The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictions on the UFC on FOX 5 card taking place Saturday in Seattle, Wash. Ben Henderson looks to defend his lightweight title against Nate Diaz in the main event. Top light heavyweight contenders Shogun Rua and Alexander Gustafsson face off in the co-headliner. BJ Penn makes his return to 170 pounds against Rory MacDonald and Matt Brown tries to keep his win streak going against fellow welterweight Mike Swick.
(155) Daron Cruickshank (11-2) vs. Henry Martinez (9-2)
ODDS: Cruickshank -140 vs. Martinez +110
JAY CEE: Daron Cruickshank wins via TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Cruickshank
JACK BRATCHER: This bout was originally supposed to be on the UFC 151 card which will forever be known as the “lost” UFC event that was canceled after Jon Jones turned down the fight with Chael Sonnen and the Earth’s axis wobbled off course 2.5 degrees. Martinez is a Jackson’s MMA guy who made his UFC debut back in February when he stepped in to fight Matt Riddle on short notice. It was the biggest fight of Martinez’s life. Prior to that he’d lost a decision to Wilson Reis in Bellator, but the rest of his fights were on regional shows. Martinez ended up losing a split decision to Riddle, but that’s not terrible for a short notice Octagon debut. Martinez returned in June to sin a split decision over Bernardino Magalhaes. Martinez has 2 wins via KO, 4 via submission and 3 via decision. Cruickshank hails from Michigan, has a wrestling and taekwondo background. This will be his second fight in the UFC. His biggest win to date is probably a decision over Mike Ricci last October. Cruickshank was on TUF Live, but suffered a KO early on, but won a unanimous decision over Chris Tickle in the Finale. He has 6 wins via KO, 1 via submission, 4 via decision. Because Martinez’s biggest strength seems to be his submission game, I see Cruickshank’s wrestling defending against that and am picking Cruickshank to win either via decision or TKO.
(155) Ramsey Nijem (6-2) vs. Joe Proctor (8-1)
ODDS: Nijem -180 vs. Proctor +150
JAY CEE: Ramsey Nijem wins via Decision
BRIAN FURBY: Nijem
JACK BRATCHER: Another TUF Live fighter, Joe Proctor returns for his second UFC bout against TUF 13′s Ramsey Nijem. I’m always a little partial to previous ProMMAnow.com TUF bloggers like Nijem, but it also makes it easier when they come from a solid camp like Pit Elevated and continue to deliver. Since losing to Tony Ferguson in the TUF 13 finals, Nijem has defeated Danny Downes via decision and most recently TKO’d the previously undefeated CJ Keith back in June. Proctor hails from Massachusetts. He has 1 win via (T)KO, 4 submission wins and 3 via decision. Nijem has a well-rounded 2 wins via (T)KO, 2 via submission, 2 via decision. The odds are in Nijem’s favor and I agree. His strong wrestling base and improving stand-up should be able to handle Proctor. Nijem via decision or TKO.
(145) Raphael Assunção (17-4) vs. Mike Easton (13-1)
ODDS: Assuncao +190 vs. Easton -240
JAY CEE: Mike Easton wins via TKO
JAN GAETJENS: Stylistically is a good match up for Mike Easton. Assuncao has a great active guard game, but, against a fighter in Easton who can so effectively control a fight from the top, I don’t see a situation where Assuncao will be able to effectively turn this into an all out grappling match. The biggest question here will be whether or not Easton will be able to end the fight without abandoning his gameplan and trying to force a finish with his hands like we saw in his last outing against Ivan Menjivar. If Easton plays it safe, it should be a comfortable decision win for the DC native. Easton by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Easton
JACK BRATCHER: Raphael Assuncao is a BJJ black belt whose biggest strength is on the ground. I don’t see him faring well against Easton who is also a BJJ black belt (Lloyd Irvin), but also carries a black belt in Taekwondo and carries big power in his stand-up game. They call him “The Hulk” for a reason. He’s one of the most intense fighters out there, and his only loss took place in 2007 and it was due to a broken arm he suffered during the bout and his corner threw in the towel. Easton has reeled off three straight victories since signing with the UFC and is coming off two wins already in 2012 — decision wins over Jared Papazian and Ivan Menjivar. Assuncao is 2-1 inside the Octagon. After getting KO’d by Erik Koch in March 2011, Assuncao came back to win a decision over Johnny Eduardo, and most recently, defeat Issei Tamura via TKO in July. Easton via TKO.
