UFC on Fox 5: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

McKinley Noble@KenTheGreat1Correspondent IDecember 7, 2012

UFC on Fox 5: Bleacher Report MMA Main Card Staff Predictions

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    This Saturday, the UFC heads to the KeyArena in Seattle with one of best fight cards ever put together for cable television.

    In the main event, the athletic Ben Henderson defends his lightweight title against Nate Diaz, a fierce brawler with a mean streak matched only by his elite submission skills.

    In the co-main event, former UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua faces off against Swedish slugger Alexander Gustafsson.

    There's plenty more further down the main card, as UFC legend B.J. Penn attempts to salvage his legendary status with a win against fast-rising Canadian star Rory MacDonald.

    Rounding out the broadcast, a revived Mike Swick faces a tough challenge against grizzled UFC veteran Matt Brown.

    Overall, it's a stacked FOX card with interesting matchups galore.

    Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists McKinley Noble, Sean Smith, Scott Harris, Kyle Symes, John Heinis and Matthew Roth are back with official main card predictions for UFC on Fox 5.

    Take a look to see whom we picked to win it all this weekend.

Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown

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    McKinley Noble: The UFC tends to sign Brown up for fights where he's either gatekeeping someone on the verge of getting cut or making a superior fighter look great. This bout falls into the latter category. Even with injury after injury in Swick's back pocket over the years, "Quick" is still a solid step above the type of guys that lose to Brown.

    Swick, Unanimous Decision

    Sean Smith: Matt Brown is a scrappy fighter who can cause headaches for opponents more skilled than him. He'll make it interesting against Mike Swick early, but Swick is a fellow veteran fighter who will eventually find a way to take advantage of Brown's weaknesses. Seeing as Brown's past four losses have come via second-round submissions, Swick will probably be looking to take his opponent to the ground at some point.

    Swick, Submission, Round 2

    Scott Harris: This might be my personal second-most anticipated fight on the card behind the title fight. My sources tell me that Mike Swick is rather "quick" with his hands and feet and loves to engage in the slugfests. They also tell me Brown doesn't lose slugfests. Sound the upset alarm.

    Brown, Unanimous Decision

    Kyle Symes: This is a make-or-break situation for Matt Brown. The same could be said for Mike Swick as well. Both guys need to win (and win impressively), which will likely lead to an entertaining scrap. We'll see if Brown's chin can handle the flurry of strikes produced by Swick, but I'm more concerned about Swick's ability to take a punch as well. This turns into who lands the last punch, and I ultimately think Swick's hand speed will be the difference maker.

    Swick, TKO, Round 3

    John Heinis: Swick looked amazing in his comeback knockout of DaMarques Johnson, but it's DaMarques Johnson. Brown is 3-0 in 2012 and seems to have begun a career renaissance at 31 years old. I wouldn't be surprised if Swick won, but I smell an upset on this one.

    Brown, Unanimous Decision

    Matt Roth: I'm very happy that Mike Swick is back. His mind seems to be in the right place after that two-and-a-half-year layoff. While some may focus on how it affected him negatively, it also meant less mileage. Swick hits like a truck and will land on Brown over and over again.

    Swick, TKO, Round 2

    B/R Staff Picking Swick: McKinley, Sean, Kyle, Roth

    B/R Staff Picking Brown: Harris, Heinis

B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald

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    McKinley Noble: It'll be shocking if the newly slimmed-down B.J. Penn steamrolls MacDonald in this fight, but don't expect that to happen. Even when MacDonald starts getting clipped on the feet like he did against Che Mills, he'll take the fight to the floor and dominate from there. After that, Penn should either retire for good or go limping back to the Frankie Edgar-less lightweight division.

    MacDonald, Unanimous Decision

    Sean Smith: By all accounts, B.J. Penn is in great shape for his upcoming fight with Rory MacDonald. Still, I have my doubts that a year-long hiatus won't be an issue for a fighter whose motivation and conditioning have long been questioned. A training partner of Georges St-Pierre, who has defeated Penn twice, MacDonald will likely utilize his size to employ a similar game plan to the one that the welterweight champion used against the Hawaiian.

    MacDonald, Decision

    Scott Harris: I'm really happy B.J. Penn is taking this fight seriously. Otherwise, I'd be concerned he might lose a tooth or a throat or something.

    MacDonald, TKO, Round 2

    Kyle Symes: B.J. Penn wants everyone, especially Rory MacDonald, to believe he's in prime shape coming into this fight. Penn has historically done well against wrestlers, but I think MacDonald will be too strong and too explosive for Penn to handle. The Hawaiian will get his shots in while the two are standing, but I don't foresee the fight staying on the feet for very long.

    MacDonald, TKO, Round 2

    John Heinis: This heavily anticipated battle is finally upon us. Penn appears to be as conditioned and motivated as ever, but his 1-3-1 record in the past few years speaks volumes. "The Prodigy" is a live dog, but Rory's relentless takedowns and ground-and-pound will be too much.

