Benson Henderson (left) took all five rounds from Nate Diaz. | Ezra Shaw/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Benson Henderson was nothing short of masterful.
Henderson (18-2, 6-0 UFC) retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown with a one-sided unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz in the UFC on Fox 5 headliner on Saturday at the Key Arena in Seattle. All three cageside judges scored it for the champion: 50-43, 50-45 and 50-45.
Searing leg kicks, energy-sapping clinches, takedowns and heavy ground-and-pound were all part of the Henderson game plan, and he executed it with remarkable precision.
Henderson secured takedowns in all five rounds, totaling eight of them by the time the 25-minute fight was over. The 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt neutralized Diaz’s prodigious boxing skills by attacking his legs, smothering him with clinches and grounding him repeatedly. Moreover, Henderson twice sent the Cesar Gracie protégé reeling with punches -- an overhand left in the second round and a right hook in the third.
Perhaps sensing his situation was dire, Diaz (16-8, 11-6 UFC) turned to leg locks midway through the fight. None of them were successful. Henderson simply scrambled out of danger, assumed top position and cut loose with punches, elbows and hammerfists. According to FightMetric.com figures, the MMA Lab representative out-landed Diaz 124-30 in terms of significant strikes.
Henderson has won 16 of his past 17 bouts, clearly establishing himself as the alpha male at 155 pounds.
“It’s just a matter of being well-prepared,” Henderson said, “and being in the gym as much as possible.”
Gustafsson Dismisses ‘Shogun’ Rua
In the co-main event, Alexander Gustafsson staked his claim as the No. 1 contender at 205 pounds, as he struck and wrestled his way to a unanimous decision over former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Gustafsson (15-1, 7-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 marks from the judges.
Known more for his standup, the Swede delivered takedowns in all three rounds and kept Rua (21-7, 5-5 UFC) guessing throughout their 15-minute battle. Gustafsson was effective on the feet, as well, scoring with straight punches, uppercuts and knees in close quarters.
Rua’s one legitimate shot at victory came and went in the first round, when he caught the 25-year-old in a heel hook but failed to finish it.
“Shogun” faded down the stretch. Gustafsson punctuated the most significant win of his career in round three, where he short-circuited the notoriously durable Brazilian with a wicked liver kick. He closed with a flourish, mixing in a front kick to the face, a jumping knee to the head and one last takedown for good measure. Gustafsson has won his last six fights.
Surging MacDonald Routs Penn
Fast-rising Canadian contender Rory MacDonald made former two-division champion and future hall of famer B.J. Penn look like an amateur, as he cruised to a unanimous decision in a featured welterweight matchup. All three judges scored it for MacDonald (14-1, 5-1 UFC): 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.
It was, for all intents and purposes, a blowout. MacDonald brought all his firepower to bear against the beloved Hawaiian, ripping into him with blistering combinations to the head, body and legs.
He wobbled Penn with a left elbow shiver late in the first round and sent him to his corner with a look of visible concern across his face.
Round two went even worse for Penn (16-9-2, 12-8-2), whose 22 career Octagon appearances rank fifth all-time behind Tito Ortiz (27), Matt Hughes (25), Randy Couture (24) and Chuck Liddell (23). MacDonald nearly finished him with a crippling body kick and follow-up blows. Perhaps only referee Herb Dean’s respect for Penn saved him from a stoppage. By the time the third round rolled around, MacDonald was comfortable enough to taunt his fading foe while he continued to batter him mercilessly with punches, kicks and standing elbows.
“Every fight is the most important,” said MacDonald, who afterward called for a rematch with Carlos Condit, the only man to defeat him. “I was just staying calm, cool and collected, picking my shots. B.J. is dangerous at all times.”
Brown Levels AKA’s Swick
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum Matt Brown flattened the American Kickboxing Academy’s Mike Swick with a blistering two-punch combination in the second round of their welterweight showcase. Brown (16-11, 9-5 UFC) closed the deal 2:31 into round two.
Swick was never a factor in the fight. Brown struck for a takedown a little more than a minute into the first round and later threatened the Houston, Texas, native with brabo and triangle chokes. Swick (15-5, 10-4 UFC) freed himself but remained on the defensive.
In the second round, Brown clipped him with short standing elbows in the clinch. Once the two men separated, the Ohioan cracked Swick with a left hook-straight right combination that sent him crashing to the base of the cage. Brown followed with a pair of standing-to-ground punches for the finish. Swick had not been knocked out in nearly nine years.
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