Chances seized in San Antonio (UFC Fight Night 44 Review)

MMA: UFC Fight Night 43-Swanson vs StephensIn 2007 a 21-year old rising star would make his UFC debut in the undercard of UFC 71 and would lose that fight via submission. That young inexperienced fighter was Jeremy Stephens and he would not continue losing after a bad opening bout. Stephens would continue to fight in the UFC and after entering the promotion would never be cut. That was in large part due to his ability to string together wins and earn fight bonuses in most of his fights. He would go through most of his long career as one of the most exciting fighters in the lightweight division. During his time in the lightweight division Stephens would take on some of the best in the extremely talented division. With fights against names like Spencer Fisher, Anthony Pettis, Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau, and Donald Cerrone, Stephens has faced some of the best. Still he could never put together enough wins to earn a title shot. It has always been a tough division and to break through is a tough thing as Stephens learned first-hand. After spending 6 years in the lightweight division, Stephens would make a switch looking for new life in his career. Instead of sitting among the middle of the lightweight division and never being able to get to the top of that division Stephens would drop more weight and enter the Featherweight division. The smaller weight class would allow Stephens to be one of the bigger fighters with more power than most featherweights. Starting in his new division, Stephens would take on Rony Jason and would show the power he brought to the division. Stephens would earn the KO win over Jason and would see his performance placed in the top 30 knockouts of 2013. Stephens would move on to face Darren Elkins and would earn another win, this time by unanimous decision. The weight change has been great for Stephens as he has looked better in every fight. He began looking more like a young rising fighter rather than a 7-year veteran in the UFC. He continues to learn and improve through every fight and would head into his third Featherweight fight looking to step up in competition and prove that he truly does belong among the best in the division. As he looked to do this he would have to take on the hottest fighter in the division in Cub Swanson who was riding a 5-fight win streak into his fight. Swanson was a step up in competition in a big way for Stephens but for both fighters it was an odd matchup. Both fighters were so evenly matched on paper as they were very well-rounded with a tendency to stand-up and finish fights. They were slightly different though as Stephens’ stand-up game was very calculated as he waited for the big shot. Swanson, on the other hand, is an active striker with plenty of technical skill that he can pick apart opponents. Meanwhile both fighters would be completely comfortable on the ground if it went there. For both fighters it was an interesting challenge in facing a very similar fighting style and trying to beat an opponent with a best on best challenge. Added to the challenge of the opponent both fighters could see an immediate boost into the title conversation in the division if they could win and win in impressive fashion. There was plenty on the line for either fighter in this match-up and they would come out swinging to get that win. The fight would be just as even as everyone expected with both fighters getting their shots in. Still Jeremy Stephens would come out early with more energy and would press further. Swanson was clearly down two round at the start of the fight until he started to come back in the stand-up game in the third round. From that round Swanson would take control of the fight and for his comeback effort he would get a unanimous decision win. The loss for Stephens would be the latest to end his potential streak as he goes back to look to begin another streak in his new division. Meanwhile Swanson would take the win with three strong rounds that are sure to put him within striking distance of the title fight after extending his streak to 6 wins in a row.

