The UFC returns to network television this weekend, and the organization is delivering an incredible card for it’s fifth trip to FOX.
Headlined by a highly anticipated lightweight title clash between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz, UFC on Fox 5 has one of the deepest lineups that the promotion has thrown together all year.
Along with the Henderson-Diaz championship bout, the UFC has added proven stars like B.J. Penn and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to participate in two of the nights featured fights. If the formerly retired Penn or Rua is defeated by a younger opponent, the promotion has a chance to introduce another star to the public.
The three top-billed fights on this card are some of the best matchups the company has put together all year, and should help the UFC continue to impress with its FOX partnership.
It may be the weakest fight on a stacked main card, but there’s no doubt that the battle between Matt Brown and Mike Swick is going to kick off one of the year's most hyped UFC events in a big way.
Swick has earned his “Quick” nickname by going out and finishing fights both immediately and impressively, but his ability to put his opponent away will be tested against a tough veteran in Brown.
Since joining the UFC roster following a stint on The Ultimate Fighter 7, Brown has been one of the most durable and exciting fighters to step inside the Octagon, a reputation he will need to uphold against Swick.
Swick and Brown are almost guaranteed to produce a thrilling fight, and the longer these two stand across from each other, the more likely they’ll end up in a brawl.
This is a perfect matchup for the UFC to kick off a card on network television, and it will be fun to see how much punishment these two will be able to dish out before one of them ends up on the wrong end of a finish.
This bout has serious fight of the night potential, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the end result favoring either fighter, but overall Swick is more well rounded and should earn the win if he can get the fight to the mat.
Prediction: Mike Swick by 2nd-Round Submission
The battle between B.J. Penn and Rory MacDonald has been months in the making, and it’s finally time for Penn to make his return to the cage against a fighter that could easily stake his claim over B.J.’s “Prodigy” moniker by fight's end on Saturday.
Penn is a true legend in the sport, and is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the history of MMA, but the last few years haven’t been kind to Penn. The veteran needs to make a big statement against MacDonald if he wants to become relevant in a crowded field of welterweight contenders.
And while Penn is looking to make his way back into the mix at 170 pounds, MacDonald is gunning for the biggest win of his young career. A victory over a proven superstar like Penn would give him huge momentum as he makes his way to the top of the division.
The question surrounding any B.J. Penn fight is whether or not Penn shows up in shape, and it certainly appears that Penn is in shape and motivated for a huge test in MacDonald.
Both fighters desperately need a win to answer questions about their status as true contenders, and with so much on the line, both fighters should be poised to put on a show in Seattle.
MacDonald has displayed some serious grappling skills in his UFC career thus far, and his ability to rough his opponents up on the mat should be his key to victory here.
While Penn has shown off some excellent takedown defense in the past, I truly think "The Prodigy" is better off at lightweight than he is at welterweight, and his lack of size for the division is going to be his demise this weekend.
Rory MacDonald by 3rd-Round TKO
Much like the Penn-MacDonald fight, the bout pitting Shogun Rua against Alexander Gustafsson is a matchup between old school and new school.
Shogun’s legendary striking ability and killer instinct have made him one of the most popular fighters in the history of the sport. After getting into back-to-back brawls with Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera, the former champion has proven that he is still one of the most exciting fighters in the division.
Gustafsson will set out to prove that he belongs in the same mix as guys like Shogun and Henderson. After watching him completely dominate Thiago Silva earlier this year, it looks like the Swedish fighter may be ready to take the next step up in competition.
This fight is going to take place on the feet, and considering the finishing ability both of these fighters possess, it almost guaranteed to end violently.
Most light heavyweights would shy away from battling it out with Shogun on the feet for an extended period of time, but Gustafsson has the length and patience to pick apart the former Pride superstar. As long as he keeps his cool, the Swede should pull out the win here.
Alexander Gustafsson by Unanimous Decision
The lightweight division is by far the deepest in the UFC, and anytime there’s a title fight at 155 pounds, fans know that they’re in for a hell of a scrap.
Viewers won’t be disappointed this weekend, as current champ Benson Henderson puts his lightweight strap on the line against one of MMA’s premier antiheroes in Nate Diaz in the main event of the main card.
Henderson has been fighting with a renewed sense of purpose since the UFC-WEC merger almost two years ago, and his rise to the top of the division has been incredibly impressive considering the number of high caliber opponents “Smooth” has taken out.
Back-to-back wins over Frankie Edgar solidified Henderson’s spot at the top of the 155-pound division, but he may very well be facing the toughest test of his career this weekend in the ultra-talented Diaz.
Diaz has always been one of the more well-rounded fighters on the UFC roster, but it took the Stockton native a bit of time to completely put it all together inside the Octagon. He's suffered a few setbacks over the course of his lengthy UFC career, most notably in his temporary move to the welterweight division.
Now fighting at the top of his game, Diaz has a chance to use his unorthodox boxing skills to reach a point in the sport that few ever thought he could achieve.
Diaz has had some problems against athletic, wrestling-based fighters in the past, but his ability to fight off his back is one of his greatest assets, which could prove troublesome for Henderson.
As long as Diaz is able to stay aggressive on the mat and push the pace when the fight is on the feet, he should be able to use his striking skills to pick apart the champion.
Nate Diaz by Unanimous Decision