The UFC makes a return to the Fox airwaves this weekend, with an action packed card headlined by a Lightweight title fight that is almost sure to deliver fireworks as Nate Diaz takes on reigning champion Benson Henderson. The promotion has failed to catch up to the ratings of the initial Fox broadcast and surely Dana White and company are hoping that by delivering a title fight on free television will help to improve things.
They are backing the title fight with a couple of other intriguing bouts. In the co-main event of the night Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will try to get himself back into the Light Heavyweight title mix as he takes on top prospect Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden. In Welterweight action BJ Penn makes a return from brief retirement to try and gain a measure of revenge against the Tristar Gym as he battles top prospect and training partner of GSP; Rory MacDonald. The final bout on the Fox card promises a slugfest as Mike Swick battles Matt Brown.
Preliminary Card (Facebook): Bantamweight Bout: Scott Jorgensen vs. John Albert
John “Prince” Albert is a 26-year-old fighter from Reno, Nevada. He is a former cast-member of the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite a hot start to his career, he hasn’t had much success since his time on the show and could possibly be fighting for his UFC life in this bout. Albert is a member of the Victory Athletics Gym training out of Puyallup, Washington. Albert holds a career record of 7-3.
Analysis and Prediction: Albert is a highly aggressive fighter that isn’t afraid to bring the fight to his opponents, unfortunately for him, he might be slightly overmatched here. His grappling is a little bit sloppy, especially when he’s fighting at a frantic pace. Jorgensen is a capable wrestler who can put Albert on his back and overwhelm him from top control. I see him snagging a submission in a scramble somewhere in the second round after a back and forth affair. Scott Jorgensen via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Tim Means vs. Abel Trujillo
Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means is a 28-year-old American fighter from Wilburton, Oklahoma. Means was a former King of the Cage Lightweight Champion before joining the UFC. Means is a member of the Fit NHB Gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a somewhat mediocre start to his career, Means has not lost a bout since March of 2010 and is riding an 11-fight winning streak. Means holds a career record of 18-3-1, including 16 victories by way of stoppage.
Abel “Killa” Trujillo is a 29-year-old American fighter from Des Moines, Iowa. Trujillo is the owner of one of the nastiest mean mugs in the sport. Trujillo trains out of the Jaco Hybrid Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida as a member of the Blackzllians. Though his record is somewhat lackluster he has decent potential with strong top control and ground and pound and has looked improved in his bouts since becoming part of the Blackzillians. Trujillo holds a career record of 9-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Means is 6’2” and still fights at Lightweight, he’s going to be enjoying a significant height and reach advantage. Trujillo has made some strides since joining the Blackzillians, but he’s still a ways behind Means in almost every area of the fight. Means is one of the better prospects in the division and Trujillo has basically lost to anyone of note that he’s ever faced, I think this one could be ugly. Means via TKO in Round One. Tim Means via TKO in Round One
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez
Daron “The Detroit Superstar” Cruickshank is a 27-year-old from Westland, Michigan. Cruickshank was a cast member of the fifteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Cruickshank was a former NCAA Division 3 collegiate wrestler from Olivet College. After fighting for a number of other promotions like King of the Cage and Score Fighting Series in Canada. He is a member of the Mash Fight Team in Wayne, Michigan. He holds a career record of 11-2.
Henry “Sicario” Martinez is a 29-year-old fighter from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Martinez is a member of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting camp in his hometown of Albuquerque. Martinez is a well-rounded fighter who showcased an impressive skillset against Matt Riddle in a late notice fight, but was overpowered by the much larger fighter. In his last bout he returned to the Lightweight division with a victory by decision over Bernardo Magalhaes. He holds a career record of 9-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Henry Martinez made his UFC debut on late notice, at a weight class above his usual against one of the bigger fighters in the division and still barely lost a close decision. Unfortunately he didn’t do much to win his second fight back at Lightweight. Martinez didn’t really have an answer for Riddle’s wrestling skills and while Cruickshank is significantly smaller than Riddle, he’s still a strong wrestler. He should be able to control Martinez on the mat long enough to take a decision victory. Daron Cruickshank via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Yves Edwards vs. Jeremy Stephens
Yves “Thugjitsu Master” Edwards is a 36-year-old fighter from Nassau, Bahamas. Edwards is a veteran of the sport with 60 career bouts on his resume, having fought for a number of major MMA promotions such as Pride, WEC, Strikeforce, Bellator and Elite XC. Edwards is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but is a well-rounded fighter with decent striking. Edwards is a member of the American Top Team, training in Woodlands, Texas. He holds a career record of 41-18-1, competing as a pro since 1997.
Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens is a 26-year-old fighter from Des Moines, Iowa. Stevens was originally scheduled to fight Edwards at UFC on FX 5, but legal issues prevented the bout from going on as scheduled. Stephens is a tough, well-rounded fighter but he loves to throw hands, even when it’s not to his advantage. Stephens is a member of the Alliance MMA Gym, training out of San Diego, California. He holds a professional record of 20-8, with 14 TKOs.
Analysis and Prediction: This could end up being a highly entertaining fight for as long as it lasts. Edwards is probably the more technically sound striker, but Stephens hits harder and Edwards’ chin isn’t able to take the pounding that it once was. Stephens is also the more capable wrestler and should have good enough submission defense that Edwards struggles to survive from the bottom position. After a back and forth first round, I expect that Stephens can score a takedown and pound out a stoppage from the top position. Jeremy Stephens via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card (FX): Lightweight Bout: Ramsey Nijem vs. Joe Proctor
Ramsey Nijem is a Palestinian-American fighter from Concord, California. The 24-year-old is best known as a finalist of the thirteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. Nijem attended Utah Valley University and wrestled for the school during his time there. Nijem is a member of The Pit Elevated gym, training out of Orem, Utah under famed coach John Hackleman. Nijem has won 2-straight fights since losing at the TUF finale and holds a professional record of 6-2.
Joe Proctor is a 27-year-old fighter from Weymouth, Massachusetts. Proctor was a competitor and cast member of the fifteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter on FX. Proctor has decent stand up, but he’s not a world-beater in the striking department and he does his best work in the grappling department. Most of Proctor’s career victories have come via Submission. He is a member of the Team Aggression Gym fighting out of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. He holds a career record of 8-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Nijem looked out of place in his bout against Anthony Ferguson at the TUF finale, but has looked markedly better since his time on the show. He is a strong wrestler with improving striking and excellent submissions. Proctor like Nijem does his best work on the mat, using takedowns and submissions as the main basis of his offense. Nijem is probably the more talented striker, but it could be close, because it’s hard to tell how improved young fighters can become in between fights. Overall I think Nijem holds a slight edge wherever the fight goes and he can take a Unanimous Decision or late stoppage. Ramsey Nijem via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Featherweight Bout: Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan
Dennis “The Menace” Siver is a 33-year-old fighter born in Omsk of the former Soviet Union. Now fighting out of the Kiboju Gym in Mannheim, Germany he is a former Lightweight fighter who is 1-0 since dropping to Featherweight. Siver is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and also holds a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, a discipline that he began training in 1994. Siver is also a former amateur kick boxer who won the WAKO Amateur Kickboxing Championships in Germany as a youth. He holds a career record of 20-8.
Nam Phan is a 29-year-old fighter from Westminster, California. Phan is a member of the Ma Du Academy, as well as spending time with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. Phan is an accomplished martial artist, holding black belts in a number of disciplines including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate and Quyen Dao. Phan also holds a brown belt in Judo. He is perhaps best known for his time as a cast member on the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter, or for his pair of highly entertaining bouts against Leonard Garcia. Phan holds a career record of 18-10.
Analysis and Prediction: Phan is a talented striker who mixes his combinations well, mainly attributed to his professional boxing experience. He’s also tough as nails, but he hasn’t had the most success in MMA. Siver is a talented kick boxer himself and while his hands might not be as strong as Phan’s (which is debatable) his ability to mix it up certainly is. Siver has also developed a decent grappling game, which Phan had no answer for in his bout against Jimy Hettes. Phan is tough as hell, but he’s probably going to get pummeled here. Dennis Siver via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (FX): Bantamweight Bout: Raphael Assuncao vs. Mike Easton
Raphael Assuncao is a 30-year-old fighter from Recife, Brazil. Like many fighters from the region he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Assuncao is a talented grappler, but his Muay Thai kickboxing skills have been rapidly improving over recent bouts. He is the middle brother of a fighting family, as both his older and younger brothers are professional fighters. Assuncao is a member of the Ascension Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Atlanta, Georgia. Assuncao is actually taking this bout as a late replacement for TJ Dillashaw. He holds a career record of 17-4.
Mike “The Hulk” Easton is a 28-year-old fighter from Camp Springs, Maryland. Before signing with the UFC he was a the Ultimate Warrior Challenge Bantamweight Champion. Easton has been fighting professionally since he was 20-years-old. Easton holds black belts in Tae Kwan Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but oftentimes prefers to strike. Easton holds a near perfect professional record of 13-1, with the lone loss coming because of an arm injury.
