Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Before you watch Manny Pacquiao square off against Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time, the UFC has a stacked card on Fox. And by stacked, I mean pay-per-view worthy. The main event boasts a lightweight title tilt with two of the best in the world, while the co-main event and another featured bout feature two fighters trying to cement their legacies against surging prospects. Let’s get down to the predictions.
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
The 155-pound division is the most talent-rich weight class in the UFC. Saturday’s main event features two evenly matched and durable competitors. The champion, Benson Henderson, rolls into this bout having won 15 of his last 16 with the latest being a razor thin decision victory over Frankie Edgar. Nate Diaz will stand opposite Henderson. The polarizing star submitted Jim Miller earlier this year (also at a UFC on Fox card) to punch his ticket to Title Town.
While “Bendo” is more well-rounded on the feet due to his use of kicks, the edge in striking belongs to Diaz. Nate’s range and use of the jab and body punches is among the best in the sport (rivaled perhaps only by older brother Nick). While he lacks one punch knockout power, the punches in bunches and accuracy have worn down the most durable of opponents (see Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone). Henderson’s speed and elusiveness should be enough to allow him to avoid a Diaz flurry. If the champion can avoid being lured into a brawl by the middle finger waving, hand raising, expletive flinging challenger, he’ll control the pace of the fight.
Henderson owns a slight edge on the ground. Both have excellent submission skills, but Henderson’s submission defense will keep the champ from being finished from the top. By the same token, don’t look for Henderson to finish Diaz via submission either.
Takedowns will be Henderson’s best friend and while Diaz has an active guard, judges tend not to reward rounds to fighters who spend most of their time on the bottom –regardless of how offensive they are from the position.
This promises to be a 25 minute barn burner and a possible Fight of the Year candidate.
Prediction: The fans win this one, but Henderson should grind out a decision.
B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald
If this bout took place at 155-pounds, Penn would be the clear favorite here. While Baby Jay is a former welterweight champion, he’s struggled at 170 in recent years. Size will absolutely be a factor in this one. Don’t look for MacDonald to finish Penn, but an MMA changing of the guard will take place Saturday as MacDonald solidifies himself in the division over an active legend.
Prediction MacDonald by decision
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
At just 31-years of age, “Shogun” Rua was considered one of the best in the world when he was around Gustaffson’s age (25). Time has taken a toll on the former number one contender and Gustafsson has enough range to keep Rua at bay. On Saturday, we’ll see the wear and tear of catch up to Rua and the rise of a possible challenger to Jon Jones’ light heavyweight crown.
Prediction: Gustafsson via unanimous decision
Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown
This has brawl written all over it – the only question will be how long it lasts. Brown is a tailor made opponent for Swick, who’s coming off a knockout win after a lengthy hiatus due to illness at the last UFC on Fox event. With the cobwebs of inactivity shaken off, Swick should finish this in highlight reel fashion and continue his ascent up the division ranks.
Prediction: Swick via KO.
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Coming up next: UFC on FOX: Henderson vs. Diaz is live from Seattle’s Key Arena at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on Saturday, December 8. Click here for more info