A Lightweight title fight for the ages, this will be fun. Ben Henderson will have a homecoming of sorts, as he grew up in the south Puget Sound area, going to high school in Federal Way, WA. He returns home with the UFC Lightweight Championship and defends it against one of the bad boys of MMA, Nate Diaz. Nate is one of those Diaz boys from Stockton, CA. You know, those finger waving, foul language spewing, tough as nails Cesar Gracie kids from the “filthy 209”. Well, his image doesn’t quite speak to his level of dedication and his desire for success. If Nate Diaz becomes the UFC Lightweight champion Saturday night it is on the back of years and years of hard work, and a team of brothers who never let each other down.
Ben Henderson: 17-2
Nate Diaz: 16-7
Past Five Performances:
Ben Henderson: 5-0 Defeated Frankie Edgar, Defeated Frankie Edgar, Defeated Clay Guida, Defeated Jim Miller and Defeated Mark Bocek.
Nate Diaz: 3-2 Defeated Jim Miller, Defeated Donald Cerrone, Defeated Takanori Gomi, Lost to Rory MacDonald *Welterweight* and Lost to Dong Hyun Kim *Welterweight*.
Ben Henderson: Balance and Athleticism, Cardio, Ability to game plan.
Nate Diaz: Heavy Handed. Scrappy. Fearless and Aggressive. Heart, desire, submissions. Amazing team supporting him.
Ben Henderson: Nothing glaring, has not finished fights recently.
Nate Diaz: Ego. Can be ruled by emotion. Not the best at dodging shots.
How it should unfold:
These two have five rounds to sort this thing out. Here’s what I think could be very telling in determining a winner. Nate Diaz has awkward standup and can land from any angle. He also has a six inch reach advantage on Henderson which can be a nightmare for Ben. Expect Nate to try and outbox Ben, while Ben darts in and out, landing from odd angles and trying to stick Nate with stiff leg kicks.
I think whoever employs their fight plan will have greater success here. Ben should want to move in and then back out of reach, landing one or two shots, while Nate will load up on combinations. This fight will really be at its height interest wise when they hit the mat. Both guys have solid submission skills, and this fight could yield some exciting moments on the ground.
Nate has the heavier hands, but Ben Henderson is faster. Nate has the better takedowns, but expect Ben to keep him off balance with leg kicks. I honestly believe kicks could be a difference maker in this fight. Give Ben Henderson five rounds to kick someone and they will lose mobility and strength in the takedown. Kicks could turn the tide in the favor of the Champion in this fight.
Diaz looked AWESOME against Cerrone, and Jim Miller, and despite being a bit of a long shot with the odds makers, I think he has a VERY good chance of hurting Henderson, and taking the belt back to Stockton. It all comes down to who fights smarter and cleaner.
I’m a huge Nate Diaz fan, but I think Ben is going to just be a little too quick for him standing, and Ben will utilize low kicks until he slows Diaz down and turns him from a dangerous attacker standing to a plodding fighter who will load up on single shots. I don’t expect Ben to submit Nate, but rather pick him apart, hurt him with kicks to the leg and neutralize any advantages Nate has on his way to winning a unanimous decision, which the Diaz brothers will complain about. Ben Henderson wins it, 49-46 across the board.
By Dan Rose for hov-mma
Photo via - UFC