UFC Lightweight Nate Diaz is on a hot streak to be sure, impressively besting opponents Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone, and Jim Miller in succession. Since losing to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald at Welterweight, the younger Diaz decided it was time for a change and made the switch down to 155 lbs. with great results. Still, Diaz knows that his hot streak will mean nothing in the eyes of the judges when he steps into the Octagon to face Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 5 this Saturday. Henderson himself is undefeated within the UFC Lightweight division, having beaten Mark Bocek, Jim Miller, Clay Guida, and then Frankie Edgar twice for the UFC Lightweight championship.
While all of these wins were great for Henderson, they were all by way of decision. Diaz has stated that he does not believe he can win any kind of decision over Henderson, so he must finish the fight in order to win. True, Henderson most recently defeated Frankie Edgar in two decisions, one that was close but appeared to go 'Smooth's' way, and another that many thought Edgar had actually won at UFC 150 in Denver last August. Henderson's goal is always to dominate his opponent and look for the finish, but that finish has alluded him thus far in his otherwise extremely successful UFC campaign.
Is Diaz insinuating that Henderson has the judges firmly on his side? I don't think so, at least not fully, but Henderson's strength and size advantages he enjoys as a Lightweight definitely do come into play. He can use his greater power to land what appear to be more powerful strikes, an this obviously helped him greatly with the judges both times against Edgar. Henderson's Taekwondo background also help him keep smaller fighters who may be looking for takedowns at bay. Not to beat a dead horse, but I thought Edgar did enough to win over Henderson and get his belt back this summer. He did more volume and was the better wrestler of the two, and overall I just thought that Edgar appeared like he was the fighter who wanted it more. I guess that's why Dana White always stresses the importance of never leaving the fight in the hands of the judges.
So does Nate Diaz need to finish to win at UFC on Fox 5's main event? I would say most likely. His patented 'Stockton Slap' boxing may score some points on Henderson in the standup game, but Henderson is tough to knock out and will be difficult to move in on with his diverse array of kicks. If the fight does go the full five rounds, I expect Henderson to be using his wrestling pedigree to control Diaz on the ground. Diaz may look for the submission with his excellent jiujitsu background, but Henderson is a man known to take pride in never tapping out.
All in all, Nate Diaz has an extremely tough test ahead of him this Saturday. Unless he can stay on the outside and avoid Henderson's takedown while peppering him with jabs, it could be a long night for Diaz. He may have to finish Bendo because a long, drawn-out battle will favor Henderson in many ways. Diaz is on a roll, but he has had trouble with larger, powerful wrestlers in the past. Diaz will look to finish a man who is incredibly tough to put away in Seattle, and it may be his only out.