411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Diaz
The UFC returns to FOX with their strongest card on the network to date. In the main event, Nick Diaz challenges Ben Henderson for the lightweight championship. Light heavyweight contenders Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander Gustafsson will battle in the main event. BJ Penn returns to the Octagon after an extended hiatus to fight the fast rising Rory MacDonald. Plus Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown, and more!
Note – Tim Means was forced out of his bout with Abel Trujillo after slipping in the sauna and knocking himself out on Friday. Trujillo will now face Marcus Levesseur, who was stuck without an opponent when Michael Chiesa fell ill earlier in the week.
Jon Butterfield: Scott Jorgensen, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Scott Jorgensen, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: Jorgensen, Decision
Alex Rella: Scott Jorgensen, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Scott Jorgensen, TKO, Round 2
Dan Plunkett: Jorgensen, Decision.
The staff picks Scott Jorgensen, 6-0.
Jon Butterfield: Dennis Siver, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Dennis Siver, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: Siver, Decision
Alex Rella: Dennis Siver, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Dennis Siver, Unanimous Decision
Dan Plunkett: Siver, Decision.
The staff picks Dennis Siver, 6-0.
Jon Butterfield: Henry Martinez, Submission, Round Two
Jeffrey Harris: Daron Cruickshank, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: Martinez, Submission, Round 1
Alex Rella: Daron Cruickshank, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Henry Martinez, Unanimous Decision
Dan Plunkett: Martinez, Decision.
The staff picks Henry Martinez, 4-2.
Jon Butterfield: Ramsey Nijem, TKO, Round Three
Jeffrey Harris: Ramsey Nijem, Submission, Round 2
Jeremy Lamberts: Nijem, TKO, Round 2
Alex Rella: Ramsey Nijem, Submission, Round 2
Patrick Mullin: Ramsey Nijem, TKO, Round 3
Dan Plunkett: Nijem, Decision.
The staff picks Ramsey Nijem, 6-0.
Jon Butterfield: Mike Easton, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Mike Easton, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: Easton, Decision
Alex Rella: Mike Easton, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Raphael Assuncao, Split Decision
Dan Plunkett: Easton, Decision.
The staff picks Mike Easton, 5-1.
Jon Butterfield: Jeremy Stephens, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Jeremy Stephens, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: Stephens, TKO, Round 2
Alex Rella: Jeremy Stephens, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Yves Edwards, Submission, Round 2
Dan Plunkett: Edwards, Decision.
The staff picks Jeremy Stephens, 4-2.
Jon Butterfield: After being out for what seemed like an eternity, Mike Swick returned to the octagon with a bang when he KO’d DaMarques Johnson. As impressive as that was, the chances of a second successive knock out seem slim-to-none, given the durability Matt Brown has displayed throughout his career. Instead, Swick will need to focus on picking up the points and out-striking the reliable veteran Brown, something he’s more than capable of doing – but he’s hardly the man to capitalize on the ‘Immortal’s’ suspect submission defence.
Winner: Mike Swick, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: Swick got the first fight out of a tremendously long layoff out of the way and has the chance to put it all behind him by getting his eleventh octagon win and ending his year on a high note with two wins back into his current UFC run. Brown has similarly had quite a bit of success and gotten three straight wins. This is a bit of a tough call. Both guys have fairly good chins and tough to knockout. Brown’s never been knocked out in his entire MMA career. His biggest weakness is his ground game and submission defense, but Swick’s strength is his striking and stand-up game. I think Swick will use his striking and combinations to set something up like a guillotine choke which brown has shown to be very susceptible to in the past.
Winner: Mike Swick, Submission, Round 2
Jeremy Lamberts: 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.
Winner: Swick, Decision
Alex Rella: Mike Swick finally returned to the ocatagon at the last Fox event in August after fighting since February 2010. Swick has always been a good fighter and he’s a perfect guy to keep on the Fox shows. But Matt Brown is on the best run of his career right now. The Immortal has won three in a row and may be ready to take on some of the better welterweights in the UFC. Swick looked great against Damarques Johnson but Brown is a much more intelligent fighter than Johnson. Swick is the better striker of the two but Brown has a great chin and solid striking as well. Should be an exciting opener with the winner moving up the welterweight ladder, I’m taking Brown as he just looked awesome in his last fight when he finished Luis Ramos with vicious knees.
Winner: Brown, Round 2, TKO
Patrick Mullin: For some reason the UFC has been really invested in Mike Swick for the last seven years. They tossed him a softie on the last FOX card in DeMarques Johnson and he gets another favorable fight here. Brown isn’t great at anything but doesn’t have anything he’s particularly bad at. Swick is still a sucker for counter left hands but I don’t think Brown will take advantage of it. I expect Swick to strike fast and furious and eventually secure his “Swickitine” choke for the win.