(155) Yves Edwards (41-18-1) vs. Jeremy Stephens (20-8)
ODDS: Edwards +160 vs. Stephens -200
JAY CEE: Jeremy Stephens wins via Decision
JAN GAETJENS: It’s hard to believe that Jeremy Stephens’ legal issues haven’t had an impact on the lightweight’s preparation for this fight- he’s scheduled to appear at a hearing just five days after the event. That said, a Jeremy Stephens who has nothing to lose is a dangerous Jeremy Stephens, especially when pitted against a fighter in Yves Edwards whose best days of throwing haymakers look to be squarely behind him Stephens by TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Stephens
JACK BRATCHER: Remember when Stephens and Edwards were supposed to fight back in October but Stephens was picked up on an old warrant the morning of the fight? Stephens has put his legal woes behind him and is back in the Octagon. A 15-year veteran of the sport and at 38-years-old Edwards is still hanging around. In fact, he’s 3-2 in his last five bouts inside the UFC. He beats a lot of guys. His recent wins have been against Rafaello Oliveira, Cody MacKenzie and John Gunderson — all known for their grappling. His recent losses have been to Sam Stout and Tony Ferguson — guys known for knockout power. Jeremy Stephens is known for knockout power. Stephens is coming off decision losses to Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis (split) — that’s nothing to be ashamed of — with recent wins over Marcus Davis and Danny Downes. I’m going with Stephens by decision.
(170) Mike Swick (15-4) vs. Matt Brown (15-11)
ODDS: Swick -170 vs. Brown +140
JAY CEE: Mike Swick wins via TKO
JAN GAETJENS: This is a big step up in competition for Brown, who has been impressive lately, and I’m not completely confident that he can match up well against the sustained pace that Mike Swick can bring to a fight. I don’t see him getting finished, but Brown’s winning streak will come to an end. Swick by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Brown
JACK BRATCHER: After more than two years on the sidelines Swick looked great in his return against DaMarques Johnson in August. With his health issues behind him, I think Swick will be back better than ever — at least that’s my theory. Brown has strung together three straight wins now but I think Swick is on another level now. He’s at a great gym, great training partners. I don’t see what Brown can do to him to win this. Most of Brown’s losses have come via submission — nine to be exact. Keep in mind Brown has never been stopped via strikes. And with that, I’m predicting the return of the “Swickatine” — Mike Swick via guillotine.
(170) B.J. Penn (16-8-2) vs. Rory MacDonald (13-1)
ODDS: Penn +240 vs. MacDonald -300
JAY CEE: Rory MacDonald wins via Decision
JAN GAETJENS: It’s strange seeing BJ Penn come into a fight as this much of an underdog. MacDonald brings great wrestling to this matchup (required viewing: UFC 129 against Nate Diaz), but he has a tendency to get caught on his feet, something that doesn’t bode well against Penn, who can land standing combos with ease when given an opening. Penn’s been fine tuning his already elite jiu jitsu with Rafa Mendes to counter MacDonald’s top game dominance, and all accounts are he’s in the best shape of his life. Don’t sleep on Baby Jay. Penn by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Penn
DENNY HODGE: I love B.J. Penn, but he’s much better at 155, and he’s on the tail end of a legendary career. He is facing the future of the welterweight division in the athletic and well-rounded Rory MacDonald. Penn’s boxing will serve him well against Rory, who at times gets caught on the feet, but look for Rory to be unafraid of the guard of Penn, mixing up his strikes to set up takedowns. Once there, he will look to batter Penn with a steady does of ground-and-pound. MacDonald will take another step toward title contention with a TKO finish of the B.J. Penn
JACK BRATCHER: Penn is his best at 155 lbs. I think Rory’s size, conditioning, strength and well-roundedness is going to overwhelm Penn and Penn will fold. I think Rory is going to steamroll him like Chris Farley sat on a cupcake. No offense to Penn. He was great in his day. His best days are behind him. He’s only 33 but, there’s too much water under the bridge; too many fights — he’s a family man now. Let it go. It’s a nice payout if you think Penn can win. My advice though is don’t waste your money. MacDonald via TKO.
