A pair of gun-slinging welterweights will christen the UFC on Fox 5 main card with fireworks, as gritty brawler Matt Brown meets resurrected slugger Mike Swick. The sure-fire dog-fight is the first of 4 total fights set for the Fox broadcast, which is captained by the lightweight title affair between Ben Henderson and Nate Diaz and airs at 8:00 p.m. ET on the heels of the FX preliminary card at 5:00 p.m.
No one believes that Matt Brown (15-11) will become the UFC welterweight champion one day, or even make a charge for the #1 contender spot. His record is one of the most lackluster you’ll find for a top-level fighter nowadays. His personality isn’t overly brash, humble, or memorable, and he’s not the type to attract legions of new fans with a silver-tongued promo. He doesn’t even have a mohawk or pink hair.
But that’s exactly what makes him a special fighter.
A resonating aspect of the Pride Fighting Championships organization was the manner in which a competitor was gauged more by his fortitude and courageousness than whether his hand was raised at the end; “budo” and spirit over black-and-white results. And that appreciative perspective is where Brown shines.
It wasn’t too long ago that Brown suffered 3-straight losses in the UFC, all by submission, then scored a momentum-building win … only to succumb to a guillotine choke from Seth Baczynski. For those who, at the time, were questioning why he wasn’t released, the answer can be found in the scintillating 3-fight win streak that Brown responded with. On the verge of extinction after dropping 4 of his 5 fights in 2010-2011, “The Immortal” has taken 2012 by storm with a pair of highlight-reel TKOs (Chris Cope, Luis Ramos) and one of the gutsiest comebacks of the year (unanimous decision over Stephen Thompson).
But standing before him on Saturday is Mike Swick (15-4), a cast member on the inaugural series of The Ultimate Fighter who will gladly oblige Brown in a rugged slug-fest. Swick ignited his UFC career with 2 devastating 20-second knockouts followed by 2 submissions inside the 3-minute mark, earning the nickname “Quick” in the process. In addition to sharing Brown’s affinity for trading leather, Swick is a lengthily proportioned welterweight as well, edging out Brown (6’0″, 76″) by an inch in both height and reach.
They differ in that Swick was once a legitimate, rising contender at middleweight and, after being out-muscled by Yushin Okami, did the same at welterweight by piecing together a 3-fight roll before Dan Hardy won their #1 contender bout circa 2009. When Paulo Thiago convincingly handled him for back-to-back defeats, Swick disappeared while battling an unusual digestive issue from February of 2010 until this August, where he re-emerged victoriously with a 2nd-round TKO of DaMarques Johnson.
While both competitors are pretty solid all the way around — with Brown’s submission defense (not offense) being the only glaring flaw on the table — it’s hard to imagine this unfolding as anything other than a good ol’ fashioned slobber-knocker. Brown might have a slight edge in the wrestling department while Swick brings the superior submission (or at least “guillotine”) skills, but the likely turnout is that these gentlemen will let their hands dictate their destinies.
If we categorize the stand-up portion of combat into fringe striking, typical in-the-pocket distance, phone-booth range and clinch-work, I think each candidate has a claim to being favored in 2 apiece.
- Fringe Range: even though Swick has an inch of reach on Brown, he actually seems quite uncomfortable from the perimeter of striking range. Most of Swick’s intentions are to find a way to slice inward to transmit his flurries at closer quarters, and he doesn’t rely on a jab very often or really use many long, traversing punches at all. Most of Swick’s punches are bent-arm hooks whereas Brown extends outward with lengthy jabs, nasty roundhouse kicks to the body and head and a killer right cross. Advantage: Brown.
- Standard Range: this is where Swick starts wreaking havoc with his range, and also where he seems most comfortable. While his length could be better applied from outside, his propensity for looping hooks and overhands is deadly at this distance because his length transforms to added power on his punches. Along with his reach and striking heft, Swick has a fast set of hands and does volumetric damage at this distance — though he is prone to defensive lapses and counter-punching as well. Advantage: Swick.
- Phone Booth Range: once Swick gets some rhythm from standard striking range, his specialty is moving in closer to unload the cannons at phone-booth range. In fact, Swick’s entire highlight reel of knockouts could basically be described as flowing from standard range into close quarters while throwing fight-ending heaters. Now, these ranges can change in an instant and Brown is still a force to be reckoned with here, but this is where Swick has historically been at his best. Advantage: Swick.
- Clinch Range: Brown is an unrelenting assassin in the clinch. He likes to grab the single collar tie and mash short, wicked elbows with his free hand or go with the double neck tie and bombard a fast and heavy succession of knees to the head and body. For anyone doubting the voracity of Brown’s clinch assault, just re-watch his cold-blooded dismantling of the hefty John Howard, which was accomplished almost exclusively by pinging long shots on the fringe and clubbing him mercilessly at close range. Advantage: Brown.
With a fairly even outlook throughout the various ranges of striking, the swaying factor is Brown’s invincible chin. He’s never lost by TKO and the only instance I can recall of him being flustered by strikes was against Thompson, a karate phenom. Swick can take a punch as well — Chris Leben is the only fighter who owns a TKO victory over him, though he’s been rocked on the feet and much more attentive to his offense than his defense.
Brown has a specific Achilles Heel with submission defense. His submission offense and grappling overall are actually quote sound, as evinced by the slick scissors sweep he hit on Baczynski and his armbar over Ryan Thomas. He’ll have to be particularly cautious of Swick’s guillotine, though that really only applies when Brown lowers his posture in the clinch or shoots takedowns; neither of which are integral to his arsenal.
Swick comes in as a slight favorite on the betting lines, but I think Brown’s gritty toughness and kitchen sink for a chin for carry him to a finish or a decision.
My Prediction: Matt Brown by TKO.
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