UFC on FOX 5: Rundown&Fight Predictions

UFC on FOX 5: Rundown&Fight Predictions

 

Alright people, you know what time it is. Free fight on network TV time, and I, the infallible Zackery-Rex am here to give you the rundown. This is the official fight card.

 

Broadcasted on Fox:

Benson Henderson Vs. Nate Diaz

Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson

BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald

Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown

Broadcasted on FX:

Brendan Shaub vs. Lavar Johnson Fight cancelled due to Lavar Johnson’s injured groin.

Michael Chiessa vs. Marcus LeVesseur Another one bites the dust. As of this morning Michael Chiessa is out of the prelims due to illness.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Mike Easton

Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan

Ramsay Nijem vs. Joe Proctor

Yves Edwards vs. Jeremy Stevens

- Moved up due to Lavar Johnson’s injury.

19 people will watch these fights on Facebook:

Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez

Scott Jorgensen vs.  John Albert

Tim Means vs.  Abel Trujillo

Since I read my Bible regularly, I’ll do as the good Lord says and save the first for last and let the last be the first.

Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz is a fantastic title fight between two of the 155 lbs division’s premiere talents. Nate, the younger of the two brawling brothers from Stockton, has earned his opportunity at UFC gold before his brother. That’s somewhat surprising when you think about it. Considering Nick was edged out in a very close number 1 contender spot by Carlos Condit.  However, that’s another topic for another day. Nate is in the news now, and he’s got a good shot at taking out a very game Benson Henderson.

Nate is an interesting case though. He started at 155, but didn’t like cutting the weight,  fought at welterweight, performed okay there, then started getting dominated once he broke into the top 10. His fights with Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald pretty much convinced him he’d rather cut weight than fight with dudes twice his size.  However, once he got back down to lightweight he was an absolute BEAST.

The Ultimate Fighter 5 winner has been taking out high profile names with extreme prejudice. Making both Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jim Miller look second rate against his superior boxing and aggressive jujitsu ground game. Two impressive wins over top flight competition in the deepest division in all of MMA is grounds for a title shot, and that’s exactly what Diaz gets.

Now the big question is: what can Bendo do to stop Diaz?

Benson’s last two fights have been against Rocky Balboa, aka Franky Edgar, and he was clearly victorious in only one of them. By all rights, I think the distinguished Mr. Edgar won the second fight, and that we should be watching him defend the belt against Diaz. But alas, fate and the judges disagreed. I’m not too unhappy with this result though, since we do get to watch a super-fight between the incredible Edgar and Jose Aldo now. Quite the consolation prize, no?

Benson’s rise through lightweight seems somewhat abbreviated to me. He has wins over Jim Miller, Clay Guida, and Donald Cerrone (though this was in the WEC when Cowboy wasn’t as good).  Then he has that loss to Anthony Pettis marring his record, as well as the aforementioned robbery that took place during his rematch with Edgar. All in all, his entire title reign seems a little bit suspect to me. Now I’ll be happy to shut my mouth if he can decisively put away Diaz, but for now I have a hard time respecting his spot as the best 155 in the world.

This match is all about pacing. Henderson is known for being able to slow an opponent down and fight at his controlled and calculated rhythm. He managed to minimize Clay Guida’s prolonged manic movement and won a very clear decision over one of lightweight’s highest caliber gatekeepers. Then again, Diaz showed similar pacing prowess when he blasted through Cerrone, pulling the cowboy into a gravity well of furiously constant face punches. If Benson can keep Diaz on the outside and wear him down with his wrestling I see this going his way. However, If Diaz can close the distance and put on an exhausting pace while still attacking off of his back enough to make Henderson wary of utilizing the takedown, then it’ll be Diaz all night.

I think I’m giving this fight to Henderson though. Because even though Diaz is a stud on the ground, Benson is really difficult to submit, and his top control is really really good. That and I think he’s going to have a significant strength advantage. Even so it’s going to be close. I fully expect Diaz to pick up a round or two, but in the end Henderson is going home with the belt.

Next up is Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson. This is a fight I’m only mildly interested in. It should be an excellent and entertaining match-up, but for what it means in terms of either fighter’s position in the rankings it’s just not a big deal to me. Rua is a great fighter, and still young, but unfortunately, he’s already past his prime. Chronic knee problems and always questionable cardiovascular conditioning have plagued him into the position of gatekeeper. A high talent gatekeeper no doubt, but a gatekeeper nonetheless. Perhaps I’m prematurely shutting the door on such a bright talent, because he may still get another shot at Jon Jones, but even if he does I don’t exactly like his chances, and he’s at the end of a line spanning at least three other challengers.

