Benson Henderson retains his lightweight title in a thrilling five round decision over Nate Diaz
Rory McDonald A+: The 23-year old welterweight prospect looked absolutely terrifying while ripping through BJ Penn on Saturday night. Rory was quick, powerful, precise and technical in his performance against the MMA legend. The kid may not only be the future of the welterweight division, but, may already be, the most talented in the sport.
Rory looked every bit the fighter that many are expecting him to be, and, quite frankly, may be the only 170lber with the skill set to challenge champion George St. Pierre. Unfortunately for fight fans, the matchup is extremely unlikely to happen, as both men train at the same gym and share a lead coach in Firas Zahabi. Expect McDonald to face Johny Hendricks or Carlos Condit next.
Benson Henderson A: The champ made what was supposed to be an extremely close fight into a one-sided domination. Benson Henderson is an absolute monster in the lightweight division and has the skills and the drive to be the champion for a long time to come. Henderson used his speed and strength advantage to dictate the pace of the fight against Diaz, and never let the Stockton California native get comfortable in the octagon.
Expect Henderson to face the winner of the upcoming Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis bout. Either Pettis or Cerrone would be a formidable challenge for the champ, and, at the very least, would make for an exciting five round fight. Antony Pettis was the last man to defeat Henderson--securing a five round decision back in December of 2010—and would be the champion’s biggest challenge in the division.
Alexander Gustafsson B+: Light heavyweight prospect Alexander Gustafsson looked impressive during his three round decision victory over Pride and UFC legend Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. The young Swede showed improved wrestle and striking, and was able to withstand a blitz from the aggressive Rua multiple times throughout the fight. Gustafsson pushed himself to the front of the Jon Jones line with his impressive victory on Saturday.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua C+: Shogun was too old, and had too many miles under his belt, to actually win this fight, but the man is a warrior and tried his absolute best. Shogun may not be a factor in the light heavyweight division any more, but the man will put on a war every time he steps into the octagon. Shogun should spend his next few fights revisiting a few old rivalries that he still has unfinished business with. Maybe a fight with Lyoto Machida or Rampage Jackson could be on the docket.
Nate Diaz D: Its difficult to grade Nate Diaz’ performance, since his bout was more about how great Benson Henderson was, than about what he did wrong. Diaz was unable to get any type of offense going throughout the fight, as he was smothered, and, basically, bullied by the larger and more athletic Henderson. Nate Diaz is still a major player in the lightweight division, but is not in the champion’s league, at the moment.
BJ Penn F: BJ Penn gets the only failing grade of the night. It’s always the same old story with him. He does not want to make the weight cut to lightweight because he does not want to starve himself, so instead, he fights larger men at welterweight, and continually gases out after the first round. The trouble with Penn is that he does not want to work hard enough, and tries to get by on talent alone. It’s time for BJ to retire. Moving down to lightweight for one last run will only bring similar problems of athletes smothering him and taking advantage of his suspect cardio and work ethic.