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Benson Henderson Dominates Nate Diaz to Defend Lightweight Title at UFC on Fox 5

December 11th, 2012 at 12:16 AM
By Phil Clark

After two controversial wins in title fights this year, Benson Henderson left no doubt after going the distance in a title fight that he is rightfully the UFC lightweight champion.


Both of his wins against Frankie Edgar in 2012 (first to win the tile, then in defending the title) were very close and very controversial. His win against Nate Diaz this past Saturday night was as far from controversial as possible. So dominating was Henderson's performance that Diaz raised Henderson's hand moments after the fifth and final round concluded. It was a fitting end to a performance that will be one people remember Henderson for.


This was a thorough title defense for Henderson that was equal parts leg kicks, takedowns, and punching power.


Henderson's leg kicks were spread out throughout the fight and landed often, as usual. They didn't have the impact they had in the second fight against Edgar, but they still did their job in slowing Diaz down and keeping him off the attack. The takedowns were more Henderson's way of trying to work his ground game into the fight than anything else. This was something of a gutsy move for Henderson as the ground game is Diaz's best trait and something that nearly bit Henderson on more than one occasion in the fight due to Diaz's great reversal ability.


Henderson's punching power was evident throughout as Diaz's right eye was swollen almost from the beginning and only got worse as the fight went along. But it was Henderson's desire to damage Diaz with punches that may have prevented him from finishing Diaz. Several times in the fight, Henderson had Diaz down and was only a few landed punches away from finishing the fight. Unfortunately, Henderson's wild-man swinging in these situations resulted in mostly misses and gave Diaz the necessary moments to play defense, slow things down, and survive the storm.


Even when Henderson wasn't in control, he managed to wow people. In the fight's best moment, Diaz had Henderson's left leg tied up on the mat in attempt to work toward a leg submission of some kind. Henderson spread his right leg out and was basically doing the splits on the mat. Diaz replied with his middle finger while keeping one arm on Henderson's left leg. Truly, a kind of moment only one of the Diaz brothers could help produce.


The only problem going forward for Henderson now is to find a new challenger for him and his title. Looking at the current lightweight division in UFC, and who's at or near the top, it's a case of “been there, done that” for Henderson. Before beating Diaz, Henderson had already beaten Jim Miller, Clay Guida, and Frankie Edgar (twice) in UFC to go with wins against Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone (twice) in WEC.


The solution to this problem lies with the two names that remain untouched by Henderson's run: Anthony Pettis and Gray Maynard. Maynard was supposed to fight Joe Lauzon at UFC 155 on December 29, but a knee injury forced him out; Pettis will meet Cerrone on January 26 at the next nationally televised card for UFC. A win for Pettis should guarantee him a shot at the man he beat for WEC's lightweight title on the final WEC show, a bout famous for Pettis' “Showtime Kick” in the final round of that fight. A loss from Pettis could mean Maynard may end up being the sole survivor in the hunt for a shot at the man known as “Smooth.”


There was a clear changing of the guard during the middle portion of this broadcast as B.J. Penn and Mauricio Rua, both stars in the previous decade, were beaten decisively by Rory MacDonald and Alexander Gustafsson respectively. These wins not only officially ushered in two new names to potential stardom in UFC, but it created new names among the contenders for the welterweight (MacDonald) and light heavyweight (Gustafsson) titles.


Gustafsson's long legs kept early submission attempts from “Shogun” from being effective. Aside from that and some isolated moments in the first two rounds where he would land a few good shots or knees, Rua wasn't doing much else other than attempting to defend against an advancing Gustafsson.


While he didn't have a big reach advantage, Gustafsson's long arms did allow him to land nice close-range uppercuts throughout. They also helped Gustafsson take Rua down so easily that it became the theme of the final round and a half of the fight.


With MacDonald, it was pure domination that he was after, and that's what he accomplished. Penn's face was very bruised by fight's end and it was obvious in the final round that Penn was hanging on, but out of gas with nothing left to throw at MacDonald. From the beginning, MacDonald was faster, more aggressive, landed more, controlled the cage, and set a pace that Penn couldn't follow. A fight that was booked as a test of youth versus experience turned into fight pitting new versus old very quickly.


It was evident that MacDonald's domination in everyone of his UFC fights (even his loss to Carlos Condit) wasn't an example of MacDonald not having fought a high enough level of competition, it's just that MacDonald has proven himself to be that good against UFC's welterweight division. And while some of Penn's worst UFC outings have been at welterweight, this wasn't an example of that. Penn was simply overwhelmed by a fighter that is now in a place that Penn was in during his younger days.


Mike Swick made a triumphant return to UFC on national television back in August, knocking out DaMarques Johnson. This past Saturday night he was on the receiving end of a devastating knockout.


In the second round of his bout against Matt Brown, Swick was rocked with a left hook and then ate a straight right that sent him down. Swick's head ended up slightly hitting one of the pads on an edge of the octagon. Brown came in and got two more uncontested shots to Swick's face before referee Dan Miragliotta could move in and stop the fight.

Tags: Alexander Gustafsson, B.J. Penn, Benson Henderson, Matt Brown, Mauricio Rua, Mike Swick, MMA, Nate Diaz, Rory MacDonald, UFC

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