Saturday’s UFC Vegas 78 co-main event found veteran Cub Swanson returning to 145lbs following a failed experiment at bantamweight, while Canada’s Hakeem Dawodu had arguably the biggest name of his career to contend with.
Hall of Famer Swanson had been felled by leg kicks last time out, losing to Jonathan Martinez in his lone 135lb fight. Dawodu, like Martinez, was another up-and-comer, and hoping to jump into the rankings with a win over “Killer Cub.”
Early on, leg kicks were the focus, with both Swanson and Dawodu chopping away. Clearly, Dawodu had done his homework. Swanson then got his hands going, connecting with a jab and a right hand off of it that had Dawodu backpedalling. On the next exchange, it was Dawodu landing a jab, and Swanson ripping the body.
As the round progressed, Swanson began the have issues on his entries, met often by either a crisp punch or sharp leg kick from Dawodu. Towards the final minute, a fiery exchange saw both men land. In the final moments of the round, Swanson grazed Dawodu with a high kick.
Round two opened with Swanson landing a trio of uppercuts in the clinch. Another clinch saw him rip the body further, but Dawodu was able to drive him into the fence. Swanson reversed, Dawodu reversed in kind, and knees were exchanged in close. Swanson then got off the fence and broke free, but Dawodu landed a leg kick with a snap, then connected up top, a couple of punches finding their mark. The leg kick continued to be there for Dawodu, who took Swanson back to the fence in the final 90 seconds.
The dying seconds of the round saw Swanson free himself, an initiate a stand-and-bang sort of brawl. Arguably down in the fight, he was far from out of it.
Swanson was aggressive again to start the third, getting his hands going and mixing in a spinning kick. Dawodu showed some flash of his own, but it was Swanson landing a throw shortly after. All for naught as Dawodu was immediately back to his feet— leading to him pressing Swanson into the fence again. The ref didn’t let Dawodu stay there long, warning him for low blows and taking the position. After restarting, Dawodu put on another clinch, and Swanson ripped the body, until “Mean” Hakeem grazed the cup again. Another warning, another loss of position for Dawodu.
On the restart, Swanson blocked a head kick. Swanson went back to the body. Dawodu fired a step-in elbow, and Swanson changed levels, landing a solid double-leg takedown at center with just over a minute remaining. Dawodu closed his guard momentarily, but Swanson was soon able to step over. In a scramble, Dawodu made it up, but Swanson took the back with 10 seconds to go! Dawodu survived, but the third was certainly Swanson’s best round.
Come the scorecards, all three judges scored it for Swanson, who was emotional after the fight. “I’ve got a name now, and people expect greatness,” the veteran stated, after admitting that he didn’t think he’d done enough to get the win.
Official Result: Cub Swanson def. Hakeem Dawodu by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)