(205) Maurício Rua (22-6) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (14-1)
ODDS: Rua +190 vs. Gustafsson -240
JAY CEE: Mauricio Rua wins via TKO
JAN GAETJENS: Gustafsson reminds me of a taller, skinnier, PRIDE-era Shogun Rua. Although his 6’5” frame only comes with a slight reach advantage over Rua, if he can effectively use his jab Gustafsson can frustrate Rua into opening himself up. So why am I not picking the rising Swedish star? First off, just like my boy BJ, Shogun has has put some serious work in to dropping some of the unneeded weight he’s been known to carry, and, considering how good his endurance is even with the flab, that can only translate into an extremely high work rate. Let’s also not forget that in clinch situations and on the ground Rua is miles ahead of Gustafsson. Chalk another one up for the wily former champions on the card. Rua by (T)KO.
BRIAN FURBY: Gustafsson
DENNY HODGE: “Shogun” is a fan favorite and a legend in MMA, but at times he doesn’t show up for fights. That will be a huge mistake if he comes in unfocused against Gustafsson. Alex will have a huge advantage in the cardio department in this one, and his crisp striking will wear down Rua when they engage in the pocket. Rua will have his moments in this one, but Alex will be better overall and will wear down the legend on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Gustafsson by decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Gustafsson doesn’t blow your socks off with excitement. That’s kind of the Swedish way though. What he is, is he’s steady and well-rounded. Shogun’s not known for the best cardio. If he’s going to do any damage here it will be early, but I see Gustafsson picking him apart. Shogun has already been in the cage with Alex’s teammate Brandon Vera and Vera had good success even though he lost. Gustafsson will either put him away or win a unanimous decision with his steady pressure and conditioning.
(155) Benson Henderson (c) (17-2) vs. Nate Diaz (16-7)
ODDS: Henderson -160 vs. Diaz +130
JAY CEE: Benson Henderson wins via Decision
JAN GAETJENS: Nate Diaz believes that if this fight goes the distance he will lose. I agree, but it won’t be on account of any judging conspiracies against anyone associated with Ceasar Gracie. Nate’s boxing and submission game are things of beauty, but Ben Henderson isn’t one to give many opportunities once he is on top of someone on the ground. If Nate can stay on his feet and utilize his distance-creating jab then he may be able to steal this one, but Henderson is near impossible to finish on the feet and Diaz doesn’t have the kind of one punch knockout power needed to floor the champ. With all due respect to the 209, not being scared, flipping double birds, and the Joe Rogan podcast, I’m taking Henderson and his wrestling to win this one. Henderson by decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Henderson
DENNY HODGE: It is time to usher in the time where a Diaz is a UFC champion. Benson Henderson is a great champion, a great fighter, and an even better person, but his championship run will come to an end when he faces the streaking Nate Diaz. Diaz has shown steady improvement in all areas of his game in the past year. His decimation of Cerrone still shocks me when I think about it, and he has proven that he can beat high level wrestlers. The fact is, Henderson is in danger wherever this fight goes. Henderson will be out struck easily in this one as most expect, and he will face the dangerous guard of Diaz when it hits the mat. He has proven to be nearly impossible to submit, but Diaz will use his punch volume and overall pressure game to make Henderson wilt in the main event. Diaz will pepper Henderson on the feet and put him away by TKO by the third round. Diaz by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: I think this is Nate Diaz’s time to shine. He’s looking better and better every fight. Bendo’s wrestling and athleticism are the things people say will cause Diaz trouble. If he does get taken down, there’s a good chance he could submit Bendo. Diaz’s economy of energy and cardio are top notch so five rounds won’t be an issue. Diaz’s taunts could have an effect much like in the Cerrone fight. Bendo is very talented but I think Diaz will get the decision or submission.