In anticipation of December 8's UFC on FOX 5 event, we take a look at the career defining moment of each main card competitor.
The main card will be kicked off this Saturday night at 8:00 ET, and will feature a quartet of fights. Those fights include Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown, B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald, Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio Rua and the main attraction, a lightweight title match between Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson.
Preliminary action will start at 4:30 ET and move to FX at 5:00 ET.
Defining Moment: Brown defeats Stephen Thompson at UFC 145
Brown's defining moment is very much up for debate, as "The Immortal" has been a steady mid-level fixture in the UFC since joining the promotion via The Ultimate Fighter back in 2008.
The reason I give his UFC 145 scrap with Stephen Thompson the nod is because the bout so articulately defines Brown as a competitor. He'll never be mistaken as the promotion's most talented athlete, but he competes hard every time out and never wavers during a battle of attrition.
The fight was a memorable action-heavy grind, one that contributes to Brown's fighting identity, perhaps more so than any other past performance.
Defining Moment: Swick knocks out Damarques Johnson at UFC on FOX 4
Swick started out his UFC career by making the semi-finals on the original Ultimate Fighter, before posting a 9-1 record in the promotion-proper. Though it seems accomplishments like that would have produced a bevy of marquee moments, Swick largely flew under the radar in spite of his considerable successes.
That's why when searching for the defining moment of Swick's MMA career we have to look at his most recent triumph.
After more than two years on the sidelines because of stomach complications and a knee injury, Swick returned to the Octagon this August and scored an electrifying knockout win over Damarques Johnson.
Swick's defining MMA moment is really the entire resurrection of his career, an achievement that culminated with this UFC on FOX 4 victory.
Defining Moment: B.J. Penn submits Matt Hughes at UFC 46
Penn has enjoyed a storied career filled with both lofty peaks and low valleys. His defining moment, however, can only really be UFC 46, when he grasped the UFC welterweight title.
At that time—January 31, 2004—Matt Hughes was on top of the MMA world and had firmly dug in as the UFC's welterweight champion. Penn, a lightweight to that point, jumped up in class to take on the title holder, and in the face of long odds, finished the fight in the first round.
Though he was already highly regarded at that point, and later went on to accomplish much more, UFC 46 was the moment Penn really began cementing his legacy of fighting anyone at any weight, while still succeeding at the highest level.
Defining Moment: MacDonald defeats Nate Diaz at UFC 129
An argument could be made that MacDonald's defining moment was actually his UFC 115 loss to Carlos Condit, but I'm going with the Diaz win. It was his first grand success on the big stage, and remains the most impressive name on his hit-list.
MacDonald also built a bit of a highlight reel in that match, executing a handful of powerful suplexes that worked the crowd into a frenzy.
At 23 years of age, MacDonald's true defining MMA moment still hasn't happened yet.
Who knows, maybe he'll find it this Saturday night when he takes on the legendary B.J. Penn.
Defining Moment: Gustafsson defeats Thiago Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 2
Gustafsson has compiled a strong 6-1 record in the UFC, scoring five stoppages along the way. His defining MMA moment, however, was the one victory he garnered by decision.
Thiago Silva is not only Gustafsson's signature victim, but he is the first opponent Gustafsson out-finessed rather than out-slugged. The more tactical, methodical approach Gustafsson showed in the fight revealed another side of him, one that many had questioned the existence of.
Throw in that the Swede was headlining the UFC's first show in his home country and UFC on Fuel TV 2 is a pretty easy pick for Gustafsson's defining moment.
Defining Moment: Winning the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix (2005)
I recently wrote a piece recounting the most memorable moments of Shogun's career, and there are several on that list that would make do here. But really, it comes down to just two—winning the UFC light heavyweight title and winning the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix.
I went with the Pride Grand Prix because, even though winning the UFC title was more of a mainstream accomplishment, there will only ever be one Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion.
The 16-man tournament included a field of iconic 205-pound fighters, making Shogun's victory one of the sport's most prestigious accomplishments ever. Just check out the tournament bracket if you need confirmation of that.
Shogun's path to victory entailed a knockout of Quinton Jackson, a decision win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, a knockout of Alistair Overeem and lastly, a knockout of Ricardo Arona in the finals.
Defining Moment: Diaz submits Jim Miller at UFC on FOX 3
Diaz has run hot and cold during his UFC career, starting out with five straight wins, then going through a 3-5 period before reeling off three consecutive victories over highly regarded opponents.
While an argument could be made that Diaz's season five Ultimate Fighter title defines him best, his 2012 victory over Jim Miller was much more meaningful.
For starters, the win propelled him into Saturday night's title fight with Ben Henderson. It also marked the only time Miller has ever been stopped. And, it was the best Diaz has ever looked in the Octagon.
Of course, a win over "Bendo" at UFC on FOX 5 would supplant the Miller win as Diaz's defining moment.
Defining Moment: Henderson defeats Frankie Edgar at UFC 144
For the early part of his UFC career, Henderson was a "WEC guy." A lightweight still associated with the UFC's now defunct sister promotion.
There was always some wonder about how smoothly success in the WEC would translate to success in the UFC. As one of the most accomplished WEC lightweights to join Zuffa's larger promotion, Henderson was someone people looked towards to sate their curiosity about the matter.
Henderson hinted at an answer when he disposed of Mark Bocek, then built up his case with wins over Clay Guida and Jim Miller. But it was not until Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar that he truly legitimized the collective of WEC imports, both for talent and ability to carry a UFC pay-per-view.
It was, of course, also huge on an individual level, as Henderson became the UFC lightweight champion.