by Mick Hammond
There are losses and wins that are close; there are equally a number that are not close. For Mike Swick and Gideon Ray the difference between the two are very clear. Both are coming off UFC fights that weren’t even close and in the case of Swick, hoping for a repeat, and in the case of Ray, hoping for a reversal of fortunes.
It’s been a year since Mike Swick left the confines of the American Kickboxing Academy to begin shooting the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. At the time Mike was on the mend after spending much of 2004 recovering from injury and a tough KO loss to Chris Leben in the WEC. Heading into shooting not only was the show itself an unknown commodity, but how Swick would rebound was as well.
Things weren’t always so uncertain about Mike. After a debut MMA fight in 1998, Swick spent time in Thailand developing his striking skills and even spent time in Russia with MMA veterans such as Pat Smith. Upon returning Stateside, Swick hooked up with the AKA and quickly reestablished himself in 2002.
Right out of the gate Swick shined brightly, winning his first four fights in convincing fashion, including two very memorable finishes. The first a come-from-behind KO victory over Japanese R-1 fighter Kengo Ura at WEC 6, when Swick knocked out Ura with a knee as Kengo was shooting in just minutes before the end of a fight that Swick seemed behind on the scorecards in. The second was at the first, and now apparently only, Shootbox show where Swick KO’d Butch Bacon with one of the most devastating punches of the year, sending Bacon down and out on the canvas for several minutes.
Due to his exciting style of fighting Mike was scheduled to take on future TUF 1 teammate Chris Leben at WEC 9 for the Middleweight Championship in January of 2004. Unfortunately for Mike, it would be the first, and only time, he has tasted defeat as the two fighters battled back and forth before Swick succumbed to a KO blast from Leben just milliseconds before Swick was to land a similar punch.
Swick refused to let the fight define him as he proved his worth on TUF 1, getting to the semifinals of the light-heavyweight competition, despite being the lightest fighter in that division on the show. Then on the series finale Swick was set to face Las Vegas Combat Club fighter Alex Schoenauer, and in just 20 seconds Swick knocked out the Argentinian and earned himself an invite back to the UFC at Ultimate Fight Night.
For Gideon Ray, a second fight in the UFC is coming off a decidedly different path than Swick’s. In his first bout in the UFC, Ray taking the fight on just four days notice, was decimated by Canadian UFC veteran David Loiseau over one brutal round at UFC 51.
In the fight Ray showed the kind of heart and gutsy determination that had been the trademark of his trainer Keith Hackney during the early days of the UFC. Hackney had made a name for himself defeating monstrous Manny Yarbrough at UFC 3, and putting up valiant efforts against MMA legends Royce Gracie and Marco Ruas at UFCs 4 and 5.
Ray had always shown a bold style of fighting throughout his career. In his fights he would gladly stand and trade with an opponent or go to the ground and grapple, he displayed a fearlessness to allow the fight to go anywhere his opponent would take it. And for the most part, more often than not, Ray would be the one coming out with his hand raised in the end.
Gideon had triumphed in nine of his first ten fights, going to decision only twice in those ten bouts. This lead to him receiving a shot at the UFC against David Loiseau with only a couple days notice. But as he always had in his previous bouts, Ray stepped up to the challenge and met Loiseau head on at UFC 51.
Against Loiseau however things did not go well. Ray appeared under-prepared for one of the most talented strikers in the middleweight division. He was routinely beaten to the punch and outmaneuvered by the Canadian “Crow.” After just one round and multiple knockdowns, a bloody Ray was not allowed to continue by the doctors at the event and the win was awarded to David.
After taking time off to heal from multiple injuries sustained in the bout with Loiseau, Ray returned successfully at an XFO event in his native Illinois defeating Dennis Reed in convincing fashion. With the win Ray has been invited back to the UFC to take on one of the company’s rising stars and put behind the devastating loss to Loiseau in the process.
Conventional wisdom says that this fight should stay standing. Both Ray and Swick like to throw and aren’t afraid to engage at any time in the stand up game. But things may go differently when it comes time for the actual fight. Both Ray and Swick are quite competent on the ground and both may be heading into the fight thinking that it is on the ground where this fight can be won. If this is the case look for a clash between Ray’s bulk and strength against Swick’s length and quickness, if Ray cannot overpower Swick on the ground then it could be a quick submission for the rising youngster.
With the UFC’s expanded line-up for the coming year it is more than likely that regardless of who wins and loses, both fighters should be making appearances in for the promotion after this show. Obviously the UFC has more invested in Swick, being one of the inaugural members of TUF and one of the most popular fighters around, but do not count out Ray’s opportunity to gain fanfare for his aggressive style.
Now that the middleweight division has become one of the most competitive in MMA it is possible that the winner of this bout could see themselves in title contention after another fight or two depending on how they do in this fight. But with all the talent sure to flood the company in the coming months, the winner of this bout must do so in convincing and/or exciting fashion in hopes of separating themselves from the pack. This is a statement type of fight, and with Swick and Ray you can be sure of one thing, a statement will be made loud and clear.