Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC on Fox 5: Henderson vs. Diaz
It is nights like this that MMA fanatics wait for. The world is in store for a spectacular night of fights and no, it is not on Pay-Per-View. It is evident that the UFC has finally figured out how to put on a show for their business partners. A star-studded card with a balance of legends and future champions with a title fight to top it all off should make this card arguably one the greatest of all time before it even begins. The best part of all is it is live for free.
The UFC makes their second trip to Key Arena in Seattle, Washington for UFC on Fox 5 on December 8th. The card will be headlined by current UFC Lightweight champion, Ben ‘Smooth’ Henderson, defending his belt against Nate Diaz. Also on the card is former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, making his return against Alexander Gustafsson and former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight champion, BJ ‘The Prodigy’ Penn, going up against Canadian phenom, Rory ‘Ares’ MacDonald. The four main card bouts will be aired live on Fox in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. There will be six preliminary bouts aired live on FX in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. The remaining two preliminary bouts will be aired live on Facebook.
Now for the breakdown of the main card:
UFC Lightweight Championship Bout
Champion Benson Henderson (17-2) vs. Nate Diaz (16-7)
There are few fighters in MMA as athletically gifted and well-rounded as Ben Henderson. It is clear that being inside the cage comes natural to him. Nate Diaz is one of the few guys in the UFC that does not treat MMA like a sport but as though it is a street fight. That mentality has been beneficial to him in his last three fights, all dominant victories against top competition. Henderson is coming off of consecutive wins over former Lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar and both could very well be considered controversial. The first, many had pegged Henderson as the deserved winner, while the second, many had thought Edgar would get the nod after a wild back and forth. Despite the controversy, Henderson has moved past the Edgar chapter in his life and is now going up against a completely different animal. It is not often that we hear of a fighter completely dominating Lightweight legend, Takanori Gomi on the feet. It may be even rarer that somebody does so against Donald Cerrone, just like Diaz did right after. What may be the craziest of all is that after those two victories, he was able to completely dismantle Jim Miller and even get the submission finish. The way both fighters have looked on their current win streaks easily makes this one of the most intriguing title fights we have had in a while.
Henderson will go into this bout with Diaz with a size advantage, strength advantage and a speed advantage. That should lead to an easy night for Henderson, right? That is definitely not the case against a guy like Diaz. Though Henderson will hold a bunch of important advantages as well as a major wrestling advantage, fighting a guy like Diaz is not considered something all that easy. People generally doubt him because of his fighting approach. He moves forward, is willing to take shots to the face and does not exactly throw many power techniques. What he does do is he throws high-volume jabs and pushes his opponents back to the point where they begin questioning themselves. He also possesses some of the craftiest Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the division. Henderson throws some awesome kicks and has pretty decent hands and he uses his striking to set up his wrestling and you can almost guarantee he will do that against Diaz. The problem is, will he be able to maintain dominate top control against a guy with an extremely active bottom game. It will be a tight fight and both will get their share of advantages but as of right now, Diaz has the hot hand. Can he finish a guy as durable as Henderson? Yes. Will he? That is tough to say. Henderson has a reputation for being nearly impossible to put away, especially when it comes to being submitted. Regardless, there is a very good chance there is a new Lightweight champion crowned on Fox.
Prediction: Diaz via Guillotine Round 3
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (21-6) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
Although he just does not seem like his old self, Shogun Rua still deserves to be among one of the best Light-Heavyweights in the world. His last fight against Brandon Vera was not exactly what many expected. There is no doubt it was a great fight to watch but few were expecting Vera to last as long as he did or perform as well as he did. Rua must be better prepared against Alexander Gustafsson, who has won five straight and has shown few flaws since losing to Phil Davis back in 2010. Shogun has fought and beat some of the best in the world so taking on Gustafsson will present no new challenges but the Swede must realize that he is not going up against your average fighter.
