CUB SWANSON VS. GIGA CHIKADZE
Last year was an important and impactful year for Cub Swanson and Giga Chikadze, for different reasons, and now the featherweight standouts will share the Octagon in Saturday night’s co-main event.
After suffering a torn ACL in a grappling event towards the end of 2019, the 37-year-old Swanson returned to action in mid-December, registering a second-round knockout win over Daniel Pineda at UFC 256. While it was his second consecutive victory after outworking Kron Gracie in the fall of 2019, the win served as a reminder that “Killer Cub” still has plenty left in the tank and remains a dangerous, experienced force in the featherweight division.
Where last year marked Swanson’s return to prominence, 2020 was Chikadze’s coming out party, as the Georgian kickboxer registered four victories in nine months, pushing his UFC record to 5-0 and his overall winning streak to seven. What stood out most about the Kings MMA product’s productive campaign was that his efforts and results improved with each appearance, beginning with a split decision win over Jamall Emmers, followed by unanimous decision triumphs over Irwin Rivera and Omar Morales, and capped by a first-round finish of Jamey Simmons.
Swanson was a fixture in the Top 15 for a number of years and remains a stern test for any up and comer looking to break into the rankings. He’s a major step up in competition for Chikadze and the exact type of savvy, fully formed veteran that can halt his win streak in a hurry.
Conversely, this is precisely the type of fight the 32-year-old striker has been seeking — a high profile pairing against an established foe that could carry him into the Top 15, while truly establishing him as one to keep a close eye on going forward in the crowded 145-pound ranks.
ION CUTELABA VS. DUSTIN JACOBY
Light heavyweights currently moving in opposite directions clash in Las Vegas as Ion Cutelaba looks to halt a two-fight skid against Dustin Jacoby, who has gone 2-0 since punching his ticket back to the UFC last summer on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Cutelaba spent 2020 locked in a protracted battle with Magomed Ankalaev. After their first encounter in February was stopped prematurely while the Moldovan powerhouse was pantomiming being hurt, the pair was booked to run it back on three different occasions, finally sharing the Octagon for a second time at UFC 254.
That night, Ankalaev earned a clear first-round knockout victory, defeating Cutelaba for a second time, and handing the 27-year-old his third loss in his last four fights.
UFC 261 FLASHBACK: Final Results | The Scorecard
Jacoby pressed pause on his MMA career in 2015, three years after his second UFC appearance, and shifted his focus to kickboxing. He transitioned back to MMA in the spring of 2019 and last summer, he landed a return invite to the Octagon by outlasting Ty Flores on the Contender Series.
Less than three months later, the 33-year-old Factory X Muay Thai representative registered his first UFC win with a first-round stoppage victory over Justin Ledet. Earlier this year, Jacoby made it two-for-two since returning to the UFC with a unanimous decision win over Maxim Grishin.
There is plenty of opportunity for advancement in the light heavyweight ranks at the moment, so a victory here is vital if either man hopes to make a run at the Top 15 before the year is out.