Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a star-studded roster to the KeyArena in Seattle, Washington, for tomorrow night's UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" showcase showdown, featuring arguably the greatest line up on free television since Anderson Silva, Cain Velasquez and Frankie Edgar came calling at "Fight Night 14" on Spike TV.
That was then. This is now.
This weekend's mixed martial arts (MMA) event is all about the new school. While Ben Henderson looks to cement his place atop the 155-pound mountain with a win over Nate Diaz, Alexander Gustafsson and Rory MacDonald hope to prove they too, are championship material, by knocking off former division titleholders Mauricio Rua and B.J. Penn, respectively.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., Dec. 8, 2012), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 4:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
Well, now that we've got that out of the way, let's get down to business.
Nostradumbass predicts: One of the slippery slopes of predicting a Nate Diaz fight is how easily it is to be seduced by his performances when matched favorably against opponents. Donald Cerrone took the bait hook, line and sinker and got lit up across three rounds before getting creamed on the scorecards.
Those awesome displays of offense -- combined with a three fight winning streak -- can easily overshadow the fact that Diaz, in spite of all his talent, is still an incomplete fighter. While he set off fireworks against "Cowboy," he also took an inordinate amount of punishment to his legs, either unable or unwilling to check the low kick.
And let's not forget the ground game.
Diaz is easily flustered against aggressive, suffocating wrestlers, and a deadly submission game isn't always the fire exit some fans think it is. Otherwise, Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida would have been tapped out. Ancient history you say?
Not when those vulnerabilities are neglected and not corrected.
That's something I'm willing to bet the Ben Henderson camp has been drilling into the lightweight champion, who undoubtedly learned a valuable lesson in his UFC 150 gift against Frankie Edgar. It's one thing to be confident in your abilities, it's another to let bravado keep you off the path to least resistance.
Calling all boo birds!
Fans are going to want a fight and I'm quite certain Diaz will give them one. Unfortunately, without knockout power, "Bendo" will simply take this fight to the ground to avoid the E. Honda hundred-hand slap. Diaz will threaten with submissions, but Henderson is too strong and too well conditioned to let this one get away.
Expect to hear a lot of "Dude, all he did was lay on him for five rounds" -type of comments when this one is over.
Final prediction: Henderson def. Diaz via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: When I think of Mauricio Rua, I picture his violent wins over Quinton Jackson, Ricardo Arona and Alistair Overeem. I probably shouldn't, because they took place over seven years ago and the sad reality is this version of "Shogun" would get smoked by the one that terrorized the ranks of PRIDE.
Part of that has to do with his conditioning.
I know a lot of people were creaming their pants over his five round (cough) "war" against Dan Henderson, but I wasn't one of them. I also didn't jump for joy when he stopped Brandon Vera last August. I dunno, maybe I should lower my standards.
Two exhausted guys slugging each other in the face until one of them drops is not martial arts.
It's a shame, too, because "Shogun" has the technical prowess to be an elite fighter. But his body cannot keep pace with his talent, likely because he doesn't train for a five round fight. I don't even hold him accountable, either, because he's had more surgeries than Bill Chrushank.
If he wins, it's got to be in the first round.
The bad news is, Alexander Gustafsson is not going to just roll over and hand him one. I don't believe for a second the lanky light heavyweight is intimidated by Rua's legacy, nor do I think he should be. I'm not putting "The Mauler" on a pedestal just yet, but he's beaten some very tough fighters and only needs to survive the first five minutes.
Rounds two and three belong to Sweden.
It wouldn't surprise me to see the Brazilian come out like a bull in a China shop and knock this dude around with some deadly Muay Thai. But sooner or later his tank is going to empty. While "Shogun" may be durable enough to ride this one out, he's getting beat up for two thirds of the fight, eventually stalling on the exit ramp of memory lane.
Final prediction: Gustafsson def. Rua via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: You poor fools. Yes, you, the B.J. Penn fans who for some reason still seem to think this guy is a legit threat to anyone at 170 pounds (where he has a losing record). Top ten? By my estimation, he's not even top 25. Don't agree? Tell me the last guy in this division he beat besides a brittle Matt Hughes.
It's time to face reality.
How long are we going to celebrate his upset win over Hughes back in 2004? That was his greatest accomplishment as a welterweight, doing something Dennis Hallman did (twice). His second greatest accomplishment? Out-striking Georges St. Pierre at UFC 58 before gassing out and giving the fight away.
You saw how well their rematch unfolded.
"The Prodigy" is easily a top ten fighter at lightweight. Unfortunately, he's too lazy to make the cut. Sure, he looks fit and trim for this weekend's contest, but looking good and having good conditioning are two very different things. No matter how svelte he appears to be, Penn is still competing 15 pounds above where he should be.
That's a death sentence against Rory MacDonald.
I know the critics like to point to his loss at the hands of Carlos Condit, -- and Penn has terrific boxing -- but "Ares" was just 20 years old when he lost to "The Natural Born Killer." A lot has changed in three years. Remember when he kicked Nate Diaz out of the 170-pound division? Mike Pyle and Che Mills don't remember, but that's one of the side effects of blunt force trauma to the head.
Penn should have taken a page out of the Diaz playbook (mediocre at 170, title contender at 155). Their hands and jits are good enough to hang with anyone at welterweight; however, their size and strength are not.
I actually like the Hawaiian (it's his irrational fans that irk me), but I'm not falling for his charms this time. He peddles the same sales pitch from fight to fight. This time he's serious and this time he's training hard and this time will be different and blabbity freakin' blah. When we last saw him, Penn was handily defeated by Nick Diaz.
And he's been out of action for over a year.
That doesn't bode well for a fighter who already has questionable conditioning to begin with. MacDonald's wrestling and top heavy game -- like his buddy GSP at TriStar gym in Montreal -- will be too much for the fading former champion. If he retires (again) after this loss, then he will have done himself an incredible disservice.
All because he didn't want to cut to lightweight.
Final prediction: MacDonald def. Penn via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Matt Brown (15-11) vs. Mike Swick (15-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: There are no titles on the line and neither competitor gets "in the mix" with a win in Seattle. So why is this such a great opener? Because Matt Brown and Mike Swick are the kind of fighters that bring the noise.
Brown is lucky to have a job after losing four of five, but he got himself back on television by stringing together three straight wins. In addition to securing two technical knockout finishes, he derailed the hype train of Stephen Thompson, who was the media's "Wonderboy" after one measly win.
While a 15-11 record doesn't make you "Immortal," he does have 13 finishes in 15 wins and just as importantly, nine finishes in 11 losses. He doesn't like putting his fate in the hands of the judges and the way they've been known to fuck things up, I don't blame him.
But will that style betray him on Saturday night?
I believe it does. While Swick was sidelined for two years with a laundry list of ills, he managed to come back with a bang -- literally -- against DaMarques Johnson last August. He didn't look entirely comfortable inside the Octagon; however, I think it was a good start to getting back to form and those jitters should be ancient history.
He should still fear the knockout.
Brown is one of those guys that puts 100 percent into every punch, which means Swick needs to stay out of range and pepper him with the jab. If he's successful, he'll force the "Quick" takedown and that, my friends, is when the long lost "Swickotine" makes its triumphant return.
Final prediction: Swick def. Brown via submission
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FOX 5 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Henderson vs. Diaz."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.