Analysis and Prediction: Easton has strong grappling credentials, but he’s been mainly showcased as a striker throughout his entire career. Assuncao has been improving his Muay Thai skills, but he’s probably not on the level he needs to be to out strike Easton. Assuncao is probably the better and more dangerous grappler, but it’s going to be extremely tough for him to work the fight to the mat against Easton who’s very strong physically and tough to take down. I think Easton will play it safe like he’s usually content to do and he ‘ll take a rather uninspiring decision. Mike Easton via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FOX): Welterweight Bout: Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown
Mike “Quick” Swick is a 33-year-old fighter from Houston, Texas. The former Light Heavyweight and Middleweight fighter is best known for his time as a cast member of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Swick earned his nickname of ‘Quick’ when he entered the UFC by securing a number of first round stoppage victories. Swick is a talented and accurate striker who blends his kicks and punches well. Swick recently returned from a long layoff caused by injuries and illnesses that led to him missing over two years of his career. Swick is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy training out of San Jose, California. He holds a career record of 15-4, including 8 via TKO or KO.
Matt “The Immortal” Brown is a 31-year-old fighter from Xenia, Ohio. Brown holds a brown belt in Judo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Despite his impressive grappling credentials, Brown is a brawler who would much rather settle fights with his fists. Brown is also known for his tough chin, having never been knocked out in over 25 career fights. Brown was a competitor on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter and has had an up-and-down UFC career. He is currently riding a three fight-winning streak but holds a career record of 15-11.
Analysis and Prediction: This one has potential to be fight of the night, and it’s probably going to kick the main Fox card off with a bang. Both of these two guys would prefer to stand and trade for three full rounds, despite what might be in their best interest. Swick is probably the more technically sound striker, but Brown’s chin isn’t going to fail him in this fight, making a TKO victory unlikely. However, Brown seems to have one glaring piece of kryptonite, submission defense. 9 of his 11 career losses have come via Submission. If Swick is smart he takes this bout to the mat quickly and overwhelms Brown. Mike Swick via Submission in Round Two
Main Card (FOX): Welterweight Bout: BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald
BJ “The Prodigy” Penn is an American fighter from Kailua, Hawaii. Penn is a legend of the sport of MMA and is one of the top talents of all time. Penn will actually be returning to action after a brief retirement for this bout. Penn is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who was the first non-Brazilian winner of the World Jiu Jitsu Championships at the black belt level. In addition to his excellent grappling credentials, Penn also has excellent boxing skills, backed by an excellent counter jab and lead left hook. Penn is a former UFC Lightweight and UFC Welterweight Champion, one of only two men to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes. He holds a career record of 16-8, with 13 stoppage victories.
Rory “Ares” MacDonald is a 23-year-old fighter from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. MacDonald is one of the hottest prospects in the UFC’s Welterweight division and is one of the new breed of fighters who began training specifically for MMA as opposed to a number of different disciplines. MacDonald is a member of the Tristar Gym and is a training partner and close friend of Georges St. Pierre, the UFC Welterweight Champion who holds notable career victories over Penn. MacDonald is a tough, well-rounded fighter who is excellent on the mat and is a solid striker, although at times is slightly easy to hit. MacDonald holds a career record of 13-1, with 12 stoppages and the lone loss coming to recent Welterweight title challenger Carlos Condit.
Analysis and Prediction: The tale of this fight is going to come down to what version of BJ Penn shows up. If the Fox ‘Road to the Octagon’ specials are anything to be believed, we might be in for one hell of a show on Saturday night. When properly motivated and in shape Penn can be one of the most dangerous match ups for anyone on the planet. His boxing is top shelf and taking him down isn’t always the best of solutions, as he owns one of the more dangerous guards in MMA. MacDonald is a talented grappler himself and is a large Welterweight who could easily control Penn on the mat if he’s improperly prepared. The one thing that MacDonald needs to worry about is that he’s hittable at times, meaning he’ll need to keep his hands up when he comes in, or he’s going to be eating a jab on the way in all night. I really like BJ Penn as an underdog in this fight as I think his boxing skills can steal him two rounds if not three. If he comes in under-prepared or out of shape though, Penn is going to get creamed on the mat. I’ll gamble and take Penn in an upset, but who knows. BJ Penn via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FOX): Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a 31-year-old fighter from Curitiba, Brazil. A veteran of the sport he has been fighting since 2002, debuting when he was 21-years-old. Rua is a former PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Champion and a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Shogun is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is also a black belt in Muay Thai. Now training out of the Universidade da Luta, he is a former member of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, formerly one of Brazil’s top fight teams. Rua is an aggressive striker who does his best work when he is pushing the pace against his opponents, however knee surgeries and questionable cardio have plagued some of his more recent bouts. He holds a career record of 21-6, with 18 victories via KO or TKO.
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson is a 25-year-old fighter from Arboga, Sweden. Gustafsson is one of the top prospects from Europe in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division and will likely earn himself a title shot with an impressive victory over the former champion. At 6’5” tall Gustafsson is extremely tall and lanky and fights to his height very effectively. He is a competent striker with crisp, technical boxing. His ground game is improving and he currently owns a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Gustafsson is a member of the Stockholm Shoot Gym in Sweden and Alliance MMA when training stateside. He holds a pro record of 14-1 with his only career loss to other top contender Phil Davis.
