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SEATTLE -- Ben Henderson has stated his goal is to become the most dominant champion in UFC history. He has a long way to go, but looked the part on Saturday.
"Smooth" successfully defended his 155-pound title for the second time with a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz in the UFC on Fox main event.
Like his two previous title fights against Frankie Edgar, Saturday's contest went the distance. Unlike those Edgar fights, Henderson dominated, leaving no doubt as to whose hand would be raised.
All three judges scored it a shutout for the champion: 50-45, 50-45, 50-43.
The fight got off to a slow start, with Henderson and Diaz grinding it out along the fence. It kick-started in the second, when Diaz, known to get in the head of previous opponents, got beat at his own game.
In the middle of the round, Henderson landed two awkward-looking right hands aimed at Diaz's thigh. The blows brought an audible laugh from the crowd.
Henderson followed the strikes with a lightning, straight left hand that caught Diaz flush. The right side of his face immediately swelled, eventually prompting the cageside physician to check the area prior to the final round.
Down on the scorecards, Diaz grew more aggressive in the third round but it may have worked against him. Henderson timed his opponent's movement and shot in with a double leg as Diaz came forward.
Near the end of the round, Henderson scored a clean knockdown, catching Diaz moving forward again, this time with a right hand.
The final two rounds were typical of a Henderson fight, with the champ repeatedly taking Diaz down and roughing him up from top position.
Henderson (18-2) has now won six straight and remains unbeaten in the UFC.
Diaz (16-8) who tapped Henderson on the back after the fight in a show of respect, lost for the first time since dropping to lightweight from welterweight in September 2011.
|Mauricio Rua, left, had no answer for Alexander Gustafsson's range and variety of strikes.|
Alexander Gustafsson earned a unanimous decision over Mauricio Rua in what was unquestionably the biggest win of the Swede's career.
It was a very complete performance from Gustafsson against a dangerous, albeit aging former champion. He held his own on the feet, escaped a few potentially hazardous spots on the ground and certainly proved his durability in the process.
The judges scored the bout for Gustafsson, 30-27, 30-27, 30-26.
Rua searched for the knockout throughout, but was exhausted by the third round. He managed to tag Gustafsson on several occasions in the second round, but the 25-year-old prospect never appeared hurt.
Gustafsson scored his first knockdown almost immediately, catching Rua with a right as the Brazilian threw a leg kick in the first round. Rua recovered and looked to set up submissions on the ground, but Gustafsson escaped easily.
Blood started to flow from Rua's nose in the first frame and his face was completely swollen after the second round. He threw almost nothing but overhand rights at the end of the fight.
Gustafsson took him down repeatedly in the third, although he did land a nice right hand/knee combination along the fence in the opening minute.
Gustafsson (15-1) will now likely set his sights on light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who is scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen in April. UFC president Dana White referred to Saturday's fight as a No. 1 contender bout, but acknowledged things could change in the upcoming months.
"It was an awesome fight and it was such an honor to fight a legend like Shogun," Gustafsson said. "I want the belt. I want to fight whoever has it."
|Rory MacDonald made all the right moves in a winning effort over BJ Penn.|
BJ Penn didn't pass the torch to Rory MacDonald as much as MacDonald took it from him.
The former two-division UFC champion was able to give the young prospect a fight, but couldn't prevent MacDonald from running away with the scorecards late. All three judges scored it for MacDonald, 30-27, 30-27, 30-26.
MacDonald came closest to finishing Penn in the second round, visibly hurting Penn with a hard kick to the body. Penn's legs seemed to weaken and he stood stationary against the fence, where MacDonald battered him with more body shots.
Penn looked good in the opening frame. Notorious for not taking his training serious enough, Penn was light on his feet and actually appeared more hurt than gassed in later rounds. His counter-punching was effective mostly in the first, but he had trouble getting on the inside of his bigger opponent and absorbed too many kicks.
MacDonald slowed things down a bit in the final frame, clinching with Penn and forcing two separations by referee Herb Dean. He even showboated a bit in the final minutes, dropping his hands and shuffling around the cage.
"With all the things we said to each other hyping the fight, I just want to say that it has been a huge honor fighting BJ," MacDonald said. "I'm happy with my performance and the new techniques I used successfully out there."
MacDonald (14-1) also asked for a rematch with fellow welterweight Carlos Condit. Condit represents the only blemish on the 23-year-old's record. He defeated MacDonald via TKO in 2010.
Penn (16-9-2) falls to 1-4-1 in his past six fights. He announced his retirement after a loss to Nick Diaz in October 2011, but returned for Saturday's fight with MacDonald.
|A quick flurry of punches from Matt Brown proved to be too much for Mike Swick.|
Matt Brown is on the longest win streak of his career following a knockout victory over Mike Swick.
The UFC veteran won his fourth straight Saturday in highlight reel fashion, finishing Swick at the 2:31 mark of the second round.
