UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz Saturday, December 8 – 10:30 p.m. ET
Key Arena – Seattle, WA
Benson Henderson (16-2) vs. Nate Diaz (16-7) Lightweight bout
Line: Henderson -145, Diaz +115
Benson Henderson will look to defend his belt for the second time as challenger Nate Diaz takes the Octagon against him Saturday night in Seattle.
Henderson first won the title from Frankie Edgar on UFC 144 and has defended it once since then, a split decision in a rematch with Edgar. Diaz, meanwhile, has been working his way up the lightweight ladder after coming back into the class last year. Since then he is 3-0 with strong wins against Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller. The recent fights show some of the major differences in tactics between Henderson and Diaz. All of Henderson’s past five fights—all wins—have gone to the judges whereas Diaz has ended two of his past three before the final bell with submissions. Although Diaz will be looking to do the same again here, few fighters in all of MMA defend as well as Henderson. And given that he is only a small favorite here, the play is for HENDERSON to retain the lightweight belt.
At 5-foot-9, Henderson cedes three inches to Diaz. But height has never been a problem for him, nor should it, given his fighting style. A wrestler by trade, he employs a relentless ground-and-pound attack that frustrates opponents to no end, making it difficult for them to ever get in an attacking groove. Prior to his wins against Edgar, he beat Clay Guida, Jim Miller and Mark Bocek. If need be, Henderson has shown the capability of ending a fight early—he has six career submissions compared to seven career decisions. But he has not earned one since 2010 in the WEC against Cerrone.
At 6-foot-0, Diaz is tall for a lightweight. Whereas Henderson brings a physical full body style type of confrontation to the Octagon, Diaz is much more of a striker, looking to pound his opponent to set up the submission. He did that easily in his last fight against Miller. The one weakness of his that could be really exposed, however, is his takedown defense—he only avoids only 48% of total takedowns, which could be a problem against a guy like Henderson whose wrestling style will try that tactic early and often. There is no doubt Diaz has a shot in this one, but without better odds, play against.