Ready for perhaps the best main card of 2012, free on terrestrial television for those in America and on ESPN for those overseas like myself? I certainly am … welcome to the UFC on Fox 5 play play results, et al, from Inside Fights’ UK.
So after the appetizers on FX we can now look forward to what is not unreasonably being promoted as the best fight card to ever be broadcast on American terrestrial television. Not only do we have a world title fight between two of the best fighters in the sport’s deepest division in Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz but future first-ballot Hall of Famers BJ Penn and Shogun Rua seek to prove their continued relevance against dangerous young opponents in Rory MacDonald and Shogun Rua. Its no exaggeration to say these three fights are all more anticipated than any of the twelve fights that have been shown on network television in 2012. And to add a cherry on top we have in Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown a battle between two well-matched, exciting welterweights to kick things off. The UFC has made many mistakes this year but Joe Silva has done a hell of a job putting this card together.
Matt Brown vs. Mike Swick
Here we go! Mike Swick for obvious reasons looks very slender compared to Matt Brown. Feeling out process to start, with both fighters threatening with offense but not connecting. Brown gets the takedown and starts working the submission. Working for a D’Arce choke, gets it locked in. Swick doing well to mitigate the pressure and manages to survive. With Swick’s head now free he gets to push the action from top position. However before he can get his ground and pound going, Brown starts working for a triangle. Great work off the back from Brown. Swick again showing very intelligent defensive grappling but he’s in a bad position. Brown looking to add an armbar to the triangle. Swick manages to roll out and briefly threatens with a choke. But Brown manages to get back to his feet. What a terrific five minutes of grappling. Superb stuff. 10-9 Brown.
They exchange on the feet as we begin with Brown backing Swick up with a standing elbow. They’re up against the cage but quickly separate. And then quickly end back up against the cage. Swick lands an elbow on the separation. Swick again pushes Brown up against the cage as he struggles unsuccessfully for a takedown. They separate again and Swick does not comfortable standing against Brown. Swick misses with a lunging shot and is put on the defensive by a jab from Brown. Swick drops his hands and is made to pay for it – thunderous left hook followed by a right hand by Brown. Swick is done! Tremenous knockout that brought a fight back to life that after a slightly lethargic start to the second round.
Matt Brown defeated Mike Swick via knockout at two minutes and thirty one seconds of the second round
BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald
Of all the fights that the UFC have put on FOX this has to be the best hyped with Penn doing a tremendous job in getting fans excited about his mission to reaffirm his greatness by defeating Rory MacDonald. And he’s been so convincing that he’s got me picking him despite myself. But let’s remember he’s trying to pull off the same trick he failed to do back in 2006 when he first faced Georges St. Pierre – ambushing the next monster at 170Ibs before he has the experience to make the most of his physical advantages. Still it’d be amazing if he could do it – and if he can’t then MacDonald may go down in history as the man who retired one of the greats.
BJ Penn starts out as the aggressor. Tries to repeat his tactics against Jon Fitch where he tried to catch the wrestler off guard by going for a takedown – MacDonald able to block easily. MacDonald attempts a takedown but can’t get it. MacDonald doing a good job of striking against Penn from range – landing jabs and kicks from a safe distance. Penn not wilting under pressure however, doing a good job in threatening with overhand punches. Rogan makes the good point that Penn is looking to punish MacDonald for dropping his hands. Penn backs MacDonald up and briefly gets him off his feet. Penn has MacDonald tied up against the cage but MacDonald reverses the positions. MacDonald lands a nice elbow on the separation. MacDonald lands a good body shot. MacDonald goes for a takedown and Penn just manages to stay on his feet. Penn not looking good here. MacDonald starting to hurt Penn here – the Prodigy is bleeding from the mouth. The Canadian is really pouring it on as the round ends – Penn is going to do well to make it to the final bell let alone win. 10-9 to MacDonald
MacDonald lands the first major blow of the second round with another standing elbow. The fight is becoming a more brutal replay of the Penn vs. Diaz with the veteran being backed up against the cage by the pulverizing offense of the younger fighter. Penn does fire back with a right hand but MacDonald is just on another level tonight. MacDonald corners him against the cage and just starts destroying the former champion. Liver punches, kicks to the body, short punches to the head, high kicks are all deployed in a blistering one-side exchange that has the fight on the brink of being stopped. MacDonald starts showboating before taking Penn down with authority. The fight ends with Penn all but beaten. This is promising to be an even more emphatic defeat than the Diaz fight. 20-18.