Winner: Mike Swick, Submission, Round One
Dan Plunkett: Swick didn’t look great in his against win against DaMarques Johnson, but he was coming off a really long layoff and got the win anyway. At his best, Swick isn’t tough to pick against Brown, but it’s been more than three years since that guy has shown up due to illness and time off. I’m going with Swick here, but Brown has a chance.
Winner: Swick, Submision, Round 1
The staff picks Mike Swick, 5-1.
Jon Butterfield: Since emerging as a potent force in the UFC, Rory MacDonald has looked every bit the ‘prodigy’ that BJ Penn did in his younger years – and perhaps that’s part of the reason MacDonald was able to coax the former UFC Lightweight Champion out of retirement for this grudge match. Penn, a man as talented as anyone in the annals of the UFC, will need to be at his very, very best if he’s to deny young MacDonald the biggest win of his career – but while it would warm my heart to see Penn resurface with another world class performance, my head tells me he is out of his depth here. Even had he not retired, I feel MacDonald would have surpassed Penn regardless, such were the respective trends of each fighter. While Rory was getting better and better, Penn was beginning to show signs of age – and though there’s no shame in being battered by the likes of GSP and Nick Diaz, the manner of those defeats had people questioning just how much ‘The Prodigy’ still wanted it. Even with the added incentive to prove himself to the next generation of UFC welterweights, it’s unlikely Penn can turn things around and beat one of the most talented and best-rounded fighters, especially when Penn’s record in the division is so poor.
Winner: Rory MacDonald, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: If we believe Penn, he’s reportedly been training extra hard for this fight in recent months and really wants to prove he’s still top of the shelf. I hope he is motivated, but even still I’m not sure that will be enough about Rory MacDonald. I think the problem with Penn is not his training so much as that he’s really a natural lightweight and that’s where he should be focused and motivated rather than beating these guys at welterweight. Penn’s ideal weight class was always lightweight and I think when he thought he could fight heavier and bigger is when he ran into a lot of problems through the middle portion of his career, despite his UFC welterweight title win. Penn did well against Fitch despite it being a draw and Penn running out of gas by the third round. I think MacDonald brings a much heavier and relentless pace to the table. Also when Penn gets put on his back, he gets little done. Penn maybe an accomplished grappler and BJJ practitioner, but in MMA he’s mainly shown that strength when he’s on top and transitioning. When Penn is on his back he doesn’t defend or fight off his back very well. I think MacDonald gets this done about midway through.
Winner: Rory MacDonald, TKO, Round 2
Jeremy Lamberts: 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.
Winner: MacDonald, Decision
Alex Rella: I just don’t think Rory Macdonald is that great yet. Yea he’s defeated some solid welterweights but it’s a little too soon to be calling him a future champion. That being said, he’s still the favorite coming into this one. Penn is back from his retirement and beyond motivated, yea we’ve heard this before but this time I kinda believe it. Penn is 1-3-1 in his last five fights but they were all better fighters than MacDonald. If Penn does have a chance at winning, he has to get it done in the first round. This is when Penn’s striking and takedown defense will still be effective before he gets exhausted. I just see the Prodigy pulling out a victory somehow.
Winner: Penn, Round 1, Submission
Patrick Mullin: BJ Penn is a great lightweight but as a welterweight he’s got one quality win and that took place 8 years ago. He’s done nothing of merit at 170 pounds while MacDonald has been outstanding and is the heir apparent to GSP’s throne. MacDonald always comes to fight in great shape, loves nothing more than to grapple and beat up his opponents to set up submissions, and Penn jsut isn’t able to compete with someone like this anymore. Rory may lose the first round to the superior striking of Penn but when he figures out its time to take him down he will, repeatedly, and beat him up. I expect BJ to quit between the second and third rounds.
Winner: Rory MacDonald, TKO(retirement), Round 2
Dan Plunkett: This is the fight I’m looking forward to the most on the card. Penn hasn’t fought in more than 13 months, which is easily the longest layoff of his career. It’s a strong possibility that Penn will have to deal with ring rust. Still, Penn seems to be in good shape and is certainly more talented than MacDonald. I’d be very surprised if Penn isn’t at least competitive early, but late in the fight who knows. Penn did bring in good training partners for MacDonald in Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Tarec Saffiedine, all of whom are bigger fighters and the first two are better wrestlers than MacDonald. MacDonald is good at taking fights to the ground and has power in his shots there, but the fighters he finished on the ground weren’t at Penn’s level. He was able to throw around Nate Diaz for three rounds, but Diaz doesn’t have the takedown defense of Penn. MacDonald is taller, bigger, and has a fairly significant reach advantage. I think MacDonald is definitely the safer pick of the two, but Penn undoubtedly has the ability to win this fight.
