Saturday, December 8, 2012

UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz preview

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As I read through the list of fights for the UFC on Fox 5 card, all I could think is: "How do you justify ever putting on a pay-per-view card without a title fight now?

Seriously, the card tonight is so stacked that I cannot comprehend a circumstance where selling a card without a major grudge match or title bout is feasible anymore. Then again, you have to step up your product to compete with one of boxing's only marketable fights all year (which is previewed in this blog).

Ok, so silly gripes aside, this card goes three deep, and even the opening bout and a few FX prelims have some intrigue. If Yves Edwards and Jeremy Stephens don't put on a show, I'll be very disappointed.

But there's one reason everyone will (or should be) watching: the UFC World Lightweight Championship bout between Benson Henderson (16-2) and challenger Nate Diaz (16-7).

I still think that Anthony Pettis was the true No. 1 contender, but he has a pending bout with Donald Cerrone for that spot. (How much do I love the lightweight division right now?) Diaz certainly has a claim to the spot, though. After being one more loss from the unemployment line, Diaz reeled off three straight wins against a former PRIDE World Champion and two top contenders to prove his worth.

Bendo has had his own push to prove legitimacy. He entered the UFC after losing his WEC Lightweight Championship to Pettis via the Showtime Kick...

I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing that highlight.

But yeah, Bendo dominated his first three UFC fights to earn a title shot against then-champ Frankie Edgar. The fights were close and controversial, but Bendo has managed to win and retain the belt.

(For the record, I though Bendo beat Edgar clean in the first fight and a rematch was unnecessary. The second fight I gave to Edgar, but the rounds were harder to define. I'm not opposed to a third installment someday, but for now, this division has to move on.)

Anyway, looking to the matchup, Henderson is a truly complete fighter. He's been an all-American wrestler at the NAIA level, he's got a taekwondo black belt and has medaled at the Brown Belt level in BJJ. Add in his Muay Thai background and unsettling reach and there's a hard argument to be made against this man.

But Diaz has some impressive credentials too, earning a black belt under Cesar Gracie. Not only that, but his boxing may exceed even Edgar's, and that boxing is what gave Bendo problems in the last few fights.

Ultimately, though, I see this fight boiling down to the fact that Bendo will be able to better control where the fight takes place, which puts Diaz in a disadvantaged position.

A finish is definitely a prospect, but my guess is that Henderson wins by decision.

The co-main event is a Light Heavyweight No. 1 Contender's bout between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Alexander Gustafsson.

Shogun needs no introduction as a true monster in this sport, and his credentials are unreal. But let's not shrug off Gustafsson in this one.

Not only does Gustafsson have a BJJ purple belt and excellent boxing abilities, but his build is very similar to Jon Jones, who gave Shogun fits in their fight together.

This is the moment where Gustafsson can vault himself to that pantheon of elites in the sport today, but until he does, I can't pick against Shogun. I expect Shogun to use a more experience ground game and win by submission in Round 2.

Welterweight Bout: BJ Penn v. Rory MacDonald

This fight has basically been billed as Old Phenom vs. New Phenom, but I think it's a misnomer. It should really be Penn v. pre-title GSP.

MacDonald's game really is like Georges St. Pierre's was before he fought Matt Hughes the first time. It's clear they're going to be good; the question is how good.

And that's the question: How does a talent like MacDonald stack up against one of only two multi-division champions in history?

By all accounts, if Penn is motivated, this should be a submission victory easily. And even if MacDonald's wrestling keeps the fight standing, Penn is a trained boxer who has proven he can handle himself against the best at 170, let alone a young gun like MacDonald.

The problem is that Penn just seems to always under-perform when he tries to step up. He always winds up looking unmotivated and just drops off. (Heck, he's returning from retirement now!)

But, I will give him the benefit of the doubt here. I have major reservations on this one, but I'll take Penn via 2nd-round submission.

Welterweight Bout: Mike Swick v. Matt Brown

This battle of generic-named badasses feature one fighter (Swick) who wants to use his stellar kickboxing to stand and bang, and a second (Brown) who wants to use judo and jiujitsu to go all Ronda Rousey on his opponent.

This feels like one of those openers where fireworks are coming early, and I'll say Swick wins by flash KO in Round 1.

I will be doing live coverage of this event on this blog. As such, feel free to come back to my blog tonight to join in on the conversation!

1 comment:

Sports said...

Watch UFC On FOX 5 Henderson vs Diaz Live Stream Online here. UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Diaz is an upcoming mixed martial arts event to be held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on December 8, 2012 at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington. It will be broadcast live on Fox Sports.