It’s time to step into the Octagon once more as we take a look at the UFC’s latest appearance on Fox, headlined by Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz and shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the first of two welterweight fights as Mike Swick took on Matt Brown.
This was good. Really good. It began with the usual feeling out period, and when the fight went to the ground we were treated to a great display of ground fighting.
Brown looked in top form as he looked to put his man away, first with a d’arce choke and then with a triangle. Swick did well to survive these attempts, especially the triangle attempt, even going for Brown’s arm at one point.
So while we saw some great grappling in the first we saw some great striking in the second. Swick began to look tired as Brown took control, a right/left combination sending Swick crashing to the canvas. The referee quickly stepped in to give afterwards to give Brown the knockout win.
The second welterweight clash saw B.J. Penn taking on Rory MacDonald.
To say that MacDonald put in a dominating performance would be an understatement. For three rounds he took the future Hall of Famer apart.
Everything he did just looked so good. Penn just didn’t have an answer to his excellent striking, and by the end of the first round the former two weight champion looked a beaten man.
MacDonald fought the perfect fight. He didn’t need to go all out for victory, what he did was enough as he used Penn for target practice, and while it was great to see this up and comer putting in such a great performance it was also kind of sad to see Penn being taken apart in this way.
But what was most surprising about the entire fight was Penn’s corner. Instead of offering him any form of advice on how to beat MacDonald they were more or less cheerleaders, yes men if you will, and considering the sort of punishment he was getting that was the last thing he needed.
After three rounds of action the decision went down to the judges. No surprise with the decision here as they gave everything to MacDonald with their unanimous decision.
The penultimate fight featured light heavyweight action as Shogun Rua went up against Alexander Gustafsson.
For the second time in a row we were treated to a great three round affair as another possible contender appeared on the horizon.
This was one of those fights you couldn’t take your eyes off. The first two rounds looked pretty even. Both fighters had their moments in the striking department, although Shogun looked a little uneasy whenever Gustafsson used his long legs to connect with a variety of kicks.
It really looked as if the fight could go either way then, but as the third round started Shogun began to look fatigued. It looked as if he was always looking for that one big knockout blow. The only problem was that his Swedish opponent basically ate everything that Shogun gave him.
With no finish in sight the judges were brought into the equation again as Gustafsson took the unanimous decision.
The main event saw Nate Diaz challenging Benson Henderson for the Lightweight title.
Now this was a great fight, five rounds packed with tremendous action throughout, most of it coming from the champion.
This may well be Henderson’s best performance. His striking was top notch and his combinations looked crisp, especially when they were putting Diaz on his backside. As for his kicks, they looked brutal, and the tactic of attacking Diaz’s lower lead leg was spot on.
Henderson’s ground game was just as good. Diaz seemed powerless against his takedowns, especially that big slam, and once there his ground and pound looked just as brutal as his leg kicks, especially the blows to the body. Diaz tried to defend, but whenever he tried to escape he ended up giving Henderson his back.
Diaz’s best moments were few and far between. For a guy whose striking has earned him so many plaudits in the past he looked quite tepid compared to Henderson. His best moment came on the ground when he tried to attack the champion’s legs, although Henderson managed to counter with an attack of his own.
So what we had here were five rounds of domination from the champion, but no finish, which meant more work for the judges. Once again there was no surprise as Henderson took the unanimous decision.
In conclusion - the first of three UFC shows this week proved to be a great advertisement for the sport.
It really was a great show, one of the best I’ve seen this year. All of the fights delivered big time.
The performances of Rory MacDonald and Alexander Gustafsson would have earned massive plaudits had they been on any other show. Their respective victories over more illustrious opponents shows that the next generation of MMA stars are progressing nicely, and that the current champions may have to look over their shoulders for these two in the near future.
The biggest plaudits of the night will go to Benson Henderson though. It was the perfect performances against a challenger who many thought would end up winning the title. Those pundits couldn’t have been more wrong. Diaz was outclassed through as Henderson cemented his place as the world’s best lightweight.
As for my fight of the night, as I didn’t see the official award winner I’m going to give the no-prize to the Henderson/Diaz encounter for all of the reasons I mentioned previously. If this fight doesn’t get nominated in any of the obligatory end of year awards I’ll leave a bag of flaming poop on Dave Meltzer’s doorstep.
So with all of that out of the way there’s only one more thing left to do, and that’s to give this show the big thumbs up.