In an age where many things don’t always fit the billing, for the sake of UFC’s front office, it was a relief to see UFC on Fox 5 live up to the expectation of being the “Most dynamic, stacked card ever put on network TV.” This event was nothing short of explosive. Even the preliminary fights left Seattle fight fans with a better taste in their mouths than anything from Starbucks.
One seasoned veteran showed his time in the Welterweight division isn’t over yet. Two representatives of the UFC’s youth movement proved they are ready for the next level and a champion stakes his claim at legitimacy. Hailing from the Key Arena in Seattle Washington, here’s a recap of UFC on Fox 5’s main card:
Matt “The Immortal Brown def. Mike “Quick” Swick via Knockout (2:30 of Round Two< Welterweight Division Bout)
Considering how Brown and Swick spent the first few seconds sizing one another up, one couldn’t help but anticipate these two would let their hands fly. Swick went in for a few punches, only to find air in return. Brown, the more patient of the two fighters, operated with constant head movement, making certain he wasn’t an easy target. The two greeted one another with hook shots to the face. Swick and Brown tagged each other with a few more punches, before Brown caught Swick with a single-leg takedown. The fight became a ground game of Chess. Brown attempted a Darth choke, Swick got out and countered with an attempted Guillotine choke. Because neither hold was secure, both Brown and Swick squirmed out of their respective compromising positions and returned to their feet. Immediately, the two spent the last 0:18 against the cage in a striking exchange.
Round two opened with Brown proving to be the more effective striker. Combos, knee shots to the body and kicks were all devices Brown used to chip away at Swick. It was 1:12 into the second round when Swick connected with some significant punches. Those led to a clinch where Swick followed up with knees. Eventually finding comfort in the clinch, Brown returned a few knees of his own. From there, he followed up with an elbow and a combo of punches that sent Swick peddling backwards. Swick ate those shots and pressed Brown against the cage. The two broke away from each other and took the fight back to the center of the octagon. Swick threw a few off target punches. Brown connected with a right jab that found a home on Swick’s face, thus setting up a follow-up left hook and right jab combo that brought the fight to an end, 2:30 into the second round.
Rory “Ares” MacDonald def. “The Prodigy” BJ Penn via Unanimous Decision (Welterweight Division Bout)
UFC analyst Joe Rogan labeled this fight the potential changing of the guard. That description could not have been more accurate. Unfortunately for Penn, the changing of said guard was anything but ceremonious for the future Hall of Famer. Penn was flat-out outclassed by “Ares”, which is Greek for “God of War”.
Ideally, the mission was for Penn to get inside of MacDonald’s 76.5 in reach and break him down in the clinch. Penn tried, but the Georges St. Pierre protégé threw a monkey wrench into those plans. Penn went to carry out his strategy in from the outset, but his attempt was met with a countering knee, which led to Penn’s back being against the cage. Penn tried to claw his way out with clinch based strikes, but the towering MacDonald was too imposing of a figure for the former champion to handle. Everything Penn threw, whether it was a hit or miss, MacDonald had an answer. Punches, elbows, punishing body shots, takedowns or even leg kicks that forced Penn to pivot at 45 degree angles, MacDonald’s strikes were nothing short of overwhelming. Despite the disadvantage, Penn’s motor kept him in the fight during the opening round. Penn even executed two takedowns, which were short-lived, as MacDonald immediately returned to his feet.
As the fight progressed, things would only get worse for “The Prodigy”. The indictment of his lack of cardio once again hovered over him, as Penn looked out of his element in the latter rounds of this bout. As Penn tuckered out, MacDonald grew more invigorated. When Penn’s initial strategy resulted in nothing, he completely deviated from it and fought in survival mode. At the conclusion of this encounter, it was more than evident that the 33-year-old, former Lightweight and Welterweight champion, was a decade behind the 23 year, future of the Welterweight division.
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson def. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua via Unanimous Decision (Welterweight Division Bout)
The keys to victory, for different reasons, were Gustafsson’s limbs. In the case of Gustafsson, he was out to use his 76.5 inch reach to slice away at the former Pride and UFC Light Heavyweight, while maintaining a distance that keeps him from falling into Rua’s clutches. Rua, however, was timing the usage of the younger fighter’s limbs to take whatever the younger combatant gave him.
