6 Takeaways from UFC on Fox 5
UFC on Fox 5 has come and gone, leaving fight fans happy that the "amazing on paper" card was able to deliver in real life. Here are six thoughts as we reflect on the great night of fights.
1. Hey doubters, Benson Henderson is for real
Before the main event at UFC on Fox 5, there were more than a few MMA analysts/journalists/media folk out there who were still a bit skeptical of Benson Henderson's ability to hold on to his lightweight title. If there was any solid reasoning behind doubting Henderson, after Saturday night, it has been proven to be false. Bendo not only beat Nate Diaz, he dominated him. Every aspect of Henderson's game was superior and the lightweight champion looks better every single time he takes to the Octagon. He'll continue to have a significant size advantage over most opponents at 155 pounds, but from the looks of things, he'll have a skill advantage as well.
2. It's Gilbert Melendez time
Within seconds of Benson Henderson successfully defending his lightweight belt, the question of who he should face next began to inundate my Twitter timeline. There are some decent candidates out there, for sure. But with Strikeforce meeting it's maker in January, it's time for Gilbert Melendez to get his moment in the sun. His resume is more than impressive. He's 21-2 with career wins over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Josh Thomson, Shinya Aoki, Clay Guida and Mitsuhiro Ishida. Add that "El Nino" hasn't lost since 2008 and you've got a guy that deserves the opportunity to get in the cage with the best lightweight in the world.
3. The "old" guys kinda looked old
BJ Penn and Shogun Rua are not old in human years, they're 33 and 31 respectively. In fighter years, however, the myriad of bumps, cuts and bruises collected - their bodies are more like senior citizens. Penn and Rua are from the "old school" of MMA. Both have over a decade of battles inside the cage/ring, racking up over 25 career fights, beating some absolute legends along the way. But along their paths to greatness, the amount of punishment absorbed has been exponential. Fighting takes a toll on a man and at some point your body just can't/won't do what it used to be able to do. That's where we are with Penn and Rua. Once untouchable, these two pioneers of MMA now, look a little above average. Nobody questions their heart. Nobody questions their contributions to the sport. The question, is how much more damage will they submit themselves to inside the Octagon? Fingers crossed, not very much.
4. Welterweight is going to get sticky
I'm not ready to anoint Rory MacDonald the second coming of Georges St. Pierre, but I am ready to say he's one of the top five guys (if not top 3) in the division at the ripe old age of 23. He totally and utterly obliterated BJ Penn Saturday night on network television and might have made a name for himself with fans not labeled "hardcore." So how does welterweight get sticky? Well, MacDonald asked for, and will probably get, a rematch with the only man to ever defeat him professionally, Carlos Condit. I'll go ahead and pick MacDonald to win that fight. Then what? He's been very vocal that he has no intentions of ever fighting friend and teammate (and belt holder) Georges St. Pierre. Sure, there's interesting fights out there for MacDonald - Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks. But past that, he's going to be fighting down in the division instead of up. And for what payoff? He's on the verge of a title shot as it is, but another couple high profile wins and the cries for a MacDonald vs. St. Pierre fight will be loud and they will be often. Sadly, we might be looking at another situation where the top two guys in a division refuse to fight each other. The Rashad Evans/Jon Jones situation worked itself out, but I feel we're dealing with another animal in this instance.
5. Undercard fighters impress
In case you only tuned in to see the four main card fights on Fox, let me summarize the undercard for you: wow. Fireworks from the start and save one Assuncao/Easton dud, the Facebook and FX fighters earned every penny of their purses Saturday night. All "of the night" bonuses went to undercard guys and we even got a contender for knockout of the year with Yves Edwards vicious KO of Jeremy Stevens. Scott Jorgensen took home two bonuses (fight of night, sub of night) in his fight with John Albert, rebounding nicely from the first back to back losses of his career. Don't look now, but Dennis Siver looked amazing and is 2-0 with two big wins since dropping to featherweight. Also, keep an eye out for Abel Trujillo at lightweight.
6. The Fox deal is going to be fine
A popular question over the last few weeks had pundits wondering "what went wrong" with the UFC and Fox deal. The answer is nothing. This show was brilliantly put together from a production standpoint. Joe Silva, Dana White and company constructed nearly the perfect card for a casual fan viewing audience. And most importantly, the fighters delivered. Look, we're only a year into a seven-year deal. There was a little trial and error at play. The kinks have mostly been ironed out and the product will continue to get better. So pump the brakes a bit before you pen that "this UFC thing on Fox is a total and epic fail" article. The audiences will warm. The numbers will improve. We've got a long way to go in this. Give it time.
See the full UFC on Fox 5 results