The UFC often likes to lead off their main cards with fights that are likely to entertain. In that respect, they chose an excellent match to lead off the main card of UFC 152, as Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson are almost guaranteed to produce a great fight.
Striking: A striking match between Oliveira and Swanson is competitive, but I would have to favor Swanson. Oliveira is a fairly tall featherweight, and has decent punches and knees, but has also shown he can be bullied by a superior striker. Such was the case against Donald Cerrone, who really schooled Oliveira in the striking game when they fought. Swanson is no Cerrone when it comes to striking, but he’s a solid striker, one who out-struck Ross Pearson in his last fight, and George Roop before that, stopping both fighters by TKO. Oliveira might seek to duplicate Jose Aldo’s lightning-fast flying knee KO of Swanson, but overall, I think Swanson has better boxing, and a better chance to win by knockout.
Wrestling: Pure wrestling is likely to be somewhat irrelevant in this fight. Swanson is almost certain to try to keep this fight standing, but if Oliveira goes for the ground game, as I think he will, he’s unlikely to do it with standard takedown attempts. Oliveira is the kind of fighter who will dive for a leg, and then immediately transition to a leglock attempt of some sort. Or run forward at Swanson and jump guard, or even try to jump right on his back. The challenge for Swanson is going to be keeping Oliveira at bay, when Oliveira will likely be just fine with being on the ground, even if he’s in bottom position. In the UFC to date, the only fighter to avoid the ground game entirely against Oliveira was Donald Cerrone, so if history is any indication, Swanson will have to grapple at some point.
Submissions: Oliveira is a wild man on the ground. His submission wins in the UFC are: guillotine choke, calf slicer, rear naked choke, and armbar. He’ll go for anything and everything, and he’ll take risks to do it. That backfired on Oliveira when he faced Jim Miller, a man with a fantastic ground game, and good fundamentals. While Oliveira went for a chain of submission attempts on Miller, he left his leg exposed, and Miller grabbed it for a kneebar victory. I don’t think Swanson has the skill on the ground or the presence of mind to capitalize on such a mistake. My feeling is that Swanson will focus his efforts on getting back to his feet, which is probably a good plan, but also means that the submission game is all Oliveira.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira by submission. Cub Swanson has five career losses, and three of those are by submission. The most recent of those was against Ricardo Lamas at the first UFC on Fox event, by arm-triangle choke in the second round, in a fight Swanson was likely winning. Now, there’s always a possibility Swanson catches Oliveira and knocks him out, but if he doesn’t, he’ll probably have to deal with a tornado of wild grappling and submission attempts. I don’t see Swanson going three rounds without getting caught.