Shogun’s run in the UFC hasn’t been extremely impressive. He lost his debut to a then up and coming Forest Griffin. He came back to defeat Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell. But both of those fights were characterized by washed up opposition and heavy breathing in the later rounds. He traded wins with Lyoto Machida, picking up the title via KO in the first round of their second fight. But this too deserves an asterisk. The first fight was controversial with most people scoring the fight for Shogun, and the second victory is blemished by the fact that Machida was fighting with an injured left hand.  Then he drops the title to Jon Jones in a display of immense inferiority that’s become the standard expectation for all of Bones’ opponents.

Next he fought Dan Henderson for a number one contender spot, and lost an epic battle that went down as fight of the year in 2011. This one is actually a monkey wrench in my assessment of Rua, because he started coming on strong in the later rounds. However, to my credit, he wasn’t able to finish Hendo because his punches didn’t have any pepper on them after the beating he took for 15 minutes. Still, it’s a spoiler in the nice pretty picture I had painted in my head. Finally, we saw Shogun ducking a fight with Glover Texiera, and then winning a back and forth fight with Brandon Vera.

I’ll say this: Vera has come a long way in the couple of years that he’s taken off.

Now here’s my real opinion. Brandon Vera lost 3 of his last 4 fights before taking on Shogun. He hadn’t defeated a big name fighter since Frank Mir in 2006. He didn’t deserve a shot at anyone anywhere near the top 10 of the light heavyweight division. And it took Shogun 4 rounds to stop him in a sloppy back and forth brawl. Shogun is a tough guy, and he used to be extremely technical. Now he’s kind of technical and still extremely tough.

Meanwhile Gustafsson has been quietly making a name for himself, and is getting a reward for his efforts. He’s picked up wins over Vladmir Matyushenko, Thiago Silva, and Matt Hamill. Nobody quite at Shogun’s level, but still some very impressive wins. Even his loss to Phil Davis was characterized by excellent takedown defense and escapes, though he did eventually succumb to superior grappling. Which makes sense as this is normally the European fighter’s bane. I’m still not quite sure why he’s getting a bigger push than Phil Davis, who I think is the better fighter, and more legitimate contender at this stage of the game, but they’ve got to give Shogun an opponent he can theoretically beat, and Gustafsson has looked really tough during his entire run in the UFC. Probably a case of “right place right time.”

As to the fight itself, it should be a fast-paced (in at least the first round) stand-up battle. Gustafsson’s weakness to grappling shouldn’t be a factor, since Shogun’s not really much of a ground fighter. So it comes down to two factors: technique and toughness.  Historically, Shogun has had the better technique, but recently… Well, I’m giving a slight edge to Gustafsson. There’s no question in my mind who’s tougher. Shogun has been in the kind of wars that the big Swede hasn’t even heard stories about. I think if Gustafsson can survive an early onslaught and keep an active pace in rounds two and three he’ll be able to come away with the decision victory.

Yeah buddy. Now we get to talk about the fight I’m most excited for. The welterweight grudge match between BJ Penn and Tristar gym… Err ah, I mean Rory MacDonald.

The Prodigy, riddled with feelings of inadequacy after a crushing loss to Nick Diaz and some embarrassing back and forth on Twitter, decided to vent his rage on his old nemesis George St Pierre. Except that there’s no way he could ever get a rematch with GSP so he decided to go after his little brother, Rory MacDonald instead. More embarrassing and silly Twitter exchanges ensued after a nasty cut and some drug testing controversies went down, and finally the fight was rescheduled to a packed UFC on FOX  card, Saturday the 8th of December!

I’m still wondering why this fight isn’t co-headlining. Both of these guys are more marketable than Shogun at this point. But whatever, I’ll roll with it. This is a very interesting fight on a few different levels. First off, it’s to determine where BJ is at in his career. Can he still hang with the best in the division? His loss to Nick Diaz was ugly, but Diaz makes everybody look ugly when he beats them, and Penn still won the first round. Second, Penn is actually in shape right now. If his cardio is good and he can keep his pace going throughout the fight, then there’s only one way he’ll lose, being taken down and pounded out by the trademark dominant grappling style of Tristar athletes. Penn has always had great takedown defense, but it’s failed him before against GSP and later against Franky Edgar. If he can avoid the takedown his superior stand-up should see him through to a victory.