Shogun has one of the best chins in MMA and rarely has he been wobbled by a hit without a quick and successful recovery. He is one of the most aggressive strikers in the sport with phenomenal power in both hands. What many underestimate about him is his top game. If he gets top control and is able to posture up, few possess the knockout power via ground and pound that Shogun has. Gustafsson has great stand up and also has a pretty solid ground game. His biggest strength going into this bout is his speed and size advantage. Shogun gets in tight so quickly that he can put away even the largest of foes but Gustafsson is very quick and light on his feet, similar to his training partner, Dominick Cruz. As long as he is able to maneuver well, he can edge out the Brazilian legend for a decision victory. It is doubtful that he will be able to finish Shogun, but if Gustafsson gets tagged, it can be lights out for the prospect. Though both of these scenarios are viable, Gustafsson is far too hungry in his young career and Shogun’s injuries have made him an entirely different fighter.
Prediction: Gustafsson via Unanimous Decision
Rory MacDonald (13-1) vs. BJ Penn (16-8-2)
It may be considered crazy to claim this, especially towards a Canadian audience, but there is no tougher fight to predict on this card than Rory MacDonald and BJ Penn. The reasoning is simple: which BJ Penn will show up? This fight was originally scheduled to take place in Toronto and prior to the bout, many questioned Penn’s determination entering the fight. Since the cancellation, a change of attitude has been evident. MacDonald is one of the most talented prospects in the Welterweight division. Whether he is the second coming of Georges St. Pierre is yet to be seen though there have been many glimpses of greatness in his young career. After likely being seven seconds away from coming out victorious against Carlos Condit, MacDonald has completely dominated all three of his opponents. Penn, on the other hand, has not fared as well. He looked great against Jon Fitch before being dominated en route to a draw. He then picked apart Nick Diaz for a round only to fall into his opponent’s game plan as he was dominated for the next two. Penn is considered by many to be a legend but when the fight is not going his way, he loses interest and virtually goes on cruise control until the fight ends.
From what has been said, it should be an easy win for MacDonald, however, if Penn is truly as motivated as he says he is, he could easily become the BJ of old and defeat the Canadian prospect. Penn is better than MacDonald on the feet and his boxing was once considered the best in MMA. The world knows of his outstanding BJJ but he has not exactly displayed his greatness on the ground since 2009 when he submitted Kenny Florian. If the fight gets to the ground, MacDonald will almost certainly maintain top control and utilize his nasty ground and pound. Penn has amazing takedown defense but he will, at some point, be outmuscled by the bigger MacDonald. It will be interesting to see how Penn will handle the pressure of being on the bottom of such an active fighter. It is very tempting to go with Penn, in hopes that we get to witness his old self. If he can keep the fight on the feet and use his boxing against MacDonald, who has a tendency to get hit, he could win the fight and even get the finish. The problem is, it was way too tough to go against such a talented young fighter that has consistently proven he has what it takes to be great.
Prediction: MacDonald via Unanimous Decision
Mike Swick (15-4) vs. Matt Brown (15-11)
This outstanding card opens up with a likely Fight of the Night candidate. Mike Swick and Matt Brown are in an interesting position, being advertised as a fight that is guaranteed to provide fireworks to open up the main card. Swick is coming off of his first fight in two and a half years, which ended with him knocking out DaMarques Johnson in spectacular fashion. Brown, despite his really ugly record, is coming into this bout with a very impressive and exciting three fight winning streak. One thing that is always a guarantee when Brown enters the Octagon is that he will be swinging for the fences and will turn every fight he is in to a brawl. There is no denying that Swick will be just fine with that as both these guys look to engage in exciting, well-rounded fights.
Brown is strictly a brawler that fights as though he does not care about wins or losses. Swick, at one point, was one of the most talented prospects in MMA and was making waves in the Welterweight division before two consecutive losses and a long lasting injury. Both guys prefer to keep the fight standing but they are willing to move the fight to the ground if necessary. Swick, the far more technical fighter, is more talented virtually everywhere but that never matters when fighting somebody with Brown’s style. Brown has never been knocked out in his MMA career and Swick reminded the world of his knockout power against Johnson. It should no doubt be a wild back and forth and Brown will have his moments, as he always does, but Swick is too talented. Considering ring rust should not be a problem anymore, Swick should comfortably get his second nationally televised win in 2012, but this time, it will more likely be via the famous “Swickotine”.
Prediction: Swick via Guillotine Round 2