For a man often derided as a front-runner Penn does an admirable job in digging dip to mount some real offense at the beginning of the final round. He pushes MacDonald and threatens with a takedown. But MacDonald was more than equal to the task. A slight slip does not derail MacDonald’s momentum. Penn’s second wind seems to have passed with MacDonald now able to easily keep things ticking over while striking from distance. What he is not doing is putting together the sustained offense to put Penn in danger of being stopped, like he did in the second. It would seem that MacDonald has settled for a decision victory and so the fight is somewhat petering out. MacDonald taunting Penn as the fight ends with Penn having been totally outfought. What was most impressive was the way MacDonald’s striking has matured – the gaps in his technique that were still evident against Che Mills were long gone.
Interesting interview with Rory MacDonald; he challenges Carlos Condit and engages in some low-level swearing.
Rory MacDonald defeated BJ Penn via unanimous decision (30-26 30-26 30-27)
Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Gustafsson just dwarfs Shogun – its incredible to think they are the same weight class. The fight starts out hot with Gustafsson knocking down Shogun, threatening to finishing the Brazilian early. However Shogun is able to counter by grabbing a hold of the leg and going for a leglock! Gustafsson in real danger of being submitted but the Swede eventually manages to escape. Shogun still looking to attack the legs but Gustafsson able to evade. Gustafsson takes Shogun down, but doesn’t impose himself on the ground. Shogun back on his feet and knocks Gustafsson down! Gustafsson gets back up and doing a good using his reach advantage to outpoint Shogun. Looks for a takedown towards the end but can’t get it. Crazy opening round – very back and forth action there. However Gustafsson has the slight advantage to earn the 10-9 on my scorecard.
Shogun starts the fight aggressively, marching forward and landing overhand rights on the chin of the larger man. Gustafsson standing up to the haymakers well. He goes for a takedown but Shogun does well to resist. Shogun eats another overhand right, then looks to use it to set up a takedown. However Gustafsson reverses and ends up in top position. Gustafsson lets the fight go back to the feet. Shogun makes him pay for that decision by really tagging him immediately afterwards. Gustafsson fires back with a takedown but Shogun quickly gets back to his feet. The two jockey for position with Shogun actually threatening with a takedown. Gustafsson gets another takedown but can’t keep Shogun down. Gustafsson mounts his most effective offense of the fight towards the end with his knees and uppercuts being particularly impressive. Shogun’s face is starting to tell the story of the fight. 20-18.
Shogun tags Gustafsson with a firm left-hand but the Swede is able to walk through it – he really has answered any questions about his previously untested chin. A messy exchanges leads to Shogun giving up his back but Gustafsson is not able to capitalized.The threat posed by Shogun’s leglocks really has stopped Gustafsson impose a wrestling-led game in this fight. Gustafsson hurts Shogun with a liver shot and the veteran has slowed right down. Gustafsson starts punishing the former UFC and Pride Champion in much the same way MacDonald did to Penn, just methodically using his size advantage and more varied offense to dissect the older man. Like MacDonald he doesn’t take the risks necessary to finish the fight so Shogun gets to hear the final bell. The judges all have it to Gustafsson 30-27 (as do I) in what ended up as one-sided a fight as expected despite a surprisingly competitive opening round.
Alexander Gustafsson defeated Shogun Rua via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
World Lightweight Title Fight
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
For all the talk of the previous two fights changing the guard consider this; with BJ Penn at welterweight and Frankie Edgar at featherweight this is the first lightweight title fight to feature neither man in over six years. Having edged out Edgar over ten rounds Henderson now have the chance to impose himself on the division in a way Edgar never could by beginning his dynasty by clearly defeating Diaz. His key routes to victory are his tremendous wrestling, kicking and submission defense. Diaz on the otherhand will be hoping to put the champion under pressure with his boxing and potentially doing the seemingly impossible – submitting Henderson.
By the way its worth noting that the main event is starting at what was the scheduled finish time of the event. Given that most would bet on this going the distance, this show is going to have an almighty overrun.