Brown unleashed a flurry of punches midway through the round, starting with a counter right, then a left hook that landed flush on Swick's chin. Swick was already on his way to the ground when Brown tagged him again with a straight right.
He landed one final punch to the downed Swick before referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in.
It was a solid performance from start to finish for Brown. He took the action to the ground in the first round with a slick single leg takedown after landing a straight right.
Brown (16-11) has now posted finishes in three of his last four fights, all coming in the second round. Swick (15-5), who sat out all of 2011 with injury, falls to 1-1 in 2012.
|Yves Edwards had little trouble outstriking and eventually dispatching Jeremy Stephens in Round 1.|
Yves Edwards continues to be dangerous late in his career, stopping a favored Jeremy Stephens via knockout in the first round.
In a fight that had been scheduled to take place in October, Edwards landed a winging right hook that dropped Stephens less than two minutes into the fight.
A dazed Stephens tried to recover after hitting the deck, but Edwards swarmed with a flurry of elbows. The final one turned the lights out for Stephens, who was rescued by the referee at the 1:55 mark.
It was Edwards' only appearance in 2012. The original fight in October was canceled on the day of the event when Stephens was arrested in Minnesota on assault charges stemming from an incident in 2011.
Stephens (20-9) has now lost three straight, including decision losses to Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Edwards (42-18-1) posts the 16th knockout finish of his career.
|Raphael Assuncao kept Mike Easton at bay for the full 15 minutes to earn his third victory on a row.|
A cautious game plan proved to be an effective one for bantamweight Raphael Assuncao in a unanimous decision over Mike Easton.
Relying almost entirely on counter punches, Assuncao dictated range and kept the faster Easton out of rhythm, winning by scores of 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
The Seattle crowd grew restless in the second and third rounds when Assuncao continually refused to exchange with Easton. While the audience didn't appreciate his strategy, Assuncao had Easton visibly frustrated in the final frame.
One of the harder shots came in the form of a straight right by Assuncao in the second round. Easton started blinking immediately from the strike and seemed bothered by it for the remainder of the round.
"I learn a lot about myself when I take fights on short notice," Assuncao said. "I'm very critical of my performances so I don't like taking fights without knowing for sure that I'm 100 percent.
"I broke the radius bone in my arm at some point in the first round which made things difficult. "
Assuncao (19-4) extends his win streak to three with the victory. Easton (13-2), who was coming off two close decision wins, suffers his first UFC loss.
|A tremendous kick to the head from Daron Cruickshank spelled the end of Henry Martinez's night.|
Daron Cruickshank delivered the equivalent of a walkoff home run in the Octagon, knocking out Henry Martinez in spectacular fashion with a right-head kick in the second round.
Cruickshank showcased his standup throughout the fight, hurting Martinez with a kick to the body in the first round. Slumped and in visual pain, Martinez backed up to the fence where he took a barrage of kicks and punches from Cruickshank.
The fight wouldn't end there though, as Martinez somehow recovered and worked away from the cage.
Cruickshank would leave no doubt in the following round. Immediately after landing the kick to the side of Martinez's head, he raised his arms in victory and stepped away from his downed opponent. The finish came at the 2:57 mark.
Cruickshank (11-2) improves to 2-0 in the UFC. The 27-year-old prospect has now won six straight.
Martinez (9-3) loses for the second time in his last three fights. His other loss in the Octagon came via decision in a short-notice fight against welterweight Matt Riddle.
|Dennis Siver completely outclassed Nam Pham en route to a dominant unanimous decision.|
The jab was on point for Dennis Siver in a three-round decision over Nam Phan. The jab -- and pretty much everything else.
Siver dominated his opponent, roughing up Phan with a variety of strikes early before switching to a strong top game in later rounds.
Phan was completely outclassed. All three judges awarded at least one 10-8 round to Siver: 30-24, 30-25, 30-26.
"We analyzed all of Nam's fights before entering the octagon tonight," said Siver. We saw that he can't handle much pressure so we planned to push the pace from the opening bell until the final seconds. We planned to take him down and try to hurt him with the spinning back kicks but they didn't work as well as we thought they would."
Working behind a steady, accurate jab, Siver mixed in inside- and outside-leg kicks and tried several times to find a home for his signature spinning back-kick.
Midway through the fight, Siver switched gears and opted to take Phan down. Phan proved to be just as helpless there, as Siver spent a majority of the final time landing elbows and short punches in side control.
It was a performance most expected out of Siver (21-8). The German has now looked terrific in two featherweight fights after he dropped from the lightweight division earlier this year.
"I want to prove that I'm the best fighter in the world at 145 pounds," noted Siver. "I would like to fight another top contender and then fight for the title next year."
Phan (18-11) falls to 2-4 in the UFC. The 29-year-old earned a spot on the promotion's roster in 2010 after appearing on a season of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series.