The UFC returns to free TV on Fox with an outstanding fight card in Seattle. I’m a little pressed for time today, so my analysis will be a little shorter than usual.
The top three fights are of particular interest to me and should be very competitive. I think each fight could go either way. Of course there are favorites for each fight, but each fighter in these fights is experienced, well rounded and dangerous. All are capable of KO’ing their opponent if given the chance.
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: Since this is a championship fight it will be 5 rounds. I expect Benson Henderson to successfully defend his belt in this fight. Diaz poses a real threat to Henderson because he is a very skilled striker, but I think Henderson will be prepared for that and he will bring the fight to the ground where he can use his superior wrestling ability.
Henderson wins by TKO, 4th round.
Maurcio “Shogun” Rua vs. Alexander “The Mauler” Gustaffson: I’ve been going back and forth on this fight all week. Gustaffson is one of the hottest young fighters in the UFC and he looks very tough on paper. At 6’5″ Gustaffson will have a definite size and reach advantage over Rua, but I think Rua will try to neutralize that advantage by bringing the fight to the ground. Gustaffson’s take-down defense will be tested and his ability to win the fight may hinge on whether or not he can keep the fight standing for the most part, where his sharp striking could prove to be a problem for Rua. This fight may also come down to conditioning. If Rua is in anything less than top shape I think he will lose to Gustaffson, but based on what I have read about Shogun conditioning he should be well prepared for this fight.
Shogun Rua wins by decision.
BJ Penn vs Rory MacDonald: This fight should be a total war because these two truly hate each other and they are both a little crazy. This fight, like Rua vs Gustaffson, pits a seasoned, decorated former champ against a very promising young fighter who is thought to have the potential to be a future champion. In this case I have to pick the young gun, Rory MacDonald. BJ Penn is always dangerous because of his very diverse mma skill set. He can KO an opponent with his hands or his feet and he has pretty much seen it all. I can’t say I will be shocked if he finds a way to defeat MacDonald, but if I had to bet on this fight I would go with MacDonald. MacDonald will have significant size advantage and his conditioning is excellent. MacDonald trains at Tristar in Montreal with GSP so he should be very prepared for what Penn might throw at him. In the end I don’t think that Penn will be able to keep up with the pace that MacDonald will set and I think MacDonald’s wrestling will wear down Penn.
MacDonald wins by TKO, 3rd round.
POST EVENT COMMENTS:
I went 2 and 1 with my picks. I wish I had gone 3 and 0, but given the relative parity of these fighters I will take that.
First off, the fight I was wrong on, which was Rua vs. Gustaffson. As I noted in my analysis, I thought this fight was a fairly even match up. I knew that Gustaffson would present a serious challenge to Rua, but I thought Rua’s experience would give him an edge in this fight. Rua did seem to be in decent condition, but he was pushed throughout the fight by the young Swede. Gustaffson demonstrated that he has added a few new facets to his mma game, most notably good wrestling moves, especially his take downs.
Gustaffson has been mentioned a potential rival to LHW Champ Jon Jones and prior to this impressive victory by The Mauler I thought that talk was premature. I thought Gustaffson might be a couple of years away from being able to seriously challenge Jones, but this fight has changed my mind. I think Gustaffson is ready for Jones now, which is not to say I think he would win. I think Gustaffson would have a legitimate chance to win that fight and he should be given a shot at the Champ sometime late in 2013, assuming that Jones defeats Chael Sonnen, who he is scheduled to fight in April of 2013.
The other two went pretty much as a expected, except that I thought there would be KO’s ending these fights and they both were won by decision.
Benson Henderson defended his LW belt in very impressive fashion with his defeat of #1 contender Nate Diaz. I thought Diaz would have a problem with Henderson’s elite level wrestling and he did.
Rory MacDonald may send BJ Penn back into retirement with his very decisive victory over the Hawaiian mma legend.
MacDonald said he wants a rematch with Carlos Condit, the one man who has beaten him. I hope Condit agrees to that fight because it would be an excellent match-up. Frankly, I’m not sure who would be the favorite, but the odds would be close.