Nate Diaz fought through blurred vision at UFC on Fox 5, but he wasn't able to come up with an answer for the leg kicks and wrestling of Benson Henderson. The lightweight champion was the better fighter on Saturday night and now finds himself one win short of tying the record for most consecutive title defenses in the 155-pound division.
As dominant as he was in the main event, Henderson was not the only fighter to stand out on a fight card that did not disappoint in the least. Media and fans alike had been begging the UFC to stack one of their cards on network television with meaningful and entertaining matchups. The promotion delivered on those demands with UFC on Fox 5.
No matter the ratings, this event should be considered a success, as the UFC and its fighters couldn't have delivered much more than they did on Saturday. With that, let's take a look at which fighters delivered the most at Seattle's KeyArena.
A bantamweight bout between Scott Jorgensen and John Albert was awarded Fight of the Night honors at UFC on Fox 5. It was a back-and-forth grappling match that was deserving of the bonus, but this writer found the co-main event between Alexander Gustafsson and Mauricio Rua slightly more entertaining.
While the action of the Jorgensen-Albert matchup was crammed into one round, Gustafsson and Rua traded leather over 15 minutes.
During their three-round fight, the light heavyweights combined for 179 landed strikes and impressed with their technical skill on the ground. Though he ended up losing on the scorecards, Rua nearly caught Gustafsson with a heel hook at one point in the bout.
An argument can definitely be made that the fight between Jorgensen and Albert was more fun to watch, but there's no debate regarding which contest was more meaningful. With his win over Rua, Gustafsson is now considered one of the top contenders in the light heavyweight division.
There will be many who claim Raphael Assuncao and Mike Easton competed in the most lackluster fight at UFC on Fox 5. Those individuals would be right, but the bantamweights weren't a part of the worst fight on Saturday.
That dishonor belongs to the UFC for being forced to use Nam Phan as a replacement opponent for Dennis Siver. Originally booked to fight Eddie Yagin, Siver's foe changed when the Hawaiian was diagnosed with a brain injury.
What resulted was one of the more lopsided matchups in recent memory.
In a fight that saw a 30-24 score from one judge, Siver landed 128 significant strikes to Phan's 24 blows. Though not known for his wrestling, Siver even scored a couple takedowns and beat Phan up on the ground.
In fights where a UFC title is on the line, performances don't get much more flawless than Benson Henderson's at UFC on Fox 5. The lightweight champion came in with the game plan that many expected from him and still disposed of Nate Diaz with relative ease.
Henderson took away Diaz's movement early with heavy leg kicks. Without any spring in his lead leg, Diaz's high-level boxing was essentially negated throughout the five-round fight.
With his leg damaged, Diaz was a sitting duck for takedowns. Henderson scored eight of them and had little problem surviving on the ground with his jiu-jitsu black belt opponent.
Though he wasn't able to finish Diaz, Henderson knocked the Stockton, Calif., native down and left him with an eye that was almost completely swollen shut. After two narrow decision wins over Frankie Edgar, this was exactly the kind of performance Henderson needed to earn his due respect as 155-pound champion.
Mike Swick looked ready for resurgence following a knockout win over DaMarques Johnson in his return from a two-year absence. However, Swick's bubble burst at UFC on Fox 5, where he suffered a knockout loss of his own against Matt Brown.
After being taken down in the first round, Swick was nearly submitted by Brown. His reward for surviving Brown's triangle choke was being subject to an even rougher second round.
Prior to being knocked out by a nasty combination midway through the second frame, Swick landed only nine significant strikes on the night. As a sizable favorite heading into the matchup, the loss will probably be remembered as one of the worst of Swick's career, and it may even push him into contemplating retirement considering the hardships he has endured over recent years.
This distinction could go to several fighters from Saturday's fight card.
Benson Henderson utilized great tactical striking to take away Nate Diaz's boxing, Alexander Gustafsson used his long reach to get the better of Mauricio Rua, Rory MacDonald chipped away at a tired B.J. Penn, Matt Brown pulled off an upset by touching Mike Swick with a nice combination, and Daron Cruickshank scored an impressive head kick knockout on the preliminary card.
However, Yves Edwards might have produced the most jaw-dropping moment of UFC on Fox 5 with his right hook to the chin of Jeremy Stephens.
Having previously been known for his granite chin and heavy hands, Stephens was expected to be the one to knock Edwards out in a slugfest on Saturday. However, knowing Stephens' tendency to throw looping power punches, Edwards timed a beautiful counter that knocked Stephens silly. A few follow-up elbows turned Stephens' lights out and gave Edwards one of the most impressive wins of his career.
If we're talking pure technique, Henry Martinez might have had the worst striking performance at UFC on Fox 5. However, when you factor in that he was such a heavy favorite against Matt Brown, Mike Swick's striking on Saturday was much more disappointing.
Swick had no answer for the scrappy Brown, landing only 31 percent of his significant strikes thrown. Once Brown had him backed into a corner, Swick was floored by a two-punch combo and couldn't recover before referee Dan Miragliotta was forced to step in.
With that loss, Swick has now lost three of his past four fights, and he has just one victory in the past 42 months. That's startling stuff for a fighter who had won in nine of his first 10 UFC appearances.
Benson Henderson could do no wrong in the UFC on Fox 5 main event. While he did a great job utilizing kicks to slow Nate Diaz, it was Henderson's ground game that sealed the deal in his second title defense as lightweight champion.
The titleholder was successful on eight of his 12 takedown attempts, dragging Diaz to the canvas at least once in all five rounds. Though it shouldn't really come as a surprise because of the known wrestling advantage he had heading into this fight, it should also be noted that Henderson stuffed all six of Diaz's takedown attempts.
Some thought Henderson might run into some trouble with his black belt opponent on the ground, but the champion escaped two of Diaz's submission attempts without much of a scare.
There was really nothing that went well for Nam Phan against Dennis Siver, but his takedown defense and ground game was particularly unsatisfactory.
Facing a fighter known primarily as a striker, Phan gave up two takedowns and had his guard passed four times. That was disappointing enough, but Phan's inability to escape or provide any threat of submission off of his back was even more surprising.
With a former lightweight on top of him, Phan was stuck in poor positions repeatedly. As a result, Siver landed a whopping 222 total strikes in the three-round bout.
In MMA, the time between the 10-second clapper and round-ending horn is frequently used by fighters as time to slow the pace and begin to refuel for the coming rounds. That was not the case for Scott Jorgensen in his fight with John Albert.
After taking Albert's back with time running out in the opening round, Jorgensen locked up a rear-naked choke and forced his opponent to tap.
This wasn't just any late-in-the-round submission, though. Running low on blood flow to his brain, Albert was forced to tap with less than one second remaining in the round. The horn sounded before Albert's hand could even hit the canvas a second time.
I hate to make a bigger deal out of this than I probably should, but Benson Henderson competing with a toothpick in his mouth was probably the most troubling part of an event that otherwise went off without a hitch.
While he won't admit fighting with the sharp wooden object in his mouth, the infraction was fairly clear to all those watching in the moments after the fight ended. Immediately after a congratulatory handshake from opponent Nate Diaz, the toothpick protruded from Henderson's mouth.
The fact that the lightweight champion clearly fought with the object in his mouth for at least a portion of his UFC on Fox 5 bout against Diaz shows poor judgement, sets a bad example for young fighters and is a habit that needs to be broken immediately.