UFC on FOX 5: Four burning questions going into 'Henderson vs. Diaz' in Seattle

Mark Kolbe

Every time UFC puts on an event, speculation, questions and theories arise about which fighters will perform ... or underperform. Will new contenders emerge? Will established ones fall? Where will the winners go? Which losers will still have a job on Monday? Who is healthy? Who is fighting injured? Anytime the UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.

This Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2012), the Octagon travels to "The Emerald City" for the second time in the organization's history with UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz from KeyArena in Seattle, Wash., USA.

A lightweight championship contest receives top billing as reigning 155-pound champ Ben Henderson puts his title up for grabs against Nate Diaz in the main event of the evening. There are several interesting storylines to follow going into and coming out of the event, but only four can make the "burning" list.

That being said, here are four burning questions going into UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" this weekend:

4. Who will continue to build momentum in the welterweight division: Mike Swick or Matt Brown?

A fun 170-pound match up serves as the opener of the UFC on FOX 5 main card as hard-hitting veterans Mike Swick and Matt Brown are set to tangle.

Swick returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition last August at UFC on FOX 4 after nearly two-and-a-half years away from the sport due to health problems. The 33-year-old made a successful return, knocking out DaMarques Johnson in the second round. The win was Swick's first since June 2009 and reasserted himself as a threat in the UFC welterweight division.

"Quick" is 10-3 in the UFC with half of those wins coming at 170 pounds. The victory over Johnson was a good building block, but if Swick wishes to return to his former glory as a top contender, he must string together multiple wins.

Brown, on the other, is currently tied with the longest winning-streak of his career after coming out victorious in three-straight fights against Chris Cope, Stephen Thompson and Luis Ramos. After losing three bouts in a row back in 2010 and facing the possibility of being released from the UFC, "The Immortal" has turned his career around and had his hand raised in four of his last five Octagon appearances.

It seems crazy that with 26 professional fights under his belt, Brown has never managed to win four in a row. However, it appears everything is beginning to come together for the Ohio native and he is in his fighting prime. If Brown can get over the hump and pick up another win, his confidence will be bursting.

On Saturday night, one man will have their momentum brought to an abrupt end while the other will continue to ride high and surge up the rankings.

With only one (T)KO loss in a combined 35 professional fights, the fans should expect a tremendous fight regardless of who comes out the victor.

3. Is Alexander Gustafsson ready for Mauricio Rua?

Alexander Gustafsson may be 6-1 in the UFC, but "The Mauler" has never fought anyone as talented or decorated as Mauricio Rua. Vladimir Matyushenko and Thiago Silva, who are arguably Gustafsson's two best wins, have not exactly been the most consistent fighters as of late, which raises questions about the quality of opposition the Swede has faced thus far in his career.

Gustafsson brings an outstanding 14-1 professional MMA record to the Octagon to face "Shogun" in the co-main of UFC on FOX 5 in a fight that could potentially determine the next No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division. Training out of Alliance MMA in San Diego alongside great fighters such as UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera and more -- Gustafsson is a highly-talented competitor who can both knock out and submit his opponents.

At UFC on FOX 5, the 25-year-old now goes from fighting middle-of-the-pack 205-pounders to "Shogun" Rua, a man that has been ranked in the top five of the light heavyweight division for what seems like an eternity.

Facing Rua is a stern leap in competition for Gustafsson, but one he has earned and appears to be more than ready for. However, appearing ready is one thing -- performing on fight night is an entirely different animal.

2. How will B.J. Penn perform in his return from retirement?

A little over one-year after announcing his retirement to Joe Rogan and the rest of the world inside the Octagon after being handily defeated by Nick Diaz at UFC 137, former two-division UFC champion B.J. Penn is ready to return to mixed martial arts competition.

"The Prodigy" is set to come out of his brief retirement this Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2012) to face highly-touted prospect Rory MacDonald in one of the featured bouts at UFC on FOX 5.

MacDonald challenged Penn earlier this year on Ariel Helwani's podcast "The MMA Hour," however; few expected the Hawaiian to come out of retirement to face such a young up-and-comer. It came as a surprise to many when just days after MacDonald made his challenge, Penn announced he was willing to take the 23-year-old Canadian up on his offer.

The two were supposed to fight at UFC 152 in September, but MacDonald suffered a laceration in training, which forced the UFC to push the fight back a few months.

It appears the extra preparation time was beneficial to Penn, though, as at 33-years-old the native of Hilo looks to be in outstanding shape. Penn has brought in a wide variety of big-name training partners for this fight and it appears he is taking the match up with MacDonald extremely seriously.

It's no secret that a motivated Penn is one of the most dangerous fighters in the history of the sport, regardless of weight class. Penn has made no commitments regarding his future beyond the MacDonald bout, but you can be sure he is traveling to Seattle to win and has no intentions of being humiliated on network television.

1. Can Nate Diaz stop the relentless style of Benson Henderson?

It is well documented that Nate Diaz has struggled against wrestling-based grapplers throughout his entire mixed martial arts career. All five of Diaz's losses in the Octagon have come at the hands of fighters who were able to control the Stockton native to a decision.

Fighting off his back against fighters with a heavy top game has been a struggle for Diaz over the last few years and in the main event at UFC on FOX 5, Diaz meets one of the most successful grapplers in the 155-pound division in UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

As is the case in any Diaz fight, it is no secret he wants to keep it standing. Chances are Henderson is going to put Diaz on his back at least once over the course of the scheduled five-round affair. If he does, it's either sink or swim for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season five winner.

"Smooth" is one of the best in the world at controlling opponents on the ground and those skills paired with his seemingly impenetrable submission defense -- Diaz may run into huge problems if he is stuck in bottom position for an extended period of time.

If Diaz has any hopes of taking the belt from Henderson, he needs a solution to shut down the grinding style of the champion.

With a long line of challengers in the lightweight division who share similar strengths to Henderson, Diaz must win to prove he is capable of defeating any and every style of fighter.

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