Analysis and Prediction: This bout is being billed as a possible changing of the guard in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. Shogun hasn’t looked overly impressive in his last few bouts. First he was dominated by Jon Jones, but really who isn’t. In his bout against Dan Henderson he forged a late comeback, but that wasn’t until Henderson gassed and he basically got battered for the first three rounds and against Brandon Vera there were some moments where he looked less than impressive despite winning the bout in the end. He’s struggled with cardio lately and it makes me wonder if those knee surgeries and PRIDE era wars are catching up to him.
Gustafsson on the other hand represents one of the new breed of MMA. He’s a tall and lean 205-pound fighter, who is going to enjoy a significant height and reach advantage against Rua. Gustafsson has an excellent jab and he puts his combinations together very well. Most of all Gustafsson knows how to fight tall and can use his athletic advantages in his fights to batter his opponents from a range. Shogun is an excellent grappler, but Gustafsson is readily improving in that area and makes great use of his long limbs while searching for submissions. Shogun does his best work from top control, but I don’t think he’ll be able to power his way to a takedown against the Swede. I’m picking Gustafsson here, but it’s unlikely to be a blowout, still it should be a unanimous decision. Alexander Gustafsson via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (FOX): Lightweight Championship Bout: Nate Diaz vs. Benson Henderson
Nate Diaz is a 27-year-old fighter from Stockton, California. Diaz is best known to fans as being the younger brother of famed fighter Nick Diaz, as well as for winning the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Diaz is extremely dangerous on the ground with 11 career submission victories. In addition to his ground skills he has aggressive and technically sound boxing. Diaz constantly moves forward and throws a ridiculous number of strikes, relying more on technical precision and accumulation of damage to overwhelm his opponents rather than looking for a knockout punch. Diaz also has excellent cardio, running marathons with his brother when not training for fights. Diaz is a member of the Cesar Gracie Fight Team and holds a career record of 16-7.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson is a 29-year-old fighter originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Henderson is a former NAIA All-American Wrestler from Dana College in Nebraska. Henderson is a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Henderson is the reigning and defending UFC Lightweight champion, although he is making his first title defense against someone not named Frankie Edgar. Henderson’s Tae Kwan Do background has blended well with his wrestling, as he throws thudding leg kicks and often backs that up with well-timed takedown attempts and top control. Henderson is extremely athletic and durable, able to withstand a lot of punishment and flexible enough to get out of a lot of sticky submissions. Henderson is a member of the MMA Lab training out of Glendale, Arizona. He holds a career record of 17-2.
Analysis and Prediction: The game plan for Henderson to retain his title is going to have to be to follow what’s worked against Diaz in the past. Leg kicks are going to be a big part of that. Henderson has already shown that he has the ability to kick well. In his bouts against Edgar he threw thudding kicks to the legs and body throughout, Diaz is more of a straight boxer than kick boxer and struggles to check leg kicks properly. Donald Cerrone’s only real measure of success against Diaz came through the use of kicks to Diaz’s lead leg as he came forward. Takedowns and top control are also going to be important. Diaz’s guard is very dangerous and he’s tough to hold down, but he has been controlled in the past.
Looking at Henderson’s losses we can glean a few things, he’s nearly impossible to submit, he’s tough as nails and he’s very tough to finish. He also struggles against fighters who can pressure him and not allow him to get composed. Diaz is exactly that kind of fighter. Diaz is definitely going to have to improved his ability to check leg kicks, or the thudding strikes of Henderson are going to hamper him significantly and slow him down in the later rounds. That won’t help a strategy that is based solely on moving forward. I actually thought that Edgar won the second meeting with Henderson and I think that Diaz can execute a similar game plan to Edgar, and will enjoy a significant height and reach advantage that will turn the tide in his favor. Add to that he’s physically larger than Edgar and won’t be easily bullied by Henderson and I think we might see a new champion on Saturday night. Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision
Full UFC On FOX 5 fight card…
Bantamweight Bout: Scott Jorgensen vs. John Albert
Lightweight Bout: Tim Means vs. Abel Trujillo
Lightweight Bout: Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez
Lightweight Bout: Yves Edwards vs. Jeremy Stephens
Lightweight Bout: Ramsey Nijem vs. Joe Proctor
Featherweight Bout: Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan
Bantamweight Bout: Raphael Assuncao vs. Mike Easton
Welterweight Bout: Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown
Welterweight Bout: BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald
Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson
UFC Lightweight Championship Bout: Nate Diaz vs. Benson Henderson