UFC on Fox 5 may be headlined by a title fight between Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson, but there's another storyline that is gaining steam as the fight draws closer.
With certain UFC Hall of Famers B.J. Penn and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua fighting on the card against respective up and comers Rory MacDonald and Alexander Gustafsson, it appears that a changing of the guard is being set up on Saturday night. Two former champions that have put on great shows with the fans while assisting the highlight reel producers with remarkable footage.
"The Prodigy" B.J. Penn is no longer the young lightweight with a ridiculous amount of talent. The days of wrecking Din Thomas, Jens Pulver, Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez are a thing of the past. He was a champion at the age of 25, today he's a 33-year-old father who favors experience over youth. He's 1-3-1 in his last five fights with his last loss against Nick Diaz being a sound beating that caused Penn to announce his retirement through battered eyes and puffy lips. But the Octagon has a funny way of calling men back. Baby Jay is not finished and wants to prove that he still has what it takes to be in the Octagon with the UFC's top talent. All he has to do is get past the 23-year-old monster Rory MacDonald.
Perhaps a prodigy in his own right, MacDonald has been a savage in the cage. Training with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has seen great strides in MacDonald's in-cage performance since a loss to former interim champion Carlos Condit. Victories over Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle and Che Mills have put Rory Mac at the top of the welterweight food chain. Perhaps as a bodyguard for his teammate, MacDonald is just looking to beat people up and taking out former GSP victim B.J. Penn would be a huge step for the Canadian.
Meanwhile, Shogun Rua has blessed fight fans with an array of knockouts. From his PRIDE FC days as a soccer kicking brute as a youngter, to the punch that sent Chuck Liddell into old man's land, Shogun will always be remembered as one of the finest light heavyweights in MMA. However, his UFC days have been a tad uneven. He's sandwiched wicked knockouts of Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin between losses to Jon Jones and Dan Henderson. Sometimes he looks as awesome as ever, other times it looks like his best days are long behind him. Alexander Gustafsson is hoping for the latter.
The 25-year-old Swedish fighter is looking for a trampoline fight to launch him into a title fight. Beating Shogun would be exactly that. Still relatively unproven, Gustafsson lacks a big name on his portfolio to brag about. Beating a living legend like Rua would give him the recognition he wants and put him in line for the next shot at the 205 title. All he needs to do is knock off the 31-year-old.
Or, it could be the old guard keeping all comers away from the holy grail.
Yeah, maybe Saturday night should be looked at through a different lens. While the oddsmakers have the old guard passing the torch to the new stars, perhaps the lions will take the cubs to the shed and show them that they aren't quite ready to give up the spotlight. After all, how can you count out two of the UFC's brightest stars?
Maybe that's it.
I may be looking at this whole thing wrong, right?
We shall see on Saturday night.