Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Why This Fight Will Be the Real Headliner

Sean LevinsonContributor IIDecember 5, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24:  UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida (R) battles with UFC Light Heavyweight challenger Mauricio Rua (L) during their title fight at UFC 104 at Staples Center on October 24, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Benson Henderson defending the lightweight title against Nate Diaz may technically be the main event for UFC on FOX 5, but we all know which fight on this card fans are looking forward to most. It features two exciting, evenly-matched strikers who like to get the job done the way every fighter should. There will be an epic battle of brutal strikes that has “fight of the year” written all over it on December 8th, but it won’t be between Henderson and Diaz. 

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson will be responsible for a display of the highest-quality entertainment an MMA fight can possibly offer, which is why it is the true headliner of UFC on FOX 5. This showdown is a crowd-pleaser guaranteed to deliver, and unfortunately this is not the case with the lightweight title fight at the end of the night.

There are few competitors who have had more memorable fights than Shogun Rua. The man puts it all on the line to win, and judging by the vast amount of appreciation he gets from an ever-expanding fan base, every fight that has Rua’s name on it is a win-win situation for anyone watching.

Many other fighters might develop a less dangerous strategy than going toe to toe with opponents like Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, Jon Jones or Lyoto Machida. But Shogun does not hesitate to use the versatility, intensity and expertise of his striking to bring down whomever opposes him, regardless of the harm this mentality has brought him.

The most legendary fights that Shogun participated in gained such notoriety because they were against opponents of similar style and skill. Like Rua, Alexander Gustafsson is an extremely versatile and powerful kickboxer whose best moments consist of a brilliant use of punches, kicks, elbows and knees. He likes knocking guys out with his laser-like accuracy, and thrives off the thrill of trying to beat his opponent in the race to connect with a solid hit.



In other words, Gustafsson is the perfect adversary for Shogun and a necessary component for yet another back and forth clash. It will showcase the incomparable heart and technique that goes into winning a battle of elite MMA striking. 

Aside from the fighting style of Rua and Gustafsson, what solidifies the notion that this will be a great fight is the reward a dominant or hard-earned performance will grant each participant. A win for either fighter will prove that he is a top contender in the stacked light heavyweight division, in addition to moving the winner extremely close to title contention.

Shogun Rua wants to prove that he isn’t too slow or out of shape to compete with his younger, more athletic opponent, and Gustafsson wants to prove that he can indeed knock out a seasoned veteran and pose a legitimate threat to the rest of the mixed martial artists in his division.

The actual main event of Henderson versus Diaz just doesn’t measure up in terms of excitement and suspense for one primary reason: the newly preferred fighting methods of Benson Henderson.

Yes, Nate Diaz does possess dazzling boxing abilities, but it’s safe to say that Benson Henderson has no intention of fighting back with a similar technique. In a media conference call, the lightweight champion expressed his lack of desire to strike with Diaz for fear of losing his title. We also saw how reluctant Henderson was to exchange with Frankie Edgar, let alone get close enough to even touch him (especially in their last fight). Henderson’s new focus is to minimize the risk of getting hurt by purposely avoiding the fists of his opponents.



Benson Henderson is a proficient martial arts expert who can punch and kick with crisp accuracy and power, yet he has apparently lost the urge to put these skills on display now that the lightweight belt is in his possession. His fight with Clay Guida was loaded with wild kicks and aggressive grappling, but since he won the belt Henderson has taken on a more conservative style.

While Henderson’s incomparable agility is truly a thing of beauty, most fans would rather watch two people trade blows than one person fail to hit a much faster opponent over and over again. There is a title on the line, and a chance for Nate Diaz to finally attain the success he deserves. But the probability of Diaz forcing Henderson to try to best him in a ruthless battle of strikes is slim to none. Henderson vs Diaz simply cannot compare to the general entertainment quality and likelihood of a crowd-pleasing outcome of Rua vs Gustafsson.

Benson Henderson stated (in the aforementioned conference call) that he would be fine if his upcoming fight went to a decision. A statement like this will never come from Rua or Gustafsson, regardless of what was on the line or who they were fighting. When they get hurt, it only makes them want to crack back even harder. Henderson prefers to eliminate the possibility of getting knocked out altogether.

Rua vs Gustafsson will feature two men trying to take each other’s head off. Henderson vs Diaz will probably feature Diaz trying to take Henderson’s head off, but only hitting thin air instead. To the fans, a match like this is much more annoying than it is interesting to watch.


The true headliner, on the other hand, will contain a highlight-reel finish and/or an epic series of violent exchanges, both of which are characteristics of the most entertaining type of fight. If this bout does go the distance, fans will have witnessed both fighters dish out and absorb a large amount of damage, and the spectacle of two men surviving such a fight will be just as much of a wonder to observe than the almighty KO.

Regardless who comes out on top, this is unquestionably the most exciting fight of UFC on FOX 5, as it has much more of a probability for a stunning result than the actual main event. We will be treated to a breath-taking display of a truly lethal form of martial arts in addition to being informed as to who has all the tools worthy of a prospective title shot.

This is the fight every UFC enthusiast is most pumped to see this Saturday night. Mauricio Rua versus Alexander Gustafsson will drop jaws worldwide while simultaneously reminding us why the UFC has the massive amount of spectators it does today.