(Oh yeah, they’ll be plenty of this. And we definitely don’t mean the “thoughts” part.)
With a lineup that would challenge any UFC pay-per-view event in recent memory, UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz will come storming into your living rooms tomorrow night at 8 p.m. EST. You know what that means for tonight — some dudes are going to mean mug and possibly shove some other dudes that hopefully weigh-in at the same weight as the first dudes. Confused? Then join us after the jump and we’ll sort this all out for you, and make sure to swing by tomorrow at 8 p.m. to catch our liveblog of all the action!
UFC on Fox 5 is one of the most stacked cards of the entire year, and it’s free on network television. It contains a pseudo-grudge match between the only man in UFC history to hold the lightweight and welterweight titles, and a rising star who trains with his greatest rival. The co-main event sees a PRIDE legend and one-time UFC champ looking to reclaim his former glory in yet another epic war against a rising contender from a burgeoning MMA scene in Scandanavia. And in the main event, you have the two best lightweights in the world (besides Frankie Edgar) going head to head in the toughest division in the UFC. What more could you ask for?
Well, if the answer to that rhetorical question was “the most brilliant predictions/pre-fight analysis column ever,” then you are in luck, my friend! And because this card is so stacked, there will be not one, not two, not three, but…actually no, there will be three predictions. (Sorry Mike Swick and Matt Brown.) Logophobes, you’ve been warned.
The first of the big three fights on the card is the highly anticipated matchup between a returning BJ Penn and wunderkind Rory MacDonald. Penn’s seeking to reinforce his legacy as one of the best ever in the sport, and Rory’s been giving him even more motivation recently, claiming he’s coming to “hurt [Penn]” who he believes is “fighting for the wrong reasons.” Bold words, but MacDonald’s the type of fighter who’s capable of backing them up. He’s only lost once in his career — a TKO loss to Carlos Condit, in which he won the first two rounds before getting stopped in the waning seconds of the final round. But he holds wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle, and aside from the former, all of MacDonald’s victories have come by stoppage.
It should be noted, though, that aside from Condit, Penn is a stronger fighter at this weight than any of the other fighters mentioned. He presents a greater knockout threat than any of them, has better wrestling, and has one of, if not the, best top games of any grappler in the UFC. However, Penn has historically been weak in the cardio department, particularly at welterweight. Even though he looks to be in excellent shape, he’s still carrying more weight than usual, and he’ll be forced to carry MacDonald’s weight as well. While Penn’s revamped his training camp, it’s unlikely he’ll have been able to fix a career-long deficiency, particularly after returning from “retirement.”
This may be the 5th installment of the UFC on FOX, but somehow it feels like the very first time the UFC will be showcased for the mass cable viewing audience. With a card that far and away surpasses any previous cable-accessible card in the sport’s history, FOX has dubbed this week “Fight Week” and rightfully so. Both parties seem to be maximizing their potential for UFC on FOX 5, but we’ll have to wait until Saturday to determine whether or not the key to success on network television is having both title fights with a solid supporting card and the steady promotion FOX has offered for this event in the days leading up to it.
With a 3-3 record over the past 6 UFC PPV’s, it’s time for The Gambling Addiction Enabler to sink or swim (or specifically, find ourselves at the bottom of the ocean with a fancy matching pair of cinder blocks for shoes). So Join us as we highlight some of the undercard and all the main card bouts in the hopes of bringing you Taters some early holiday funds. All the betting lines come courtesy of BestFightOdds, per usual.
As was the case for BJ Penn, it appears that Shogun has whipped himself into damn near the best shape we have ever seen him in for his upcoming fight with Alexander Gustafsson. And it’s surprisingly appropriate; both Rua and Penn are aging legends looking to make one last run at a title shot, and both men must get past two highly-touted young bucks in order to do so. And no one wants to show up out of shape on the same network that airs The Choice. A loss is a loss, but having Pauly D mock your love handles with a laser pointer is a punishment no person on this earth deserves.
Although Shogun has been given a slightly better chance of pulling off the upset than Penn, both men are considerable underdogs heading into Saturday’s event, so make sure to swing by CP at 8 p.m. EST to see if these two will rise from the ashes or go down in flames. And if you’re in the Boston/Dorchester area, hit up either Karma or myself on Twitter to see which dive bar we’ll be catching the fights from and come join us. We apologize in advance for getting you thrown out of said dive bar, but that bouncer was totally giving one of us the stink eye.
(“Why must we have to wait until February for the next episode of The Walking Dead? WHY?!”)