    MacDonald, Unanimous Decision

    Matt Roth: A fat B.J. Penn gets trucked by Rory MacDonald. Too bad Penn's coming into this fight in amazing shape from possibly the best camp of his life. The legend is just too much for the young Canadian.

    Penn, TKO, Round 3

    B/R Staff Picking Penn: Roth

    B/R Staff Picking MacDonald: McKinley, Sean, Harris, Kyle, Heinis

Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson

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    McKinley Noble: As slow and old as Rua has looked in his last few fights, I don't think Gustafsson is going to have an easy time here. "Shogun" is at that point in his career where he seems to be relying on the "old man strength" that fuels aging legends like Big Nog, Takanori Gomi and Mark Hunt. Still, Gustafsson is just too strong, too fast and too young to lose this fight.

    Gustafsson, TKO, Round 2

    Sean Smith: The Mauricio Rua of about two years ago would probably have his way with an up-and-comer like Alexander Gustafsson, but "Shogun" seems to have aged significantly over his past few fights. Combined with what will probably be a speed advantage, Gustafsson's reach could cause problems for Rua, who has been forced to depend on his ground game in recent fights against arguably less-skilled strikers in Dan Henderson and Brandon Vera.

    Gustafsson, KO, Round 3

    Scott Harris: I love Shogun—Pride, former champ, soccer kicks, all that. But he's 31 going on 37, and this is the fight that will put him on the novelty circuit.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

    Kyle Symes: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua may be ranked in the top five at light heavyweight, but there's no way he's a top-five fighter (and that's coming from a Shogun fan). He's looked slow and is showing his age with each fight. I like that he's been trying to use a ground game more, but I ultimately see this looking a lot like his fight with Jon Jones, as Alexander Gustafsson will use his length to pepper Shogun from a distance.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

    John Heinis: Shogun looked absolutely terrible in his last fight, even though he won, so that means he should look like the same beast we consistently saw in Pride against "The Mauler." However, Gustafsson has just been on another level recently, and I don't think Rua will be able to hang.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

    Matt Roth: If this were 2006, there would be no doubt in my mind that Shogun would run over Gustafsson. Unfortunately, he can't use stomps or soccer kicks. Gustafsson's better boxing and footwork will be the decider as he strikes from the outside and frustrates Rua.

    Gustafsson, Unanimous Decision

    B/R Staff Picking Rua: None

    B/R Staff Picking Gustafsson: McKinley, Sean, Harris, Kyle, Heinis, Roth

Ben Henderson vs. Nate Diaz

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    McKinley Noble: Both Henderson and Diaz have iron chins, endless cardio and amazing submission skills. No matter how much I obsess over the raw numbers, I only see two areas where one man has an advantage: Henderson's wrestling and diverse arsenal of kicks. Unless Diaz can submit "Bendo" inside five rounds (and become the second person to ever pull that off), this grueling fight will eventually go to a decision for the current champion.

    Henderson, Split Decision

    Sean Smith: It could be argued Diaz is a better striker and jiu-jitsu practitioner than Henderson, but the champion's wrestling will be the difference in this matchup. While Diaz may make things difficult once the fight goes to the ground, Henderson has some of the best submission defense in MMA, having only been submitted once in a fight that occurred nearly six years ago. Think George St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit minus 15 pounds and a Diaz head kick.

    Henderson, Decision

    Scott Harris: I know everyone thinks the Bendo wrestling and strength advantage will make the difference, and hey, maybe it will. But just because Bendo isn't going to wade into the pocket or slide into a triangle doesn't mean Diaz can't work his game. People said much of the same before Diaz's fight with Jim Miller.

    Diaz, Submission, Round 3

    Kyle Symes: Ultimately, this fight comes down to Henderson's wrestling and how well he incorporates it into his game plan. Nate Diaz has struggled with strong wrestlers in the past, and I see no reason to believe he can stop Henderson's takedowns. I'm sure Diaz will do his best to make it into a fight, but I think Henderson is too much for him to handle.

    Henderson, Unanimous Decision

    John Heinis: Diaz has looked great since returning to lightweight, but he hasn't been tested by a big, strong wrestler with great jiu-jitsu defense (at 155 pounds) in quite a while. That being said, I think we have another controversial close decision on our hands.

    Henderson, Split Decision

    Matt Roth: Everyone is getting caught up with Diaz being the craftier fighter on the ground. They'll talk about how he can set up his triangles from pretty much anywhere. That'd a great point if he were fighting a submittable fighter, but Henderson is just too good everywhere.

    Henderson, Decision

    B/R Staff Picking Henderson: McKinley, Sean, Kyle, Heinis, Roth

    B/R Staff Picking Diaz: Harris