The upcoming UFC on FOX 5 card set for Dec. 8th is the definitive ‘stacked’ card. The card is on free TV and has a UFC Lightweight Championship fight between defending champ Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson and Nate Diaz. The co-main event of Shogun Rua vs Alexander Gustafsson is poised to give us another number one contender in the sometimes crowded, sometimes not-so-crowded UFC Light Heavyweight division, and BJ Penn comes out of retirement to face welterweight prospect Rory Macdonald, who challenged BJ on an episode of The MMA Hour.
Mike Swick’s second fight back from injury layoff against Matt Brown is the first fight on Fox, and should be epic. Brown is on a three-fight win streak, and Swick is coming off a knock out win over DaMarques Johnson at the last UFC on Fox. I think both these guys have finishing power but Brown might be the more durable fighter. Swick can end the fight with one shot, and it’s safe to say he’ll be looking for it right out of the gate, maybe not solely, but I don’t think Swick is taking the ‘wherever the fight goes’ approach going in. Brown however is a ‘wherever the fight goes’ type of fighter, and has beaten fighters in the past who were known for their striking, like Jon Howard, Pete Sell, and Stephen Thompson. This should be a great scrap, and is a great way to start off the Fox card. If I had to mutter a pick to myself in the corner, I’d say ‘Brown’.
The legendary future Hall-of-Fame,multi-division former UFC champion BJ Penn is also fighting on Fox, against Rory Macdonald. Rory Macdonald is a huge favorite in this fight, having looked dominant in all of his recent fights. BJ Penn had a period of dominance, but he has won only one of his last five fights, a 2010 knock out of Matt Hughes. Here we have a young, athletic, dominant prospect in Macdonald against an aging legend who, when pitted against the division’s best, in John Fitch, and Nick Diaz, took a whole lot of damage. I’m picking Rory Macdonald, but would suredly love to see BJ Penn high on the cage licking the blood off of his gloves in victory.
The co-main event is a great big fight with former UFC and Pride champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua against Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson. This one could be fireworks. Gustafsson likes to keep strikers at bay with his footwork, kicks, and outside striking. Shogun likes to close the distance and get in his opponents face like its Black Friday. Lyoto Machida is great with using distance to dictate where and how his fights end, and Shogun pushed his pace for 5 rounds and then knocked him out cold in their rematch. I’m going to go with ‘Mauler’ to chip away at Shogun and take a late fight finish or a decision, but on a card full of heavy underdogs I’d say Shogun has the best chance of an upset.
The main event is one of the most intriguing match ups of the year, and showcases two of the most talented fighters on the UFC roster. Benson Henderson has won five fights in a row and is undefeated in the UFC. Nate Diaz hasn’t been beaten at 155 since January of 2010 to Gray Maynard, and has fought at lightweight five times since then. With Frankie Edgar at 145, and BJ Penn at 170, these truly are the best fighters at 155 lbs in the UFC. I say in the UFC because Gilbert Melendez hasn’t fought in the octagon yet, and when he does, we most likely will have the same top three in the world, just maybe in a different order. But back to the fight at hand.
Anywho, those five wins in a row for Bendo were all by decision, and they were all against guys who finish fights, much like Nate Diaz. Nate’s most recent losses were against Rory Macdonald and Dong Hyun Kim, both of whom are great grapplers, who took him to decisions. All the evidence suggests Benson should be able to get past Nate, but Nate has that tenacity that might be what it takes to get his hand raised. There’s a lot going on at UFC on Fox 5 on December 8th, and I hope that 2013 brings in more cards like this one.