Now this fight is also interesting from a Rory fan’s perspective. MacDonald is lacking that marquee win to put him in contention with the top of the division. Personally, I think a bout with BJ Penn was rather ambitious for the fresh-faced 23 year old. He’s a big name, but he’s always dangerous, and the styles don’t match up as well as they could. Welterweight is an ever advancing shark tank, but there are some guys who I would have lobbied for before Penn if I were MacDonald. Kampmann, Fitch, and Koscheck all come to mind. But whatever. It’s done, and I’m really anxious to see how Rory will perform.

I’m really torn on my pick with this fight. For one thing, Rory is on his way up, and Penn is on his way out. However, BJ is still the Prodigy, and when he’s been working to his potential he’s nearly unstoppable. It all depends on his takedown defense, and in this case, I’m going to have to give him a very narrow edge against MacDonald. I say he takes the decision, but loses the third round.

The first fight on the main card is Mike “Quick” Swick vs. Matt “The Immortal” Brown, and I tell you it’ll probably be good, but there’s no title contention, neither of these guys will ever make a run at the belt, and this is, for all intensive purposes, a veteran gatekeeper gimmick match that I’m really not all that interested in. Again, this is a case of an entertaining fight, with little to no relevance to the rest of the division. Swick is coming off a win that snapped a two fight losing streak, and Matt Brown has looked solid in his last three, ending two of those via TKO in the 2nd round.

I’m still a little mad at Brown for revealing what everyone already suspected when he fought Stephen “Wonder boy” Thompson: Karate fighters have no ground game, Mr. Miyagi isn’t actually the toughest man in the world, and far eastern martial arts can’t, in general, compete with elite grappling. Another sigh is expelled by our collective childhoods. I just want more head kick KO’s. First Edson Barbosa, then Wonder boy, even Kung Le got smashed by Wanderlei. Le had a promising comeback against Rich Franklin, but he’s taking time off to do movies.  Oh well.

Despite this, Matt Brown is still my pick to win this fight. He’s been more consistent and dominant in his last few showings, and I expect him to send Swick down the road to a shameful retirement.

That’s all for the main card, and since I don’t really want to spend all night writing about the prelims, I’m just going to give picks for the under-cards and briefly comment on  the fights I’m interested in seeing.

Brendan Shaub vs. Lavar Johnson-Shaub via submission in the first. Because he knows Jujitsu, and Johnson knows how to tap out.—> Lavar Johnson pulled his groin, and this fight has been scrapped. The Cruikshank/Martinez match has been moved up to the FX card in its place.

Michael Chiessa vs. Marcus LeVesseur- Levesseur via decision. He’s more seasoned, and a much better wrestler.—> Fight’s off. Chiessa got a cold or something.

Raphael Assuncao vs. Mike Easton- Assuncao via decision. I expect Raphael to snap Easton’s winning streak. He’s faced much stiffer competition and that experience will translate into victory come December 8.

Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan- I am actually interested in this fight. Why? Because I’m a mark for a German kick-boxer who looks like a miniature version of the antagonist from Rocky IV. I love the guy’s look, I love his stand-up style, and most of all, I love love love spinning back kicks. I’m rooting really hard for him to do well at featherweight.  This is his second fight at this weight and he is a mesomorphic monster down there. He won a solid decision against Diego Nunes in his last outing, and I expect a repeat performance against Nam Phan on Saturday night.

However, Nam Phan isn’t looking to make it easy on him. Phan won a closely contested split decision victory over Cole Miller in his last fight, and it’s been a rocky road for quite awhile before that. He’s lost three of his last five and seems to have made a habit out of being on the wrong end of decisions. I expect this trend to continue, though it should be in exciting fashion. This should be a 3 round stand-up battle with Siver taking the unanimous decision.

Ramsay Nijem vs. Joe Proctor- Proctor via KO. Because I haven’t predicted enough finishes for this card.

Yves Edwards vs. Jeremy Stevens- Edwards via submission.  Because Stevens is a fucking criminal.

Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez-Complete Shot in the dark, Cruickshank via KO.                                 

 Scott Jorgensen vs.  John Albert-Yay someone I’ve heard of! Jorgensen KO’s Albert in the 1st!

 Tim Means vs.  Abel Trujillo-Trujillo because I like his name better. Pft. Tim Means. Tim Means what? Business? Is that his nickname? It should be.

That’s all for the UFC on FOX 5 rundown. Watch this card, y’all. It’s on TV for free so you have no excuse.