The UFC on Fox finally had some good luck. This UFC on Fox 5 card easily had that most marketing power of any of the UFC/Fox events to date. Across all the Fox networks ads ran pushing the Benson Henderson vs Nate Diaz main event, and the fight delivered. Actually it was really the whole card, as every fight was compelling in its own way. Griffin-Bonnar I will never be replicated, so I will not make comparisons there but this event could be a defining moment for the UFC on Fox.
The only thing that might be giving Fox a pause is the number of times they had to mute the sound because of crude language or cut away because of Nate Diaz throwing up the bird. While not a huge deal, and likely not wholly unexpected by all involved, it was slightly annoying as a viewer and sign that the some parties in the sport really have no concept of what it is to be on broadcast television.
Don't expect the UFC to be throwing out title matches on every single Fox card, but I think it is safe to expect the second weekend in December to become a regular target date for the UFC to put a big card on Fox. With college football's season being over, and the NBA not yet in full swing it is the ideal time for the UFC to leverage the ad exposure of Fox's NFL games while not going up against any other serious sport event. Other than that, expect the usual run of Flyweight title fights and #1 contenders matches. Fox seems perfectly happy to draw average sporting event rating most of the year, as Fox is paying the UFC far less than they would MLB, the NBA, or the NFL for their product, and then once or twice a year really invest in creating a big event.
Well the card was a huge success, lets move on to the specific talking points:
- The narrative is already starting to emerge about the size of Henderson, and I want to put a stop to that right now. Henderson didn't win because he was bigger than Diaz, he was just better than Diaz. The Champion established his leg kick right away in the first round and used that to control the range, he never got stuck on the cage, and circled away from Diaz's power hand. In short, on the feet he used a very similar game plan that Carlos Condit used against Nate's larger brother Nick Diaz. Nate was unable to keep up with Henderson and when he began to charge, Henderson would change levels and take Nate down. On the ground, Henderson showed that he is a fantastic grappler. While still a brown belt in jiu jitsu, Henderson has medals from the IBJJF World Championships and he showed off a very strong top game against Diaz's guard. Henderson was clearly the better fighter and size had very little to do with the result of that fight.
- When Luke Thomas interviewed Ryan Hall about the 50/50 guard in MMA there was quite of bit of moaning about how it was position fans didn't want to see in the sport. However the Henderson/Diaz fight highlighted how excellent and exciting the position can be: heelhook attempts, toe holds, Henderson doing the splits and Diaz flipping the bird all coming from the 50/50 guard in this fight. When strikes and heel hooks are allowed the 50/50 becomes quite a dynamic position, and something both fans and fighters should embrace.
- Alexander Gustafsson vs Shogun went down very much as I expected, it started out very competitive but as the fight when on Shogun's gas tank slowly depleted. While Gustafsson got the win, there was a lot to be concerned about for the Swedish fighter. Shogun hit The Mauler with just about every strike in his arsenal, and while it is a good sign that Gustafsson has the chin to withstand such punishment, it highlights a troubling lack of defensive ability on the feet. Against Jon Jones, who has the reach to negate Gustatfsson's own length, this could be very problematic. Even more troubling was Gustafsson's continuing struggles on the ground, the genesis of his lone loss to Phil Davis. While Gustafsson certainly beat Rua, he did not look ready for Jones at all.
- B.J. Penn should not have been in the same cage with Rory MacDonald. For all the talk and video of Penn shadow boxing with no shirt on, it is clear that he is just not getting into fight shape. I picked Penn to win coming in and I have no earthly idea was possessed me to do that. I knew that he was not actually in shape, but I thought the fact that he is traditionally a fast starter and Rory a slow one would work in his favor. I was wrong, Rory beat Penn pillar to post, and despite the Canadian actually having negative charisma he has a very bright future in that division.
- Matt Brown might have just ejected Mike Swick from the UFC. While Swick retains the name value of being a TUF season 1 fighter but his abilities have decayed in his long lay off.
- Judges were letting the 10-8 rounds flow this event and I see that as a huge positive. MMA judging needs more differentiation between rounds, there are big differences in how fighters win rounds but almost never a difference in the scoring. Lets hope this is a sign of things to come as fighters who clearly deserved credit for putting serious offense on their opponent were rewarded last night.
- The undercard was entertaining but nothing impact-full on any of the weight divisions. Yves Edwards' KO of Jeremy Stephens was amazing, Mike Easton continues to fight to his own detriment, Denis Siver looked good against at 145-lbs, and Scott Jorgensen hit the MMA version of a buzzer beater.