Winner: MacDonald, Decision.
The staff picks Rory MacDonald, 5-1.
Jon Butterfield: Another fight pitting a legend against a fast-rising star, Shogun Rua vs Alexander Gustafsson has all the makings of an instant Fight of the Year candidate! Two of the best strikers in the UFC, Rua has obviously claimed more scalps than his opponent (Overeem, Machida, and Liddell to name but a few), but Gustafsson has been a veritable juggernaut with nary a hiccup since his 2010 defeat to Phil ‘Mr Wonderful’ Davis. Comfortably out-classing Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko and Thiago Silva in consecutive fights, Gustafsson will still be required to take a step up here, but all the signs suggest he’s more than capable of doing so – though maintaining distance against Rua and avoiding his devastating KO power won’t be as easy as against any of those aforementioned fighters. This is a different level entirely for the gigantic Swede, but his boxing and footwork are perplexing top fighters in a way we haven’t seen since Jon Jones started taking the upper echelons of the UFC apart, and if Rua is even half a step below his very best (which, admittedly, is another question entirely), I can see him getting dismantled by ‘The Mauler’.
Winner: Alexander Gustafsson, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: I’m not sure how much gas Rua has left in the tank, but honestly Gustafsson almost looks like the way Shogun did when he was at the top of his game some years back. I think Rua’s takedown and ground game isn’t actually that bad when he uses it but he’s rarely taken it there in the UFC. Gustafsson’s grappling and takedown defense has likely much improved since he started working with Alliance MMA and training with Phil Davis. Unless Gustafsson is overly cautious and tentative since this is the biggest fight of his life, I think he takes this and breaks down Shogun in the second or third round.
Winner: Alexander Gustafsson, TKO, Round 3
Jeremy Lamberts: 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.
Winner: Gustafsson, Decision
Alex Rella: Another fight with a former champion taking on a younger faster competitor. Rua has looked great lately and his dedication has been called into question but Gustafsson on the other hand has been on a tear winning five in a row. Gustafsson is the better striker at this point but Rua can still take a beating and hold his own. Rua may have a chance if he can bring Gustasfson to the ground but we haven’t seen him submit anyone in years. Expect to see Gustaffson use his accurate quick striking to pull out a decision, hopefully we’ll get to see if his ground game has actually improved by training with Phil Davis.
Winner: Gustafsson, Decision
Patrick Mullin: Much like our previous and next bouts I went over this in depth in my weekly column The Blueprint which you can read here every Thursday(cheap plug). That said with the condition of his knees Shogun has really had to struggle in fights he would have had in the bag just a few years ago. Gustaffson plays to none of Shogun’s strengths stylistically. He utilizes good and constant lateral movement, he fights at a distance behind strong boxing fundamentals, and has an ever improving grappling game. This fight is all wrong for Shogun and as a Rua fan I don’t know how much I want to watch this, as its likely a very brutal beating.
Winner: Alexander Gustafsson, TKO, Round Two
Dan Plunkett: The more I think about it the more I like Gustafsson in this fight. Shogun has fought guys similar to Gustafsson’s frame with success every time with the exception of Jon Jones, but I don’t have faith that he can get inside and land hard punches. Shogun is better on the ground, but I have doubts in his ability to take it there. He’s Shogun and he has a chance, but I like the Swede here.
Winner: Gustafsson, Decision.
The staff picks Alexander Gustafsson, 6-0.
Jon Butterfield: Nobody has improved so much in so short a time as Nate Diaz has since his April 2011 butt-whooping at the hands of Rory MacDonald. While dropping back down to 155 lbs looked like a desperate move for a man teetering on the brink of a possible UFC release (he’d lost two straight and was 2-2 at welterweight), what then transpired was utterly astonishing. Diaz took Takanori Gomi apart with consummate ease, derailed the Donald Cerrone hype train in his most brilliant performance to date, and then made Jim Miller TAP OUT, something many of us thought effectively impossible. Suddenly, Diaz was being touted as a top contender at 155 lbs, and with good reason. His boxing has come on leaps and bounds, now rivalling his brother Nick in terms of effectiveness, and his submission game has arguably surpassed that of his elder brother – in short, he’s a threat to anyone in the division, and that includes the UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. Henderson, who appears to be made of rubber, is a near-perfect modern day MMA fighter. Unerringly calm in the face of danger, Henderson’s mental strengths have lent him incredible durability, which, along with a near-impenetrable chin and out-of-this-world submission defence, has meant he hasn’t been finished since his third-ever fight in 2007 – and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon, no matter how brilliant Diaz has looked in recent fights.
