking for this one to get on the mat. and a tireless attitude and top position could spell Rosholt's doom.
The smart money remains on Rosholt by decision, but if you're a risk taker, picking Oliynyk by submission wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.
Prediction: Jared Rosholt by decision
JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ (-400 FAVORITE) VS. DUSTIN ORTIZ (+280 UNDERDOG)
If you're looking for a virtual lock on the main card, it comes in the fight with the greatest odds and a flyweight destined to stay at the top of the division for a long time to come.
Joseph Benavidez is a wrecking machine at 125 pounds, and throughout his career he's tasted defeat on a few occasions, but he's only lost to the very best. Benavidez has two career losses to Dominick Cruz at bantamweight and two more to Demetrious Johnson at flyweight. That's it. In other words, Dustin Ortiz is going to have to pull off a massive upset to get the job done in this one.
Benavidez keeps a blistering pace with fast hands and feet, his wrestling is off the charts and his submission game is one of the best in the world in the lighter weight divisions. Ortiz has struggled to separate himself from the pack when he's been fighting in the UFC. All of his fights but one have gone to decision. The three decisions have all been split, with two going in Ortiz's direction and one against him.
Benavidez won't allow things to get that close. He'll set the pace early and wait for Ortiz to make a mistake and then he'll pounce. Benavidez likes to accomplish the impossible and Ortiz has never been finished. Look for Benavidez to add another accolade to his resume with this one.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez by submission