Christmas comes early to fight fans!
Hands down this is the best MMA card to ever be on free TV. Dana White has stated that multiple times in the lead up to this stacked evening of fights, and we have every right to believe him. From storylines to title matches, UFC on FOX 5 has all the makings to be the best event of the year. The night starts off with a sureshot slobberknocker between Matt Brown and Mike Swick. Next, we are treated to two legends attempting to crush their young upstart challengers in BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald and Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustaffson. The night is capped with a title match in the most talent rich division in the organization between Lightweights Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz. If you consider yourself any sort of fight fan, make sure you are tuned in to FOX on Saturday night. On to the preview!
UFC on FOX 5 Main Card on FOX at 8 PM
Mike ‘Quick’ Swick (15-4) v. Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown (15-11)
Joe Silva knew exactly what he was doing when he booked these two guys as the first fight on a nationally broadcast event. Swick and Brown have fought a collective 45 times and have only seen a combined 10 decisions. Each guy plans to fight for a finish, even if there is a chance they get finished on the way. Swick’s storybook return to the sport came on the last FOX card with his KO win over Damarques Johnson. Swick’s health issues were well documented and his comeback win made him a heavy fan favorite. While Swick trains his craft at the American Kickboxing Academy, Matt Brown strikes me as a guy that sharpens his skills by trolling biker bars at last call and pronouncing his love for My Little Pony. I expect Swick’s skill, technique, and high-level experience to be too much for the brawler Brown to overcome. Look for fireworks in the first round and a finish in the second. Swick by TKO.
BJ ‘The Prodigy’ Penn (!) (16-8-2) v. Rory MacDonald (13-1)
I consider BJ Penn and myself to be very similar individuals. We both have considerable potential, but don’t necessarily go through the effort necessary to achieve our absolute best. We always do a good job, but may not always strive to do a great job. We have moments of brilliance, but also moments that could have gone slightly better with a bit more, say, preparation… That being said, I am absolutely geeking out over the fact that BJ has decided to come out of retirement to attempt to certify his legacy as one of the greatest to ever enter the Octagon. I’ll admit, BJ’s record isn’t all that pretty as of late. He is 1-3-1 in his last 5 and hasn’t really been in top form since UFC 107. Though I am of firm belief that BJ is coming into this fight with Rory Mac ready to lick the young Canuck’s blood off his gloves at the end of the night.
Rory MacDonald has looked like a world beater in his last few outings at 170. He has dominating victories over the likes Mills, Pyle, and Nate Diaz. Prior to that he suffered a TKO loss to former interim Champ Carlos Condit. Condit was MacDonald’s toughest test at 170 and Rory didn’t perform up to the potential that we all were heaping on him. Sure, he was young and has likely grown exponentially as a fighter since UFC 115, but still, Rory has never tangled in the Octagon with someone the caliber of BJ Penn. Rory has a great ground game, but BJ did earn that Prodigy nickname for a reason, the guy is a freakin’ wizard on the mat.
As I watched these two guys at the press conference today, I saw a confidence from BJ that hadn’t been there since the Matt Hughes fight. He seemed more grateful and appreciative before the Fitch and Diaz fights, but now it looks as if he smells (and wants) blood. Rory seemed taken aback by BJ’s demeanor and I do not know if the kid is ready to throw down with one of the all time greats. Rory is trying to create this quite killer/American Psycho persona that I don’t believe he has the cajones to fulfill just quite yet.
BJ is a big time underdog, and for good reason. Rory has looked great recently, albeit against weak competition, while BJ hasn’t been the Penn of old for quite some time. BJ would only come out of retirement if he was committed to being the best fighter possible and I believe that bodes well for him Saturday night. There is no doub that Rory is younger, more athletic, and has a more expansive wardrobe, but BJ Penn is only one of two fighters to ever hold the belt in two divisions (and when that other guy came out of retirement it usually worked out pretty well…). He is ready to remind us that he is one of the best to ever do it. I am seeing a late stoppage for BJ as he outstrikes Rory and attacks relentlessly if he is put on his back. BJ Penn by TKO. Third Round.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (21-6) vs. Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustaffson (14-1)
Legend versus the wunderkind. We all know about the achievements of Shogun, but one of his greatest feats will be defeating the Swede Gustafsson on Saturday night. You never really know what you are going to get from Shogun come fight time, but he is going to need to summon the powers of PRIDE days in order to crush The Mauler.
Gustafsson is a lanky striker who has one punch KO power combined with the skill to put you to sleep on the mat. The last two times we have seen Shogun in the Octagon he has put on knockdown, drag-out Fight of the Night type shows. While his comeback against Hendo is stuff of legend, his inability to finish Brandon Vera left some of us weary about Rua’s future in the division. Rightfully so, Shogun is the underdog coming into this likely title eliminator bout on FOX. Being somewhat strapped in the wallet these days, I think a parlay pick of the underdogs Penn and Shogun could prove to be quite fruitful come fight night.
Gustafsson has never faced anyone that has the ability, skill, or experience of Shogun Rua. Shogun has fought the best in the world for ten years now and Gustafsson isn’t nearly as intimidating as some of Shogun’s previous opponents. The big Swede does have all the makings of a future star, but right now, like Penn, I believe Shogun is determined to reassure us that he belongs in the conversation of the elite members of the division. Shogun has the chin to withstand Gustafsson’s strikes and the Brazilian will push this to a decision. Shogun by Unanimous Decision.
Lightweight Championship Bout
Champion Benson Henderson (17-2) vs. Nate Diaz (16-7)
All I want for Christmas is a Diaz brother holding a UFC strap. No offense, but today’s UFC Champs are a little… boring… to me. JDS, Aldo, Cruz and Bendo all love to play the nice guy card and rarely ruffle the feathers of their opponents, but imagine if we had a UFC champ locking in triangles and throwing the double bird out to the crowd??? Holy crap! That would be dynamite stuff!
This fight is a matchup of two vastly different stlyes as much as a matchup of two very different personalities. Bendo is a POWERFUL athlete whose leg kicks clap like thunder through the arena, while Diaz is a relentless striker who will never stop marching fist first towards his opposition. The only way this one ends up being a snoozer is if Henderson uses his size to lay on top of Diaz for five rounds, but I doubt he goes that route. Bendo doesn’t exactly have a loyal following the UFC, his bland character and questionable victories over Frankie Edgar have many questioning his legitimacy as champion. Henderson is certainly tough to submit, but I see Nate having a big advantage off his back in this one. I predict Henderson will look to ground and pound his way to victory, but Nate has been grappling with this older, bigger brother for near a decade now and I think that experience will pay off for the 209 product.
We know Bendo loves his mother, loves God, and loves to tell us how he doesn’t drink or smoke, but there is a certain aura to the more articulate of the Diaz brothers that makes him one of the most intriguing figures in the sport. Diaz does have that ‘Bad Boy’ image, but it isn’t as much of an image as it is a reality. Diaz is here in the UFC to fight, he isn’t here to be your friend or appease the higher ups, he is here to kick ass and take names. I think Nate wears Benson down on the feet with his relentless boxing and when Henderson gets fed up with Nate’s slaps, the Champ will look to take it to the ground. I imagine Nate catching Benson in the later rounds with a submission from his back, or will work to take Henderson’s neck. Regardless, we will end the night with Nate Diaz as you new Lightweight Champion. Diaz by Submission. 4th round.
No excuse not to catch these FREE fights on Saturday! Make sure to leave any opinions or picks in the comment sections!