UFC on Fox 5 was touted as the best free card of 2012, and it certainly delivered. Almost every bout, including all four on the main card, delivered as promised and it was pure entertainment all day/night long. The young guns reigned in two of the three biggest bouts, and Ben Henderson solidified his spot as the number one lightweight in the world with a dominant performance against Nate Diaz. And it didn't cost me a penny! Tough to argue with that.
Henderson was absolutely on fire all night. He didn't let Diaz establish his boxing at all, constantly pressured Diaz against the fence, dropped him a few times, and was just excellent for the whole 25 minutes. Diaz tried with the leg locks and made the fight a lot of fun with some crazy scrambles, but he just couldn't get anything going. Watching Henderson do the splits while working his way out of a leg lock, calm as could be, was certainly an image that I won't forget anytime soon. I also liked that Henderson wasn't sure how Diaz would react at the final bell, but looked relieved when Nate just patted him on the belly and took the loss like a man. One of my favorite fights of 2012, even if it might not be received that way by all.
Alexander Gustafsson and Rory MacDonald tucked the old guard into bed and put them to sleep tonight. Mauricio Rua was certainly more competitive than B.J. Penn was though. A case could be made for Shogun winning the second round, but he was out of gas in the third and it showed. I'm not sure if Gustafsson will get the next title shot after Chael Sonnen or not, but I personally think he should win one more fight before he does. Jon Jones wants to fight Gustafsson, but the winner of Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida probably has a better claim on the next shot.
Meanwhile, BJ should probably just pack it in. Either that, or return to lightweight. He's just not the same fighter at 170, and Rory was gigantic compared to him. Sometimes all the skill in the world isn't enough to overcome a size difference, and this was proof of that. I felt kind of sad watching BJ get the tar beaten out of him, like it truly was the end of an era. But I have absolutely no problem with Rory's showboating at the end, especially against a fighter who hasn't ever been known as the classiest guy in BJ. Stuff like that draws interest. It doesn't matter if it's love or hate. It's attention. And that matters.
- I don't really know what the hell was going on with the whole Henderson toothpick thing there. If he really fought with a toothpick in his mouth, he's crazy. I'm not sure what else to say.
- Rory calling out Carlos Condit was the right thing to do. Too many fighters use the standard "I'll fight whoever they want to put in front of me" BS. It doesn't make them stand out. Asking to fight a guy creates immediate interest in a bout, and it's what more fighters should be doing. Rory's promo skills need some work, but the message was more important than the charisma in this case.
- Is Mike Swick just about done as a top-flight fighter? I know the guy took two years off, but he hadn't been knocked out in almost nine years and he got absolutely nothing going against Matt Brown of all people. No disrespect to Brown, he's double tough and hits hard, but the Swick of old wouldn't have been fighting off submission attempts from a guy who has one sub win in 13 UFC fights going into tonight. It seems that he's just not the same guy he was before his issues.
- What was up with all the 10-8's tonight? Some of them were pretty good, but there's no way Henderson deserved a 10-8 in any round, nor did Gustafsson. I like seeing more of them, but it was totally overdone tonight.
- Thugjitsu! Karma was hiding in the gloves of Yves Edwards tonight, and he handed Jeremy Stephens the first knockout of his career. How fitting was that?
- The puzzle of Mike Easton got solved by Raphael Assuncao tonight. Easton seemed lost after he took that big punch to the eye, and Assuncao just had his number. I liked seeing that.
- What a sick knockout by Daron Cruickshank. Henry Martinez has a lot of heart for hanging in as long as he did, but Cruickshank has some serious striking. I was totally wrong about that fight, but it was one of those times that I'm glad to be wrong because it was so great to see.
- Marcus LeVesseur can wrestle, apparently. But it's all he can do. He got beat down by Abel Trujillo. Those knees to the body were some of the most damaging shots I can remember seeing in a while. I was flinching just watching them land. My own ribs hurt. LeVesseur really doesn't deserve another fight.
- Dennis Siver absolutely mauled Nam Phan. A 30-24 score was pretty amazing. I scored it 30-27, then realized the error of my ways when I got mauled on twitter. Fine, I was totally wrong. But it still wasn't 30-24.
- John Albert tapped with 0.00002 seconds left in the first round. I feel bad for him, but Scott Jorgensen has crushing submissions. Who knows if he would have been even able to come out for the second round after that.