Jeremy Stephens (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Contender Watch: UFC Fight Night 44 – Swanson vs. Stephens Stacey Lynn June 26, 2014 Spotlight Cub Swanson has paved a nice road in the featherweight division and may be one step closer to a title fight. On Saturday, Swanson will headline UFC Fight Night: San Antonio, where he meets Jeremy Stephens in what some predict to be a “Fight of the Year” contender. There has been talk about the winner being next in line for a title shot. Is Stephens experienced enough? Has Swanson earned his rematch? Let’s look at how this fight might go down and reasons the winner deserves a title shot. The featherweight division has developed significantly since the UFC’s merge with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in 2010, but one factor has remained the same since the merge: the undisputed champion, Jose Aldo. In his reign as champion, Aldo has defeated the best in the business. He is set to defend his title against Chad Mendes, who is getting his opportunity to avenge his loss to Aldo and claim the UFC strap. Who would be next in line for a title shot after Mendes? The answer to that question might lie in the hands of Swanson and Stephens. Literally. Swanson is a nightmare opponent for anyone. He is improving with every fight and has beat a who’s who in the division. Swanson has proven he can hang with the top-tier featherweights. A decisive win over Stephens could earn him a shot at the 145-pound championship title. Despite Swanson’s success, some argue he is not ready. Their primary argument rests with a highlight-reel knockout, courtesy of Aldo himself. Conversely, Swanson has waited patiently in line for his rematch and was considered, by some, to be the more obvious contender over Mendes. Since his loss to Aldo in 2009, Swanson has gone 7-2 with losses to Mendes and Ricardo Lamas. In his last four fights, “Killer Cub” has defeated Ross Pearson, Dennis Siver, Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier. Three of those victories came by way of knockout or TKO. Swanson’s striking is more technical and refined compared to the Iowa native. Stephens is a heavy hitter, too, though. Fifteen of his 23 career victories came by way of knockout. Skill may be a factor in this bout. Stephens has shown that he has trouble against more skilled strikers, but, as the old saying goes, anything can happen in a fight. While Swanson remains the favorite, “Lil Heathen” has made some adjustments to his game. Since dropping down to the featherweight division, Stephens has posted a three-fight winning streak, with victories over Estevan Payan, Rony Jason and Darren Elkins Some might say Stephens needs bigger wins before a title bout, and understandably so. However, the top five featherweights have seen a lot of each other lately. Every member of the top five has already fought Aldo, leaving UFC President Dana White open to suggestions. One thing we know for sure: White loves when the underdog steps up. This is the perfect opportunity for Stephens to have his case heard. Stylistically, Swanson is the better fighter. However, it’s Stephens’ power and durability that poses a threat here. This is an important fight in the career of Stephens. He’s got to step up to the plate. The payoff with likely be great, but it won’t be easy.