Cub Swanson admitted that he was caught off guard when he heard Dooho Choi call him out for a fight at UFC 206.
Choi was a fast-rising prospect with some stunning knockouts on his record, but he hadn't faced anybody like Swanson in his career. Swanson took Choi's request as a call to arms as he decided to train harder than ever before to get ready for their showdown on Saturday night.
What resulted was one of the best fights of the year, if not one of the most epic battles in UFC history.
It was Choi's first fight against a top-10 opponent in the UFC, but the South Korean striker showed no fear while facing a very dangerous striker in former WEC title contender Cub Swanson.
Choi made a big impact early with a knee from the clinch that seemed to stun Swanson for a second, but the featherweight veteran recovered quickly before unleashing a few furious combinations of his own.
Swanson was landing more shots but Choi just seemed to walk through his best punches and kicks while firing back with some hard, stinging punches that consistently hit the target.
As Swanson went to the corner, his coach Greg Jackson told him that Choi wasn't as effective while moving backwards so he should take the center of the Octagon as soon as the round began.
Swanson listened and quickly stalked Choi around the cage before opening up with a huge offensive onslaught that had his opponent on wobbly legs. Swanson went in for the kill but Choi refused to wilt and instead bit down on his mouthpiece before just swinging for the fences.
This time it was Swanson who was stunned as Choi trapped him against the cage before unloading with a huge series of punches to the head and body, but the Jackson-Winkeljohn trained fighter refused to go down.
While he certainly took some punishment, Swanson refused to bow down and instead came back with an even bigger onslaught of his own that stunned Choi and left him reeling.
To his credit, Choi continuously ate punch after punch after punch, but just would not go down while Swanson fired at him like a machine gun, throwing everything he had at him to try and get the finish.
Late in the third round, Swanson once again saw an opening before cracking Choi with a hard right hand that sent the young South Korean crashing against the cage, but again his chin held up. Still, Swanson was clearly landing the better, more effective shots although Choi never backed down before throwing a few haymakers of his own.
When it was over, the Toronto crowd stood in unison to give the two featherweights a standing ovation for what will likely go down as one of the best fights of the year.
“I knew he deserved all the hype,” Swanson said about Choi. “He just made a mistake calling me out.”
Swanson has been forced to endure more than a few ups-and-downs over the past few years, including a six fight win streak that saw him closing in on a title shot before two straight losses knocked him out of contention again.
Now with three straight wins — including a jaw-dropping performance against Choi on Saturday night — Swanson is back in the race as one of the best featherweights in the world.
“Don't ever question me again!” Swanson yelled before leaving the Octagon.