There are very few fights in MMA that have no losers, and that’s not a reference to draws. Nearly every fight, week in and week out, from the regional scene to the UFC, sees one fighter’s stock rise, and another fall. Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi at UFC 206 bucked that trend.
It was also the UFC Fight of the Year.
For those in attendance, it became clear mid-way through the first round that we were in for something special. By the end of that first frame, the standing ovation was deafening. When the second round turned out to be equally thrilling, a repeat ovation, even louder, came prior to the final five. That’s when Cub Swanson started throwing everything but the kitchen sink at The Korean Superboy. Amazingly, somehow, Choi refused to go down until the final moments of the round — and still managed to stave off a finish.
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For Cub Swanson, officially the winner on the judges’ scorecards, it was a return to form. Without question, he was once again Killer Cub. He put on a brilliant show, reminding us all why he was such a killer in the first place. Even old tricks, like the cartwheel kick he so often throws towards the end of fights, seemed to have new flair, especially when they hit their target.
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Yet Choi, who lost all three rounds on two of the judge’s scorecards, received the biggest ovation at the end of the night. He lost the fight, cleanly (for the sake of transparency, from my seat, the fight was 29-28 Swanson), but regardless, a star was born.
It was a career defining fight. It was Rocky losing to Apollo Creed. Mick Foley being thrown off Hell in a Cell, and losing to the Undertaker. Frankly, it was the best performance in a loss a fighter could ask for. Even in losing, his stock shot upwards.
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Choi showed heart. He showed he could hang with the top-10 of the division, and probably better. He showed he has a hell of a chin. The lasting image of that fight is Choi’s head flailing to the side from a Swanson punch, then him straightening up and going right back into the fray.
After the bout, Choi’s interview no doubt earned him some extra fans. “This is what losing feels like,” he said, reflecting on a fight he felt he could win. “I’m going to train even more, and I’m not going to lose again.” He later added that his callout of Swanson was motivated by being such a huge fan of the fighter.
Well, Choi made a ton of fans of his own Saturday night.
Next: UFC 206 Breakdown: The Meteoric Rise of Max Holloway
Now, who wouldn’t want to see him against Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, or the like? Who doesn’t want to see him in a main event? The best thing the UFC could do right now is book him into a Fight Pass main event. Of course, he’s going to take some time off to recover and get back to training, but then? Make it someone in the top 10. Promote the hell out of it, off the back of this Fight of the Year effort.
Either way, one thing is certain: Doo Ho Choi not only helped save the card at UFC 206, he put on a show for the ages.
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