It's been a long road back to redemption from that loss, but Swanson took a huge step in that direction on Saturday night. Swanson outlasted a game Jeremy Stephens on Saturday night, earning a unanimous decision in the main event of UFC Fight Night 44. The judges' scores were 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47.
The victory was Swanson's sixth in a row. He's expected to get a shot at the winner of Aldo's UFC featherweight title defense against Chad Mendes in August.
But Swanson isn't going to get on his hands and knees and ask for the fight.
"I won't beg," Swanson (21-5) said.
Swanson, a Jackson's MMA fighter, set the tone in the first round by switching stances often, landing a variety of kicks, and closing the distance and landing big right hands.
But Stephens (23-10) has one of the best pound-for-pound right hands in the sport, and he began laying the heavy leather on Swanson in round two. Stephens rocked and wobbled Swanson on several occasions in round two and made Swanson respect him.
Somewhere along the way, though, Stephens appeared to suffer a broken left hand, and that swung the fight back in Swanson's favor. Swanson landed a monstrous liver kick in round three and went for broke, but the super-tough Stephens managed to ride out the storm.
While Stephens had his moments, Swanson kept up the pace in the championship rounds and attempted to finish the fight in round five. It's a testament to Stephens' grit that he went the distance.
"It feels amazing," Stephens said. "What do you say, six in a row, have I redeemed myself or not?"
For his part, Stephens, who had won his past three fights, refused to make excuses.
"In the first or the second I threw a left hook and I felt it went numb after that," Stephens said. "I will be back. "
In a catchweight co-feature bout, Kelvin Gastelum rallied from a slow to earn a unanimous decision over Sweden's Niko Musoke (12-3, 1 NC). The judges' scored the bout 29-28 across the board.
Gastelum, the TUF 17 winner, missed the welterweight limit by nearly two pounds on Friday and was docked 20 percent of his pay. He looked sluggish in round one, as Musoke, who trains at Stockholm's Allstars gym, had his way with Gastelum.
But Gastelum came out swinging in round two and kept up the pressure throughout the remaining two rounds, mixing up crisp striking and strong wrestling to push his record to 10-0.
"I feel great," Gastelum said. "Niko was a very good opponent tonight. First of all, I want to apologize to the UFC for not making weight last night. There's no excuse for that. I knew he won the first round, so right away I knew I had to pick up the pace."
Andrew Craig was spectacular over the final minute of his middleweight fight against Cesar Ferreira. His face soaked in blood, Craig got up from the mat and hunted down, Ferreira, winging and connecting on wild punches in an attempt to get a finish and bringing the San Antonio crowd to their feet.
Unfortunately for Craig, the first 14 minutes didn't go his way. Ferreira, a former TUF: Brazil winner, bloodied Craig (9-3) with a brutal elbow and controlled him most of the way en route to a unanimous-decision victory. Ferreria (8-3) got a pair of 29-28s and a 30-27 for the win.
"I tried to keep the distance and attack him with straight punches and elbows as he came in towards me," Ferreira said. "I was completely focused tonight on what I had to do and I stuck to the game plan. It really paid off."
For the most part, the bout, surprisingly, was largely a back-and-forth clinch battle, one which Lamas by and large got the best of things. After the fight, Lamas said he believed he suffered a broken hand early in the fight, which would explain why he never got his striking untracked.
As it was, Lamas earned a pair of 30-27s and a 29-28 for the victory, his fifth in his past six fights.
"I feel good about the win tonight," Lamas said. "There's always a lot of pressure coming off a loss so even though it wasn't the most exciting fight I'm happy. Dias is a very tough guy to finish. He's had over twenty fights and no one has been able to finish him. I broke my hand late in the first round and it got progressively harder to grab onto anything and punch effectively."
Neto (9-2, 1 NC) is a two-time World Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medalist, and he looked like it over the first two rounds of the fight, as he schooled the Georgia-based fighter on the ground. Neto finished the first round raining elbows down on Hester from the top and the second working Hester into a nasty Kimura as the horn sounded.
Hester (11-3) came out for the third round looking like a fighter who knew he needed a finish, as he started peppering Neto with punches. He even managed to recover from an ill-timed slip to clearly win the round.
"I left it all in the Octagon in that last round so I'm pretty exhausted right now," said Hester. "I felt like I had to go for broke at the end there because it was a close fight and you never want to leave it in the hands of the judges."
Two judges somehow came to the conclusion that Hester won two rounds, though, giving Hester his seventh straight win. All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two calls going in Hester's favor.
The main card was kicked off with a solid, back-and-forth battle lightweight battle between Joe Ellenberger and James Moontasri. In the end end, Jake Ellenberger's brother got a controversial split decision in his UFC debut.
In the opening round, Moontasri, a Los Angeles-based fighter who competed in the RFA just three weeks ago, got off to a violent start, putting on a striking clinic in laying out a borderline 10-8 round.
The damage was bad enough that the doctor was called in to check Ellenberger's swollen right eye before the start of round two. He was cleared, and then came out and convincingly rebounded to win the second round, using his takedowns to control Moontasri.
In round three, both fighters were tired, but Moontasri (7-2) seemed to have more gas left in the tank at the end, as he finished with a flourish. But that wasn't enough to convince the judges, who gave Ellenberger two out of three 29-28 cards.
"I'm a little disappointed in myself," said Ellenberger (15-1), who has overcome a rare blood disorder to put together a solid MMA career. "It was a close fight and I really expected to implement my game plan better out there. Hats off to James. I knew he was going to be tough coming from a gym like Blackhouse that's full of talented guys. I trained so hard and I expected to dominate so anything short of that wasn't going to be enough in my book. I think that we both knew our strengths so it was really a battle of wills."