That’s right boys and girls, Danny Boy Downes is back with another network television worthy edition of the Downes Side. While I can’t promise it will be as big of a hit as American Idol, it will hopefully be less culturally polarizing than The Swan.
This week the UFC swings into the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington for UFC on Fox 5. Fresh off his trash-talking training camp, lightweight champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson looks to run his UFC undefeated streak to six. His opponent will be Cesar Gracie black belt and Stockton treasure Nate Diaz. In addition to the 155 pound title, the co-main event could very well set up the next in line for the light heavyweight championship (after Chael Sonnen) as Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson goes toe to toe with PRIDE and UFC legend Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Mike Swick (15-4) vs Matt Brown (15-11)
The main card kicks off in the welterweight division with Mike “Quick” Swick taking on the Immortal Matt Brown (seeing that Matt Brown is not deceased, no one can reasonably prove that there should be quotes on the nickname). Swick looks to keep the momentum going after a triumphant return to the Octagon in August where he KOd DaMarques Johnson. Brown rides a three-fight win streak with wins over Luiz Ramos, Stephen Thompson and Chris Cope.
Brown’s fight against Thompson was the perfect microcosm of his fighting style. Outclassed, he kept charging forward despite taking damage. The combonation of a granite chin and tenacity lead him to victory. Unfortunately, that strategy will not work against Mike Swick. Swick has faster hand speed, superior clinch skills and dangerous submissions. While Swick will not earn the honor of being the first person to ever knock Matt Brown out, it won’t come to that. Brown will land punches and counter, but his propensity to take damage will wear on him as the fight progresses. By the third round, Swick will start to pick his opponent apart. This will force Brown to rush in and find himself in the patented Swick-o-tine. Mike Swick via third-round submission. Next!
BJ Penn (16-8-2) vs Rory MacDonald (13-1)
We remain in the welterweight division for B.J. “The Prodigy” Penn vs. Rory “Ares” MacDonald. A legend in the sport, Penn returns to the Octagon for the first time since losing to Nick Diaz in October 2011. While B.J. looks to cement his legacy, Rory MacDonald is the next big thing. With a 4-1 UFC record (including wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle), MacDonald needs to prove that the hype surrounding the Tristar product is not misplaced.
B.J. Penn is not a welterweight. GSP and Matt Hughes pushed him around at 170 lbs and Rory MacDonald will do the same. Penn can claim that he’s “motivated” but motivation doesn’t change facts (Katherine Heigl is really motivated to be a box office draw, but even Ashton Kutcher’s brilliant acting couldn’t help with that). Despite Penn’s underrated boxing skills, MacDonald’s strength and speed will be too much to overcome. Possessing the second-best takedown success rate in the division (behind only his teammate GSP) MacDonald will use that to his advantage after he gets bored of battering Penn on the feet. B.J. showed his durability in the Diaz fight, and luckily he won’t have to showcase that again. MacDonald by TKO in the 2nd.
Mauricio Rua (21-6) vs Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
It’s already time for the co-main event and potential number-two contender for the light heavyweight title. Similar to the Penn/MacDonald fight, this match features a legend of the sport taking on an up-and-comer. In one corner is Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, a former champion coming off a 4th-round TKO of Brandon Vera in the last UFC on FOX main event. Standing across from him will be the Swedish sensation Alexander Gustafsson. Sporting a 6-1 record in the Octagon, he owns the shortest average fight time in the division (6:13 an outing).
Gustaffson has looked impressive, but this is a huge step up in competition. Primarily a boxer, it will be interesting to see if Shogun utilizes his low kicks to slow down the Mauler. Both men have exciting, aggressive striking styles, but this fight will be won in the clinch. Gustafsson has talked about how he’s trained that aspect extensively for this fight, but it won’t be enough. He'll be initially successful, but this will allow Rua to get the tie-up and clinch. From there, Shogun will land knees and short uppercuts that will stun his opponent. At the end of the second, one of those knees will travel upstairs and knock Gustafsson down. Shogun will pounce and earn the TKO victory. Then it will be time for his most difficult battle -- convincing people he deserves another title shot.
Benson Henderson (17-2) vs Nate Diaz (16-7)
Time for the main event! Since losing his WEC title, Benson Henderson has taken five in a row under the UFC banner. After two extremely close wins over Frankie Edgar, “Smooth” could use a statement win to silence critics. Part of the Skrap Pack, Nate Diaz’ welterweight experiment brought him back to 155 pounds where he belongs. Since his return to lightweight, he’s armbarred Taknori Gomi, decimated Donald Cerrone and choked out Jim Miller.
The not-so-secret question here is, “How will Diaz handle Henderson’s wrestling?” While his fights against Dong Hyun Kim and MacDonald may rightfully be a cause for that concern, Diaz’ grappling vulnerabilities are much less apparent at lightweight than those at welterweight. Henderson may hold one of the best takedown percentages in the game, but Nate’s volume punching will be able to keep him at bay. Furthermore, Henderson couldn’t hold Frankie Edgar down and he won’t be able to do it to Nate Diaz either. Neither fighter has ever been knocked out and I expect those streaks to continue. It'll be a back and forth fight, but Diaz will do enough to steal rounds on the scorecards. I see him losing the first two frames, but as the fight advances, his punches will start to find their mark. Nate Diaz wins 48-47 and brings the UFC title to the 209.
That wraps up another ineffable edition of the Downes Side. Be sure to follow me on Twitter
@dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave you thoughts, questions, concerns or other FOX shows you’d like to see return. I’ll start -- Pauly
The Downes Side: UFC on FOX 5 Predictions
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC on FOX 5, taking place Saturday, December 8