Manny Pacquiao is set to fight December 8, in Las Vegas. What does that mean to MMA fans? it means Dana White has stepped up to make a free fight card worth tuning in for.
With a main event featuring Benson Henderson vs Nate Diaz, what more could you want for free. A title fight that has a very aggressive fighter in Nate Diaz, taking on a very talented opponent in Ben Henderson. Back that up with two fights featuring young up and comers against some of the sports best veterans and you have a card worth every penny of free.
Here is what I see from the three top bouts. Your winners will be Rory MacDonald, Shogun Rua, and Henderson. Want to know why? Read on. Want to tell me I'm crazy, leave a comment. Feel like making it social? Tell me who you are picking @FitCityJordan.
Rory MacDonald vs. B.J Penn
MacDonald made himself available for interviews leading up to the fight, so of course I got in on the action. The entire interview will air Saturday December 8 at 11:30am ct on TSN 1290's The Weigh-In. I started the interview off with the questions I wanted to know, asking about how his life has changed with the move from Kelowna, the spotlight on him constantly, and of course the training partners.
“The move was necessary for me, it might not be what's best for every fighter. It's tough to leave everything behind. I felt I had to do it," said MacDonald. “My life really hasn't changed much. I train a lot and haven't been bothered by the press”.
That's good news for those of us looking forward to him moving up the ranks. I was also curious why he took the fight with Penn, because in my opinion it doesn't make much difference in his career if MacDonald wins this fight. Penn is known more for his wins at lightweight and Penn is also 1-3-1 in his last five, hardly a stellar record.
“If I win and put on a good show, it will move me up the ranks," MacDonald stated.
MacDonald is on his way to the top of the welterweight division. There is no reason for him, statistically speaking, to take a fight with Penn. Losing this fight means losing a shot at someone like Johny Hendricks, Martin Kampmann, Nick Diaz, or a rematch against Carlos Condit. However, stats don't seem to matter when making MMA fights.
Penn has shown in the past he is a natural talent, and one of the most explosive fighters out there. There is no doubt he can capitalize on any mistake MacDonald makes. Penn has talent, but what he lacks is size, strength, and stamina. That means MacDonald comes into the fight with an advantage in size, strength, stamina, and maybe even a little bit of skill.
Really, this fight has only one foreseeable outcome. MacDonald demonstrates why the MMA world views him as Georges St-Pierre's protege. We all remember GSP vs. Penn, which was something more like a clinic on MMA for Penn. GSP was the instructor and fans got to see domination in its purest sense.
Sure Penn may use some of his legendary jujitsu, but how does he compete with a fighter that is also talented and has s large strength advantage? If things go a little bad for MacDonald, he can overpower Penn and get back to neutral ground. In terms of striking, the reach advantage goes to MacDonald and we have seen him be as explosive as any. I hate to say it, but this will be a rough night for Penn. MacDonald is simply that good.
Mauricio (Shogun) Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Shogun stepping into the Octagon with Gustafsson should be interesting. Gustafsson is on a five-fight win streak, including fighting an outstanding kickboxer in Cyrille Diabate and surviving the leg kicks.
Gustafsson is young and looking to make his mark in the UFC. With only one loss and 14 wins, this young man knows how to finish fights. He has only gone to decision twice. With all of that said, Gustafsson is fighting one of the sports best. Name a top light heavyweight and Shogun has probably beat him.
Shogun doesn't look like a ruthless fighter, but his fight roots are with Chute Boxe in Curitiba, Brazil. That's where some of the best and most aggressive fighters have come from. The question is, does Rua show up in shape, because he is known for taking young inexperienced fighters lightly and not preparing to his fullest. There is no place that Gustafsson is better than Shogun. In the ground game, Shogun's jujitsu is the highest level. In striking, fighters look to Shogun for teaching specifically on the leg kicks.
Shogun, 31, started young, and is still in his prime when he chooses to be. Gustafsson is going to have to be just as aggressive, and land a big punch. In my opinion, if he can check one of Shogun's kicks and follow it with a straight right hand he may be able to open Shogun up for one of his brilliant flurries of punches and elbows.
Shogun is coming off of two very hard fought battles. He went four full rounds with Brandon Vera, four months ago. That fight was on the heels of an absolute war with Dan Henderson, just over a year ago. That fight left Shogun with a fractured skull. Medically speaking, this is the best time to knock out Shogun, but I don't see that happening, and I think this is going to be a leg kick clinic for Gustafsson.
I think Shogun wins late in the second round after setting up and wearing down Gustafsson with leg kicks. This will set Shogun up for another run at the title.
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
The fight of the night is going to go to Henderson and Diaz. I can't stand to hear Diaz interviewed, because I love sportsmanship and Diaz doesn't really do that. Diaz is clear why he is there and it's to fight.
The Diaz brothers both have a strange style when it comes to the Octagon. They use their boxing and strange angles to set up take downs and then they begin the slow, methodical work to take home a submission win. Eleven of Diaz's 16 wins are via submission, while two are decision. It is that methodical style that frustrates most opponents. Until Henderson.
How do you become the champion? You win. No matter who you are facing, no matter where you are, you win. I do not see this fight night being any different than Henderson's last five fights. He is 17-2 as compared to Diaz who is 16-7.
Henderson wins fights with excellent stand up, and a submission game based around speed. Henderson will slip a choke in faster than most in the business. The challenge in this fight will be to do that to a Caesar Gracie black belt.
This fight will be a fun one to watch as a methodical approach meets speed and aggression. Both fighters have the ability to land some solid standing shots. It will not end in a flash knock out, but there will be tons of excitement in the chess game that occurs on the ground. Henderson will win it on speed and strength, but not easily, this will go to championship rounds.
Jordan Cieciwa can be heard on TSN Radio 1290 every Saturday at 11:30am ct with his show The Weigh-In. You can also follow Jordan at www.twitter.com/FitCityJordan and get all your fitness tips at www.onefitcity.com.