April 27, 2017

UFC Fight Night 108: Mapping Out The Current UFC Featherweight Title Picture

By Adam Martin

The UFC’s featherweight division is one of the most exciting weight classes in the promotion, and in the next few months the title picture will become much more clear. Following Cub Swanson’s unanimous decision victory over Artem Lobov in a “Fight of the Night” performance at UFC Fight Night 108, the Jackson-Wink product said that he wants a featherweight title shot against the winner of UFC 212’s title unification bout between champ Jose Aldo and interim champ Max Holloway.

With Swanson on a four-fight win streak and the recipient of back-to-back “Fight of the Night” awards, he’s certainly got an argument. But here’s the problem, aside from the fact that beating Lobov shouldn’t net anyone a title shot: Swanson’s already lost to both Aldo and Holloway, and neither fight was close.

Sure, you can argue the Aldo fight was a long time ago, back in WEC, and that a rematch would be more intriguing than the first fight, when Swanson lost via flying-knee KO in the first minute of the fight, so if Aldo beats Holloway then there is the opportunity for Swanson to get his long-awaited title shot. But the Holloway fight against Swanson was only two years ago, and that fight was a complete beatdown, so if Holloway beats Aldo for the belt, there’s a good chance Swanson is going to get passed up for the title shot. So while there is the possibility Swanson gets a title shot like he asked for, there’s also a good chance he doesn’t, particularly if Yair Rodriguez has something to say about it.

Rodriguez, who is the hottest prospect in the featherweight division at the moment, faces the biggest test of his career in May at UFC 211 against former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. This is a really hard fight for Rodriguez, as Edgar is elite at 145 lbs, but if Rodriguez can beat him then it will be really hard to deny Rodriguez a title shot. It’s clear that WME-IMG and the UFC brass really likes Rodriguez and sees massive star potential in him, so the win over Edgar would almost certainly garner him a title shot.

Should Edgar win, though, it messes things up since he’s already lost to Aldo, so Edgar would be rooting for Holloway to win so he could possibly skip past Swanson in the title shot order, since Edgar did destroy Swanson when they fought two years ago. And as for the other contenders in the division, like Chan Sung Jung and Ricardo Lamas, who are rumored to be fighting one another, as well as Chad Mendes, who returns from suspension later this year, these guys have already had their title shots, and aren’t close to the title picture unless injuries that change things up.

But really, whether Swanson, Rodriguez, or Edgar gets the next title shot will come down to how the Aldo-Holloway fight goes. Should Holloway defeat Aldo, there’s a good chance the UFC does an immediate rematch, which would mean all the other contenders would have to fight again. But if Aldo wins, and Rodriguez beats Edgar, then he’s likely going to get the title shot, which would push Swanson into a reserve role, and would likely mean he has to take another fight.

The UFC featherweight division is as exciting a weight class as there is in the sport, with so many top contenders in contention for the next title shot. It’s going to be really interesting to see how things play out in the next few months, as we find out who actually winds up getting a crack at the belt, as well as who is shut out from it.

UFC Fight Night 108: Swanson vs. Lobov took place April 22, 2017 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

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