Henderson opens up with several kicks. He misses with one and Diaz closes the distance to push Henderson up against the cage. Diaz attacking the legs of Henderson. Henderson switches the position, but Diaz still focusing on attacking the legs. Jockeying for position in the clinch up against the cage. Henderson has double underhooks but Diaz doing a great job of resisting the takedown. Henderson working for the takedown but can’t get it. Diaz lands an elbow on the separation. In the centre of the Octagon, Henderson gets the takedown but wants no part of Diaz’s guard. Diaz able to get back to his feet. Henderson again pushing for the takedown but can’t get it. He does however get a trip, which gives him the chance to land some punches on the ground. Henderson puts together a good combination that ends in a knee. Round ends with them again battling up against the cage. Henderson takes that 10-9.
Benson Henderson takes control at the beginning of the round. He gets a takedown early and hurts Diaz with powerful ground punches. As Diaz staggers back to his feet he follows up with more offense. While Diaz is now standing he can’t separate from Henderson, and is so being made to carry the champion’s weight in the clinch. Diaz finally able to escape but eats an elbow on the way out. Diaz is a really struggling against an opponent who won’t fight to his strengths. Henderson knocks down Diaz with a left hook, champion swarming all over the challenger who is in serious trouble with over a minute to go. Diaz gets back to his feet but he has been busted open. Henderson pushing for a takedown up against the cage. Diaz reverses into a hip toss but Henderson quickly gets back to his feet. Henderson lands a leg kick as the round ends. 20-18.
Henderson lands yet more leg kicks as the fight starts – the toll they’ve taken on the challenger is becoming clear. Diaz tries to force the action with his boxing but he merely creates the space for Henderson to get a big takedown. Diaz is able to prevent Henderson making the most of the position by aggressively looking for submissions off his back, so creating the space to get back to his feet. However he soon ends up back on his back, Henderson working Diaz over while avoiding going into Diaz’s guard. Henderson finally moves to side control but his caution was justified when Diaz counters and comes close to securing a kneebar. Henderson rolls out, takes Diaz’s back and threatens with a choke. Diaz counters with another move for a kneebar but Henderson is able to escape (after a brief period doing the splits!). Henderson then knocks Diaz down! This fight has really caught fire this round. Diaz again threatening off his back as the round ends but Henderson has built a strong advantage on the scorecards. 30-27.
Henderson gets the takedown after a tightly contested clinch battle, quickly moving to take Diaz’s back. Diaz briefly gets back to his feet only to be taken down again. The challenger again gives up his back. He eventually gets back to his feet, Diaz threating with a kimura. Henderson counters with another takedown. Geez someone from Cesar Gracie’s Camp being outwrestled – who would have predicted that! Diaz gets back to his feet only to be taken down again. Henderson able to enjoy his first sustained spell in top position with Diaz seeming subdued. Diaz goes for a kimura but Henderson is equal to it. Henderson just totally and utterly blanketing Diaz who seems to have run out of ideas about how to deal with the champion’s superior strength and wrestling. Henderson potshotting a prone Diaz as the round ends. Henderson unsure whether to enter Diaz’s guard or let him back up. And so the round peters out. Another Henderson round. 40-36.
The two are yet again fighting in the clinch up against the cage. The stalemate is ended by a huge slam from Henderson. Henderson threatens with a choke when Diaz gives up his back, but settles for laying in some heavy elbows and punches when the challenger rolls back onto his back. Diaz gets back to his feet but Henderson is still right on him. Diaz going for a kimura but Henderson takes him down to rob him of the necessary leverage. Diaz back to his feet but Henderson still in control. Diaz manages to get a takedown but Henderson reverses in the scramble. They’re back standing but the fight is clearly over and a half-hearted kick from Diaz shows that the challenger knows it. A brilliant performance from the champion who ruthlessly neutralized Diaz’s offense. Judges have it 50-43 (don’t get that one), 50-45 and 50-45 for the champion Benson Henderson. With the exception of the third round the fight was never close enough to really reach the heights many of us expected it to but Henderson showed himself to be a worthy champion of the greatest division in the sport’s history.
Benson Henderson defeated Nate Diaz via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) to retain the UFC world lightweight title