At 20 years old Kelvin Gastelum is the youngest fighter to ever win The Ultimate Fighter when he beat Uriah Hall in the finale of TUF 17. It was an honour that Gastelum was never supposed to win as throughout the show he would be underestimated and seen as too inexperienced to win the show. There was plenty of potential in Gastelum but with some very good more experienced fighters in his way he was expected to lose in almost every fight. He would continue to win though and went on to beat a show favourite in Hall to earn the title of The Ultimate Fighter and a contract in the UFC. The theme of being underestimated has continued in his young UFC career as he is rarely seen as a favourite in his fights and more often than not is overlooked when talking about rising stars in the UFC. At UFC Fight Night 4 he would get the chance to make an impression in the co-main event of the evening. The weekend would not start well for Gastelum as he would miss the weight, not the first time he would miss weight, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many UFC brass. The UFC is not happy when fighters miss weight and if it continues Gastelum may find himself out of the UFC before his career can start. His opponent would make a better impression on fight week as Nico Musoke would easily make weight as he looked to take the chance of fighting in the co-main event and turn it into a way to put him in the conversation of rising stars. Both fighters were looking for the same thing and when they faced off. The match-up was between two relatively young fighters but was seen as a much more polished fighter in Musoke fighting a more inexperienced fighter in Gastelum who doesn’t give up easily. Then again that has been the story of Gastelum’s career as he faced another fight where not many expected him to win. In the first round it seemed as though most people were right as Musoke was able to dominate the fight taking advantage of a likely tired and drawn out Gastelum who had to cut weight a lot longer. That is where the fight would turn though as Gastelum would begin to change things into his favour. The last tow rounds would see a dominate performance by Gastelum and for his final two rounds he would earn a unanimous decision win. It was a chance lost for Musoke as he could not keep Gastelum on the ropes for the entire fight and missed a chance to show the UFC what he has. For Gastelum it was another win that many did not think he would win but one that he ended up dominating. The Despite his lack of weight cut Gastelum continues to be a rising star in the UFC but he will need to learn a lot more discipline if he hops to continue his climb. The second fight of the card of the day would produce at least two fighters who took a chance in the spotlight and made good as UFC Fight Night 44 would give these fighters a chance to show the UFC that they can be stars in their divisions.


Fight Bonuses

Performance of the Night
There were plenty of finishes for the UFC to choose from on the night but the first bonus would go to Carlos Diego Ferreira in his UFC debut after he finished Colton Smith with a Rear Naked Choke in the first round of their fight

Performance of the Night
The night of fights would see plenty of submissions and another submission finish would earn the second performance of the night bonus as Ray Borg took home and extra $50,000 for his rear naked choke finish of Shane Howell

Fight of the Night
The main event was expected to be a great fight between two even fighters and that is exactly what the fans would get as Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens put on a great fight to earn the extra $50,000 bonus for fight of the night


Fight Results

Main Event:
Cub Swanson def. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens
(Unanimous Decision)

Main Card:
Kelvin Gastelum def. Nico Musoke
(Unanimous Decision)

Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira def. Andrew “Highlight” Craig
(Unanimous Decision)

Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas def. Hacran “Barnabe” Dias
(Unanimous Decision)

Clint “Headbussa” Hester def. Antonio Braga Neto
(Split Decision)

Joe “Excalibur” Ellenberger def. James Moontasri
(Split Decision)

Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Colton Smith
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 1)

Cody “The Renegade” Gibson def. “Brutal” Johnny Bedford
(TKO; Rd. 1)

Marcelo “Magrao” Guimaraes def. Andy “Tank Mode” Enz
(Split Decision)

Ray “The Tazmexican Devil” Borg def. “Insane” Shane Howell
(Submission; Rear Naked Choke, Rd. 1)

Oleksiy “The Boa Constrictor” Oliynyk def. Anthony Hamilton
(Submission; Neck Crank, Rd. 1)


Upcoming Events

UC 175: Weidman vs. Machida (Saturday July 5th; 10:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (Mandalay Bay Events Center)
Main Event: Chris “All-American” Weidman vs. Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida [Middlweight Title]
Notable: “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis [Women’s Bantamwieght Title]
Notable: Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve vs. Matt “Meathead” Mitrione

The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale (Sunday July 6th; 8:00 pm ET)
Las Vegas, Nevada (Mandalay Bay Events Center)
Main Event: BJ “The Prodigy” Penn vs. Frankie “The Answer” Edgar
Notable: TUF 19 Middleweight Title [Matchup TBD]
Notable: TUF 19 Light Heavyweight Title [Matchup TBD]

UFC Fight Night 45: Cerrone vs. Miller (Wednesday July 16th; 8:00 pm ET)
Atlantic City, New Jersey (Revel Atlantic City)
Main Event: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. Jim Miller
Notable: John “Hands of Stone” Lineker vs. Alp “The Turkish Delight” Ozkilic
Notable: Gleison Tibau vs. Pat “Bam Bam” Healy

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