My preview of UFC on FOX 5, which is easily the best FOX card that the UFC has put on in their short relationship with FOX.
Ben Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: I can’t wait for this fight. Rarely is either guy in a boring fight and this has all the makings of a 25-minute back and forth war. Obviously Nate draws a lot of comparisons to his brother Nick, but his boxing isn’t quite as sharp, he doesn’t stalk and throw quite as well as his brother, and he definitely doesn’t attack the body like his brother. One thing he seems to have compared to his brother though is punching power. It’s not one shot KO power, but he can hurt you with a good straight on the chin. He’s also deceptively strong in the clinch, which is where a lot of this fight could take place given Henderson’s wrestling prowess. While Henderson will likely be looking for the takedown in the clinch, Diaz will be going to the body with knees and punches while also defending the takedown. On the ground is where this fight gets interesting as Diaz is very comfortable off his back, maybe even too comfortable, because of his jiu-jitsu ability while Henderson is damn near unsubmitable and does a great job on top with movement and strikes. Even though Henderson is great at escaping submissions, you can’t just ignore the fact that he does get caught in them and when it comes to finishing submissions, Diaz is very good. If he has a hold of something, he’s going to crank until it’s finished. On the feet, I expect a lot of movement from Henderson and plenty of leg kicks. He did a great job with those against Frankie Edgar early, but went away from them as the fight went on. Diaz is far more open to leg kicks, and kicks in general, due to his stance so I doubt we’ll see him keep those in his bag this time around. Diaz has improved a ton over the years, but stylistically this is a tough match up for him. His weakness is wrestling and Henderson is relentless with his wrestling and grappling. Diaz will throw 500 submissions at Henderson, but I think Henderson survives them and makes Diaz pay for going for them. I’m sure this will be a close fight but in the end I think Henderson does enough to pull out a decision.
Prediction: Henderson, Decision
Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Rua obviously isn’t what he used to be given his many wars and 80-year-old knees, but he’s still extremely tough and hits really hard. Everyone in the world is high on Gustafsson, with some people already comparing him to Jon Jones. I think Gustafsson is very talented, but I’m not as sold on him as most. He moves well on his feet, puts together good combinations and has a sneaky good uppercut, but his wrestling is still suspect and he doesn’t seem to react well when pressed. Rua still knows how to move forward and throw with power, while also clinching up and getting trip takedowns. Rua is also excellent at guard passing, so it’ll be interesting to see how well Gustafsson can do off his back. Rua’s biggest weakness has always been his cardio. He’s great in the first round, but after that he fades and fades quickly. His best shot at winning this fight is in the first five minutes, and to do that I think he needs to takedown Gustafsson and unleash some of his ground and pound. If he can’t finish the fight, chances are he’ll be dead tired and then get picked apart for the next ten minutes. I’ve actually gone back and forth on this fight because, while I’m not totally sold on Gustafsson, I also can’t trust Rua at this stage of his career. I do think Rua does well for the first round, but doesn’t quite finish Gustafsson. After that, Gustafsson takes over to win the next two rounds and the decision.
Prediction: Gustafsson, Decision
BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald: PENN IS BACK AND MOTIVATED! At least that’s what he’s telling us for the 500th straight time. I’ll never question the talent of Penn, but I’ll always question just how hard he’s working. I’m sure he is motivated because greatness fuels him, but saying you’re motivated and actually putting that motivation to good use are two different things. Penn can beat MacDonald on the feet as his boxing is better and he has power in his hands while MacDonald is still a flawed striker who hasn’t shown much power on the feet. Penn is always dangerous in the first round because he’s fresh. Once he gets worn down by pressure though, he completely fades and offers very little resistance. MacDonald has looked impressive so far in his young career, but he’s never faced anyone with the takedown defense of Penn. So even though his takedowns and throws looked nice against Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle, Carlos Condit, Che Mills, etc… those guys aren’t Penn. MacDonald is a big and strong dude though, so even if the takedown isn’t there in the first round, as long as he sticks with it and wears Penn down, it should be there in the second round. Both guys thrive on top. Penn’s grappling on top is second to none while MacDonald’s ground and pound is pretty violent. It’ll be interesting to see if Penn tries to takedown MacDonald, which is very possible given that he’s an underrated wrestler and MacDonald’s takedown defense is questionable. You’d be foolish to completely write off Penn because he’s still a very dangerous fighter, especially in the first five minutes. But at welterweight, if he doesn’t put guys away in the first round, or at least really shake their confidence by hurting them, he fades and he fades badly. Penn is always tough to finish, but I think MacDonald roughs him up badly on the ground in the last ten minutes or so.
Prediction: MacDonald, Decision
Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown: This is a nice way to kick off the card as Brown is known for his exciting style and Swick is coming off a fun fight against DaMarques Johnson. If the fight stays standing, I actually think Brown can win this fight because he has a hell of a chin and he hits really hard while I think Swick is overrated as a striker and his chin is pretty suspect. I don’t expect this fight to stay standing though. Swick is at his best when he uses his wrestling and just grinds out opponents. That’s what I think happens in this fight. I expect Swick to get a bunch of takedowns, avoid the weak armbar by Brown, and stay busy enough to keep the fight on the ground for the entire 15-minutes.
Prediction: Swick, Decision