The event, scheduled for Dec. 8, is headlined by a lightweight championship bout between Benson “Smooth” Henderson and Nate Diaz. The other two bouts announced for the card are a light heavyweight contest between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander Gustafsson as well as a welterweight clash of BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald.
The host city and venue for the event was confirmed by UFC officials.
Henderson (17-2) successfully defended his lightweight championship for the first time when he defeated Frankie Edgar by split decision at UFC 150. “Smooth” is unbeaten under the UFC banner at 5-0 and has gone the distance in six-straight fights. He will attempt to defend his belt for the second time against Diaz.
Diaz (16-7) earned his shot at the title when he submitted Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on FOX 3 in May. The 27-year-old is unbeaten in his last three fights, defeating Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and most recently Miller. UFC on FOX 5 marks Diaz’s second consecutive fight on FOX and he will look to continue his winning ways on Dec. 8 in the first championship fight of his career while taking the belt from Henderson.
It is very possibly that “Shogun” vs. Gustafsson could determine the next contender to the UFC light heavyweight title after Lyoto Machida, who established himself as the top contender at 205-pounds at UFC on FOX 4, faces the winner of the UFC 151 main event between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson.
Rua (21-6) was also recently featured on a FOX event, knocking out Brandon Vera in the headliner of UFC on FOX 4 on Aug. 4. “Shogun” is 3-3 in his last six fights, alternating wins and loses. The 30-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion had the chance to earn a title shot in his last fight, but was passed over in favor of Machida. He will have a second chance to make an impression on UFC brass when he takes on the young-gun Gustafsson in the co-main event.
Gustafsson (14-1) faces a former world champion for the first time in his career when he meets “Shogun”. The Swedish light heavyweight is 6-1 under the UFC banner and has sat on the sidelines nursing injuries since his April win over Thiago Silva. Gustafsson has a huge opportunity to take on a legend of the sport in Rua and will look to make a name for himself at the expense of the Brazilian.
The Penn vs. MacDonald bout was originally scheduled for UFC 152 on Sept. 22, but a large cut suffered by MacDonald in training forced the welterweight contest to be rebooked for December.
Penn (16-8-2) retired from the sport of mixed martial arts following his lopsided unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137 in October of 2011. It was the consensus among MMA fans that the future UFC Hall-of-Famer was going to be lulled back to the sport eventually, but his choice to come out of retirement to face MacDonald was somewhat surprising. The 33-year-old is 1-3-1 in his last five bouts and will look to get back on the winning track by taking out the talented up-and-comer.
MacDonald (13-1) challenged Penn to the fight on a recent edition of Ariel Helwani’s “The MMA Hour” podcast, and while many felt the challenge would go unanswered, Penn accepted the challenge just days later. At just 22-years-old, MacDonald is already 4-1 under the UFC banner with impressive wins over Mike Pyle and Nate Diaz with his lone lose coming to UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Penn is undoubtedly the biggest name MacDonald has been matched up thus far in his career, and the bout will show the true potential of the British Columbia native.