UFC on Fox 5 is an amazing card. In fact, it’s one of the best cards we’ve seen come to fruition this year. Sure, we’ve eyed plenty of other well-aligned events, but the vast majority of those crumbled, succumbing to "The 2012 Injury Bug." Somehow, some way, UFC on Fox 5 avoided that plague.
An amazing lineup of fights looms, just hours away, and isolating three matches that command full attention is a tad challenging only due to the insane depth of the event as a whole. The main card looks brilliant top to bottom, and the preliminary fights are loaded with compelling collisions.
I don’t typically lean in the direction of standard popularity (I like to function against the grain), but for this specific article, I’ve got to go with the voice of the crowd. I think the “trendy” opinions are spot on.
The MMA world is curious to see how B.J. Penn fares in his overdue return to competition. The division’s landscape could change dramatically if Rory MacDonald tramples the former champion in brutal fashion. There’s a lot riding on this fight, regardless of who emerges victorious.
“The Prodigy” has long been a fan favorite due to his willingness to stand directly in front of his opponents, eat their hardest shots and return fire with crippling power.
His submission game is also rather impressive: the man has a tremendous rubber guard, and if he takes an opponent’s back, he’s more than likely to finish with his trademark rear-naked choke. Penn’s always exciting, and fans haven’t forgotten that for one second.
Rory, meanwhile, is a surging prospect staring at the precipice of greatness. The kid has all the tools required to surface as a top contender to Georges St-Pierre’s title, but he’s got to get past Penn in order to stake his claim as an unquestionable A-class competitor.
This fight has the potential to steal the show the only question remaining is: Who emerges as the definitive stud?
Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is running out of worthy challengers. He’s already dismantled Mauricio Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Quinton Jackson. With the exception of Dan Henderson and Alexander Gustafsson, there aren’t many options left for the Jackson’s MMA at 205.
Of course, that too could change should “Shogun” put another loss on the résumé of Gustafsson, and the light heavyweight waters could become incredibly murky if Machida defeats Henderson at UFC 157.
As much as I like Dan as a fighter, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which he makes it past Machida, which means there’s a whole lot riding on Saturday night’s fight for Alex.
“Shogun” will serve as Gustafsson’s first elite test. Thus far the Swedish prospect has stumbled just once in his career (a submission loss to Phil Davis back at UFC 112), and he’s managed to rebound in impressive fashion since.
Alex has now amassed five consecutive victories inside the Octagon, and if he can put “Shogun” away Saturday night, he’ll have made a strong case for title contention.
Then again, if Rua walks away victorious Saturday night, the division will take on a translucency that we haven’t seen from any other division sans middleweight, where Anderson has cleaned house for more than half a decade. Even welterweight, where GSP has been a dominant force for years, has a handful of fighters who appear well suited to challenge for the belt.
If Mauricio wins Saturday night, we lose one of two potential contenders to Jones’ title, and as likeable as Rua is, that’s the last thing I want to see.
Whenever Nick Diaz fights, the world pays close attention. Both Nick and Nate are go-for-broke fighters who always put on thrilling displays of talent and true grit, and that’s what makes the Diaz brothers such magnetic figures. Sure they’re awfully brash away from the cage, and that does turn some heads, but these are guys who walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. That makes them rare members of a very special breed.
Saturday night, Nate will have the chance to become the first Diaz to capture a UFC title. He’ll also have the opportunity to bump a talented fighter who doesn’t draw much devotion (or money) from his lightweight pedestal.
Benson Henderson, while remarkably good everywhere the fight goes, just doesn’t have the “it factor.” Fans aren’t running amok chattering about the man and his accomplishments, and that’s because he’s the owner of a somewhat stale personality.
I have nothing against the man, and respect his accomplishments quite a bit, but let’s all be totally honest with ourselves: Benson Henderson as lightweight champion isn’t any different than Frankie Edgar as lightweight champion. They both lack the unnameable X-factor that leaves fans completely transfixed by their presence.
Nate Diaz has that X-factor, and that’s what makes this fight interesting. If Diaz can capture the title Saturday night, the lightweight picture will more than just change—it will take on a sudden life and energy that we haven’t seen since B.J. Penn’s run as the 155-pound titleholder.
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