Diaz, however, won’t be too concerned about that. Renowned for their phenomenal cardio, both these fighters will have ample endurance for a relentless, five-round scrap that will utilize each and every level, see both fighters tested to their absolute limits, and, at the end of the day, a new UFC Lightweight Champion. Yes, folks, I truly believe UFC on Fox 5 will witness the coronation of King Nate, with Diaz out-striking Henderson across the majority of the rounds, and picking up the points to score a razor-thin decision win.
Winner: Nate Diaz, Decision
Jeffrey Harris: This is such a tight close fight, and I think it’s an extremely hard fight to call. I think Bendo definitely has the right skillset to beat Diaz and give him problems. But on the other hand, I could also see Diaz pulling this off and setting a strong pace and taking the fight to Bendo. Sometimes in some of his fights Bendo looks a little too laid back in letting the other guy dictate the pace. Diaz also showed a ton of improvement in finishing Jim Miller, a guy no one had ever been able to finish before including Ben Henderson, the former champ Frankie Edgar, and the former top title contender in Gray Maynard. Diaz showed a much improved clinch game and also takedown defense in that fight. I think Henderson though has a good style to match-up with Diaz because of his legkicks, a technique that has given Diaz a lot of trouble in the past. Diaz does not like to defend or check legkicks and in the Cerrone fight he was getting his leg kicked out from under him. Ben Henderson has really good submission defense as well which is something he will also need against Diaz. While I can see this fight going either way, I see this fight easily going five rounds and possibly even a split decision, but I think Henderson will come out of it on top. He will utilize his wrestling and takedowns and legkicks to stifle Diaz but I think it will be close.
Winner: Ben Henderson, Decision
Jeremy Lamberts: 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.
Winner: Henderson, Decision
Alex Rella: This one should go the full five rounds either way. The two have the perfect set of different skills for an exciting main event. Diaz is the great boxer with an excellent ground game but Henderson is good wrestler with a great chin and submission defense. Diaz has really become a complete fighter since dropping back down to lightweight but Henderson didn’t really impress me in his last fight with Edgar. Diaz thinks he’ll have to finish Henderson to get the victory since the judges wont like him but he should be good anyway.
Winner: Diaz, Decision
Patrick Mullin: We couldn’t really ask for two more different personalities outside of the cage. One guy likes to brawl in the street and has a screw the world kind of attitude. The other loves Jesus and looks like he hangs out a lot at Starbucks or the library. However they’re both great fighters at their peaks and that’s what we love to see. Ultimately I think the biggest factor comes down to it being much more likely that Diaz can finish Henderson rather than vice versa. Five rounds is a long time in a fight and I don’t think Henderson has the tools to stop Nate from doing his usual routine of breaking a man down with his boxing to set up a submission or TKO finish.
Winner: Nate Diaz, TKO, Round 3
Dan Plunkett: This is the type of fight you see is happening and immediately put it into consideration for best fight of the year. Both have good cardio (great in Diaz’s case) and don’t stop fighting until the final horn. Historically, you beat a Diaz brother by taking him down, staying on top, and not letting him submit you. Henderson might have the wrestling and skill to be able to do that. His submission defense has been known to be superb since his excellent first fight with Donald Cerrone. Diaz has the superior stand-up, won’t slow down in the championship rounds, and has an awesome submission attack from his back. It’s far from impossible that Henderson could be submitted by Diaz, no matter how good he’s looked against guys like Cerrone and Jim Miller. This is a tough call and I think it will be a fairly close contest, but Henderson’s wrestling gives him the edge in my book.
Winner: Henderson, Decision.
The staff calls it down the middle, 3-3.
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UFC on FOX 5 PREVIEW PODCASTS
411 Ground and Pound Radio Previews UFC on FOX 5: 411’s Ground and Pound Radio returns with a preview of the UFC lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Nate Diaz as well as the rest of UFC on FOX 5! You can check out the show at this link.
Thoughts From The Man Cave Previewing UFC on FOX 5 w/Samer Kadi: Samer Kadi joins the Man Cave to preview UFC on FOX 5, which is the most stacked and relevant UFC card in quite some time. We’ll preview in depth the big three fights of Ben Henderson vs. Nate Diaz, Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson, and BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald. Then we’ll run down the rest of the card and spend way too much time coming up with a nickname for Tim Means before ending with Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva being scared and me rapping. Like UFC on FOX 5, this podcast has it all. You can check out the show at this link.
Thoughts From The Man Cave Previewing UFC on FOX 5 w/Adam Tool: Adam Tool joins the Man Cave for his usual pre-UFC on Fox appearance. We’ll talk about the expectations heading into this weekend’s card along with previewing all the main card bouts. Then we’ll hit on a number of topics around the MMA world including Ronda Rousey in the UFC, Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva, Strikeforce finally folding, The Ultimate Fighter, and plenty more. You can check out the show at this link.