While comparisons to UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones should go no further than the discussion of height, Gustafsson proved to the world that in his own way, he is ready to be elevated in the rankings. It took the young Viking only 0:33 to land a two piece combination that send “Shogun” falling to the mat. Gustafsson from there secured a brief mount, raining down on Rua with a few punches. While on the giving end of the mount, Gustaffson left his leg out in the open and the veteran was able to counter with an ankle lock. Gustafsson pulled out, but Rua was immediately on his back, issuing a right hook to the face, followed by a knee. After a meaningless skirmish on the cage, the two were back at the center of the octagon. Gustafsson landed a sweeping takedown, only for him to find himself again escaping an ankle lock attempt. Sticking with his strategy, Rua caught Gustafsson’s leg after a kick attempt and landed a right jab that flattened the lanky Swede. Gustafsson was able to use his length to scramble to the cage and escape Rua’s clinch, even though he took a few knees in the process. The two got into strike exchanges to close out the round, where Gustafsson had the advantage.
The second round saw the increase of Rua’s striking. Unfortunately, the mastery of one area, forced him to abandon another. Rua went from striking to over committing to the home run punch. As a result, he forgot about using Gustafsson’s limbs against him and received an array of knees and upper cuts for just about every missed wild shot, the overhand right.
In the final round, Rua would continue to swing wildly, leaving him open for strikes and takedowns; ultimately costing the veteran the match.
While I’m hesitant to throw him right into the fray with the current division king, it is safe to say he is ready to elevated as a Light Heavyweight, maybe facing the likes of Lyoto Machida or Dan Henderson. Should he be victorious against one of them, that’s when you give “The Mauler” a title shot.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson def. Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision (UFC Lightweight Title Bout)
With the knowledge of Nate Diaz’s strongest attributes of his stand-up game being his strikes and cardiovascular threshold, Henderson went into surgical mode, dissecting those areas out of Diaz’s attack. While the champion was on target with straight up exchanges, he knew he had to take what was given to him. In the opening round, Henderson chopped away at Diaz’s lead leg with kicks, What that did was take away Diaz’s lower strike attack. Being the heavier, thicker lightweights of the two, “Smooth” imposed his will upon Diaz, grinding him in the cage in the clinch, which ultimately effected Diaz’s cardio.
As the agonizing pain grew in Diaz’s leg and his cardio withered away, he became susceptible to the takedown. Once Henderson got his challenger down to the mat, he was able to unleash powerful ground and pound. Even when the fight returned to the feet, Diaz was too fatigued to elude follow ups to the ground and pound, such as head kicks and elbows. On the heels of those, Diaz would find himself back in Henderson’s clinch, getting grinded into the cage. Even when chances surfaces for Diaz to transcend into his comfort zone, distance fighting, Henderson knew when to seize any opportunity given that allowed him to close the distance. Diaz was out of his element.
As if Henderson’s strategy wasn’t enough to help him secure his second title defense, he threw a rare attack into his game plan. Henderson further agonized Diaz’s lead leg in the form of straight jabs. And just when Diaz thought he had the counter for this attack, he was actually baited into unexpected punches that either sent Diaz back peddling or careening into the mat.
The only highlight of Diaz’s evening were a few instances in the third round when he countered out of Henderson’s ground and pound into an ankle lock. He even found a way to throw in a few middle fingers Henderson’s way. Too bad, they couldn’t earn Diaz any points with the judges. Even if they did, they would not be enough to help him avoid the inevitable. Henderson’s submission defense came through for him as he was able to escape the hold and continue his dominance.
It takes serious fortitude for a man to withstand the punishment that Diaz did, but alas, moral victories is not how you win championships.
With a three fight win streak, that includes two wins over former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and a dominant performance over Diaz, the time has come for followers, analysts and participants of this sport to respect the title reign of one Benson “Smooth” Henderson. He is legit!
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By Antoine Hoffman