December is shaping up to be one of the most stacked months in UFC history, and it’s starting off with a bang! Fight fans have been waiting for this card since it was announced because of its star-filled main card capped off with a Lightweight title bout between champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson and Nate Diaz.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz (16-7) was able to put together a decent record at Welterweight, but struggled with top contenders in the division. Since his return to Lightweight, the division in which he won The Ultimate Fighter Season 5, he has been able to string together some wins, 3 in a row, on his way to a title shot. Whether he wins or loses, you know exactly what you’re getting when Diaz steps in the ring. In his 16 fights in the UFC (11-5) he has received, an unprecedented, 10 bonuses for either “Fight of the Night” (5) or “Submission of the Night (5)” and has never been finished in the octagon (he has only been finished once in his entire pro career and that was in his second fight seven years ago). At Lightweight, Diaz is certainly a force to be reckoned with. He has submitted two of his last three opponents, Takanori Gomi and Jim Miller, and took Donald Cerrone the distance with a unanimous decision win, all, with maybe the exception of Gomi, are considered top contenders in the Lightweight. Diaz has done something his older brother Nick has not been able to do, which is fight for a belt (not counting interim championships) in the UFC, and he is going to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Diaz’ opponent, champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson, almost wasn’t his opponent, and should not be according to some fans and critics. Henderson was able to win, then retain in the rematch, the title after two controversial decision wins against Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. Nevertheless, “Smooth” is the champ and will do everything in his power to stay champion. Henderson is a massive Lightweight and he has proved that he can use his size to take on the best in the division. Henderson (17-2) is undefeated in the UFC (5-0), with victories over contenders Jim Miller and Clay Guida, followed by back-to-back wins over then champ Frankie Edgar. Henderson has the skill set and size to stay champion for a long time, but Diaz will be looking to continue his streak of exciting fights and become the first Diaz to win a title in the UFC.
Odds – according to Bovada.lv
- Nate Diaz +135
- Benson Henderson -165
Both men are clearly the top contenders in the division having basically cleared out the rest of the competition. While Henderson was able to put together wins over former champ Frankie Edgar, they were not very decisive. Diaz, on the other hand, does everything he can, in every fight, to win. Look for Diaz to upset the champ via 3rd round submission.
Play: Nate Diaz +135
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson
When Mauricio “Shogun” Rua finally made his way to the UFC in 2007, most MMA fans figured he would eventually be the champ after putting together an impressive record of 13-1 with Pride Fighting Championship, including wins over Alistair Overeem (twice), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. After stumbling in his first fight in the UFC, Shogun eventually got his title shot against Lyoto Machida in which he lost a controversial decision. Dana White immediately scheduled a rematch and Shogun did not let the judges interfere with him becoming the champion this time when he finished the then undefeated Machida in the first round. With many fight fans believing that this was the beginning of the “Shogun-era”, Rua, once again, hit a bump in the road when he defended his title against current champ Jon “Bones” Jones and lost. He has since alternated wins and losses, including last year’s “Fight of the Year” loss to Dan Henderson, with his last fight being a decision win over Brandon Vera. Shogun has fought the who’s who of the UFC’s Light-Heavyweight divison and will be looking to use his experience against the younger Gustafsson
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson is the future of the Light-Heavyweight division that’s for sure. He’s looked excellent in every outing thus far in the UFC. He’s only gone to decision twice in his pro career (14-1), winning both, and has finished every other opponent by submission, KO, or TKO. The Mauler’s lone loss came against his biggest test, Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis, in which he got caught in an anaconda choke at the very end of the first round at UFC 112. In time, Gustafsson may be the guy to beat at 205 pounds, but he’ll need a couple more fights before he can stand with the likes of Shogun.
Odds – according to 5Dimes.eu
- Mauricio Rua +190
- Alexander Gustaffson -235
While I do think Gustaffson may very well become the champion one day, or at least, a top contender in the division, this is going to be his toughest test yet. Phil Davis could be considered a contender, who has had problems with top contenders, and he was able to finish Gustaffson. Even though I do think he has gotten better since his loss, I think Shogun will be able to use his experience to grind out a hard fought unanimous decision.
Play: Shogun Rua +190
“The Prodigy” B.J Penn vs. Rory “Ares” MacDonald
After suffering a cut in training, Rory MacDonald had to pull out of his bout with B.J Penn at UFC 152. He is now healthy and ready to fight! MacDonald is doing everything he can to follow in his idol and mentor Georges St. Pierre’s footsteps and he’s not falling short at all. Stumbling only in the final seconds at UFC 115 against the man that St. Pierre just beat – Carlos Condit – MacDonald has decisively destroyed all of his other opponents. Refusing already to fight GSP if he gets the title shot, knowing just as well as we do that he is close to a shot, MacDonald will be hoping to keep up his incredible pace through the welterweight division against the veteran Penn.
B.J Penn is coming out of retirement. After losing an extremely one-sided fight to then number one contender Nick Diaz, The Prodigy decided that enough was enough. He was having a hard time finding his footing, something that never crossed him before. Realizing he probably spoke too soon after his loss to Diaz, Penn has decided to return to the octagon to face a top contender. Even with all of the talent that Penn has faced in his time, MacDonald is a completely different animal. He has the strength and wrestling of Matt Hughes, the height/reach of Jon Fitch, he is the complete package; another GSP, someone Penn was not able to beat in two bouts. Penn’s going to have his hands full with this one.
Odds – according to 5Dimes.eu
- BJ Penn +240
- Rory MacDoanld -280
In most fight fan’s minds, BJ Penn has already done everything he needed to do to be inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame. Coming out of retirement now, to fight a top contender, will not change his legacy at all. If he thought the beat down he received from Diaz was bad, wait until he steps into the ring with MacDonald. Look for MacDonald to win this decisively via first round TKO.
Play: Rory MacDonald -280
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