My review of UFC on FOX 5, which featured a lot of one-sided but still entertaining fights.
Ben Henderson def. Nate Diaz: All things are possible through Black Jesus. This was a masterful performance by Henderson. He completely took Diaz out of his game, which isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. He used a lot of leg kicks and never went away from them, which was very key, but he also started punching the thigh of Diaz. It looked like a trolling technique, but he actually used it to set up and over the top punch. Diaz did absolutely nothing on the feet, which is a testament to how good Henderson was in this fight, because Diaz is known for his relentless pressure and active hands on the feet. Besides leg kicks and thigh punches, Henderson was also able to limit Diaz on the feet by easily securing takedowns and roughing up the challenger on the ground. Diaz tried to work his ground game from the bottom, but Henderson shut him down and was never close at getting caught in a submission. Henderson completely shut out Diaz, which says a lot because Diaz is obviously a very good fighter, but Henderson was that much better than him on Saturday night. Even though the fight was one-sided, it was still an exciting fight thanks to Henderson’s activity in all areas and Diaz’s durability. It’s amazing how much Henderson continues to improve on a fight to fight basis. If you watch his progress from the first Donald Cerrone fight to now, you’ll see a completely different fighter. The lightweight division is so talent rich that it’s tough to imagine him putting together a dominant reign like Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre, but he definitely made a statement with this victory. Diaz is still one of the top fighters in the division, but he, like his brother, really needs to find a plan B when plan A doesn’t work.
Alexander Gustafsson def. Mauricio Rua: This fight wasn’t quite as bad as MacDonald vs. Penn, but it was still fairly one sided in favor of Gustafsson. Rua had his moments, including a heel hook early in the first round and his haymaker punches that landed, but otherwise he was picked apart for the majority of the fight. Gustafsson broke him down with kicks, knees, and punches to the legs, body, and head. Rua’s cardio actually seemed to hold up for two rounds instead of just one, which was a nice change of pace, but by the third round he was on his last legs. I don’t know what guys like Rua and Penn are made of, but we should make everything out of them because they’re unstoppable despite taking more punishment than any man should ever take in a 15-minute period. Gustafsson looked fine, but he’s definitely not ready for a title shot. Not that Rua is a completely shot fighter, but when you’re as highly touted at Gustafsson, you can’t struggle to takedown Rua and you can’t get caught with the same predictable overhand right over and over again. Gustafsson clearly won this fight, but he didn’t make a statement like MacDonald did against Penn. Gustafsson needs one more fight, likely against the winner of Rashad Evans vs. Rogerio Nogueira, before we can talk about him getting a title shot. Rua isn’t done by any means, but he’s done as a title contender. He’ll beat a lot of mediocre fighters, but his cardio problems and broken down body just won’t cut it at the top level.
Rory MacDonald def. BJ Penn: This was an absolute destruction, but maybe not in the way people thought it would be. Most figured that MacDonald would have to survive a tough first round but would then come back, takedown Penn, and beat him up in rounds two and three. Instead MacDonald beat Penn up for all 15-minutes and did it mainly on the feet. I shouldn’t say that MacDonald beat up Penn, I should say that he destroyed him and toyed with him. Anything MacDonald wanted to throw, he threw it, and it landed. Penn was wobbled and clearly hurt after some terrific body work in the second round, but to his credit, he never went down. The only thing Penn could do in this fight would land half takedowns and threaten with a his right hand, which landed a few times, but never seemed to hurt MacDonald. The only thing MacDonald really did wrong in this fight was not trying to finish Penn in the third round, instead deciding to showboat with the Ali Shuffle. That seemed to cost MacDonald a lot of fans, and he didn’t help his case by delivering the most wooden promo of all-time after the fight when he called out Carlos Condit. I liked that he took the time to actually try and set up his next fight, and Condit wouldn’t be a bad opponent for him, but man he was so monotone and serial killerish that it just came off terrible. MacDonald is obviously going to be a title contender within a year or so. His takedown defense is still a little suspect, but I expect that to improve over time given his work ethic and athleticism. As for Penn, he either needs to move back down to 155 or retire again. He’s 1-4-1 in his last six fights and has barely looked competitive in his fights at 170. It’s just sad seeing him taking this much of a beating in his last two fights. He’s tough as nails, but he’s so much more talented than what he’s shown recently. It’d be nice if he brought in better training partners or got away from his Hawaii comfort zone for camp, but we know that’s not going to happen. Penn can still be a competitive fighter, but it seems clear that his days as a title holder are over.
Matt Brown def. Mike Swick: It might be time for Swick to call it a career, at least 170. He doesn’t look healthy cutting that weight and he definitely hasn’t done anything memorable at welterweight besides always get hurt. It just seems like it’s better for his long term future to be at 185. When you’re getting caught in submissions by Brown, you know your career is headed the wrong way. I give a lot of credit to Brown, he easily took down Swick, nearly had him in a d’arce and a triangle in the first, and then put him out cold in the second with punches. Brown is who he is though. He’s a tough dude who never stops moving forward but overall his ground game is still pretty weak and he gets hit a lot. He’s going to beat guys who aren’t good enough yet and may never be good enough, but I’d be shocked if he makes it past the midlevel guys at welterweight. Still, winning on FOX against a guy with some name value like Swick is a big step for Brown.