If their backstories are any indication of how they will perform, then Rory MacDonald best prepare himself for hell against B.J. Penn come Saturday night. Not only is BJ looking to be in the best shape of his (welterweight) career, but the manner in which “The Prodigy” was portrayed in the UFC’s recent UFC on FOX 5 “Road to the Octagon” featurette has all but set him up for an epic career comeback. The “champion hoping to reignite legacy for family’s honor” angle has been played up plenty of times by similar countdowns, fight previews, or whathaveyous in the past, but very few cases have been as emotionally gut-wrenching as Penn’s.
The normally stoic Penn, whose daughter turned 4 around the time of the filming, revealed a completely unseen side of himself as he broke down in front of the cameras while describing how hard it has been to see his children grow up while he has been away fighting to secure their future (14:25). Credit is due to the editing department for brilliantly juxtaposing Penn’s fatherly plight (but did they have to have impose BJ’s breakdown over the Happy Birthday song for his daughter? TOO MUCH EMOTIONS DAMN YOU) with that of MacDonald’s, who admits that his own father wasn’t around much during his childhood. Nice try, Rory, but you are now the Max Bear to Penn’s James Braddock and we will root against you until Penn breathes his final breath. ATTICA! ATTICA!!
Anyway, a full replay of the special is after the jump, and it features an equally compelling handling of the Gustafsson/Rua and Henderson/Diaz fights, so check it out, won’t you?
Diaz has earned his shot at the belt with three consecutive wins over Takanori Gomi (first-round armbar), Donald Cerrone (gangsterish unanimous decision), and Jim Miller (second-round guillotine choke). Meanwhile, Henderson is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC, and just beat Frankie Edgar for the second time last weekend at UFC 150. Will Diaz be the one to stop Bendo’s juggernaut-like momentum?
It’s good to know that we weren’t alone in our confusion when it was announced that the winner of either the Mauricio Rua/Brandon Vera or Lyoto Machida/Ryan Bader bouts, specifically the former, would be in line for the next title shot at 205 lbs. Given that current champion Jon Jones has walked through all four of those gentlemen before, we struggled to find the reasoning behind the alleged title shot that supposedly awaited the most impressive winner from this weekend’s UFC on FOX 4 event. Then again, Rich Franklin has decided to chase after middleweight gold and revenge for a third time (which totally wont end in his untimely death), so maybe we were too quick to write off these former champions, TUF winners, and hype machines. In either case, Bones took to his Twitter account to voice his frustration, sending out the above tweet yesterday which simply states “Scratching my head.”
But perhaps even more confounding than the UFC’s apparent apathy in regards to JBJ was the realization that the light heavyweight division, one of the most stacked and competitive divisions in the UFC for some time, has nearly been cleared out in a little over a year. If Jones gets past Dan Henderson at UFC 151, something he obviously feels he is going to do as evidenced by the above tweet, there will arguably be only two viable candidates left for him to face: Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira.
Dana White has teased that the man known by the Potato Nation as “Bjones” is “ready for a big fight now”, leading us to believe that a meeting with Rashad Evans could be on the horizon. A victory over the former champ would all but cement the Swede’s position atop the division. As for Teixeira, it’s simply too early to tell. He looked great in his debut victory over Kyle Kingsbury, but needs to face at least one of the upper echelon fighters before we are convinced he is ready for a title shot. But for the moment, it appears that the LHW division needs an H-bomb like Nick Diaz needs a clue.
Adhering to its usual formula and taking a look back at the locker room footage from the previous event, the newest edition of UFC President Dana White’s infamous vlog features an up close and personal look at the poor bastards who came up short at UFC on FUEL: Gustafsson vs. Silva. And Brian Stann. He’s simply too nice to not be around at all times.
Alexander Gustafsson: Rocking Thiago Silva early, Gustafsson was able to pick apart the aggressive Brazilian with an array of uber-accurate strikes to coast his way to a UD victory, and cement his position as a top-tier light-heavyweight. Can you say title eliminator? Gustafsson vs. Dan Henderson sounds good to me. I know Dan is waiting for his guaranteed title shot, but Jon Jones and Rashad Evans both have a history of post-fight injuries, and to assume that the winner will be healthy after their title fight might be unrealistic. So unless Hendo doesn’t mind a year-long break to challenge the title-holder, a battle against the Mauler could be the next best thing.
Thiago Silva: Silva’s suspension gave him a year off to think about what he’s done and rehab a plethora of injuries that have kept him performing at less than 100%. Judging by his performance on Saturday, his comeback still has a long way to go. Though Silva could use a fight against a UFC newcomer to rebound in the 205-pound division, I’d give him a good dose of reality and slate him against Phil Davis, who’s coming off his own loss to Rashad Evans. Two big, well-known scrappers with a lot to lose — promoting this one should be a no-brainer.