It would be hard for any fight to live up to UFC 261’s barn burner of an event, but UFC Vegas already features a banger of the main event and the co-main event is a perfect appetizer as featherweight sluggers Cub Swanson (27-11-0) and Giga Chikadze (12-2-0) meet.
Chikadze, on a five-fight winning streak, is the -160 online betting favorite against longtime UFC veteran Cub Swanson who’s won two straight himself. A spectacular victory for either fighter should propel them up the standings and set them up for an even bigger fight.
- Date: Saturday, May 1, 10 p.m. ET
- Venue: UFC Apex, Enterprise, NA, United States
- Watch on: ESPN 2, ESPN+
Giga Chikadze vs Cub Swanson
Weight Class: Featherweight (145)
Rounds: Three (Co-main Event)
Odds: Cub Swanson +130, Giga Chikadze -160
Fans may find the UFC betting lines suspect here. Swanson has a more extensive and proven track record than Chikadze who is relatively new to the UFC yet he’ll be an underdog. And it isn’t all hype on Chikadze: he is a legitimate kickboxer who is hungry to hunt a big scalp like Swanson.
As for Swanson, he’s still here to prove he belongs. He snapped a four-fight losing streak with two definitive victories and seems to be having a mini-renaissance at age 37. Beating Chikadze should set him up for some more fun tilts down the line.
Swanson: A Dog That Bites
The longtime UFC veteran has been with the promotion since 2007 and has notable victories over Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, and Doo Ho Choi.
Most notably, Swanson has won six of the ten fights he closed as an underdog. That includes his most recent two wins against Daniel Pineda and Kron Gracie.
Swanson is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt but strongly prefers to strike. He fights at a slower and more measured pace landing just 4.64 significant strikes per minute (SLpM) but absorbing just 3.64 in return.
Yet Swanson has KO’d 12 of his 27 opponents. He’s not a power puncher, but he has good timing and hits hard enough to shut out any opponent’s lights. He’s also got an iron chin and has never been KO’d, flying knee from Jose Aldo notwithstanding.
Fading Swanson can be a dangerous bet to make.
Chikadze: More Than Just the “New Flavor”
Giga Chikadze is the latest prospect to make waves in the UFC. The Georgian is a kickboxer that competes in both MMA and kickboxing, simultaneously. While he’s only knocked out one of his five UFC opponents, he’s known for his explosive techniques.
Chikadze throws with both power and precision. His leg kicks have ended opponents in Glory and while he’s not KO’ing his UFC opponents, he’s hurting them throughout the fight. His 3.45 SLpM at a 43% is nothing to sneeze at.
But Chikadze is far from just being the new hot prospect. He trains under Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, the place that produced former UFC champions Rafael dos Anjos and Fabricio Werdum.
While he has yet to work out the rest of his MMA game, Chikadze is already one of the best strikers in the division. Standing with him would be asking for trouble. Even against a veteran like Swanson, Chikadze has the advantage.
I see the appeal of siding with Swanson as an underdog. He has the striking acumen and veteran savvy to give even the blue chip prospects a run for their money. He’s already turned back the likes of Choi, Pineda, and Gracie. Usually, only the elite of the division get past Swanson.
But Chikadze, as unproven as he is, has what it takes to be a part of this “elite”. Sure, he doesn’t have much of a ground game. That’s not really a prerequisite to be a contender as we’ve seen from the likes of Conor McGregor and Israel Adesanya.
Furthermore, Swanson will likely try to beat Chikadze at his own game: striking. The Californian has only landed one takedown in his last six fights. This will be where Chikadze can tee off on him as he isn’t just faster but also sports a four-inch reach advantage.
bjpenndotcom (@bjpenndotcom) April 27, 2021
But if Swanson chooses to wrestle, as Chikadze insists he will, he may just edge this one. Of course, Chikadze has worked on his grappling with that realization. But even if he hasn’t, Swanson is not known to control his opponents on the mat and Chikadze, being bigger, can work his way out.
Hats off to the veteran, Swanson. He’s had one hell of a career. But Chikadze should get the better of him and edge this one out.