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UFC on Fox 5 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Nate Diaz is a popular underdog selection in the main event

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Sam Morris

Nate Diaz talks to the media during an open workout in advance of UFC 141 Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011. Diaz will face fellow lightweight Donald Cerrone on Friday.

Lightweight title fights in the UFC have consistently shared three characteristics over recent years. They are action-packed, fast-paced and, above all else, extremely close.

Four of the past six fights for the 155-pound division’s belt ended in controversy after reaching the judges’ scorecards, with strong arguments that the decision was wrong. Not since B.J. Penn defeated Diego Sanchez at UFC 107 in December 2009 has the lightweight division moved on without an immediate championship-bout rematch.

Sports bettors think Saturday’s UFC on Fox 5 main event between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz in Seattle could turn out as razor-thin as its predecessors.

The champion, Henderson, is listed as a slight -160 favorite (risking $1.60 to win $1) over the challenger, Diaz, at +140. Henderson opened as high as -220 in sports books around town.

The Sun’s picks panel also is torn on who will leave Rain City with the golden belt. Two of the five predictors went with the upset and chose Diaz over Henderson.

Look below to find a breakdown, betting odds and picks on all 11 fighters from KSNV’s Kevin West (99-57 year-to-date), ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (96-60), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (96-60), Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (89-67) and Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (78-78).

Nate Diaz

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 11-5
  • MMA record 16-7
  • Out of: Stockton, Calif.
  • Betting line: +130

Benson Henderson

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’9''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 5-0
  • MMA record 16-2
  • Out of: Glendale, Ariz.
  • Betting line: -160

Lightweight Championship Bout

Main Event

Last fight: Second-round submission victory over Jim Miller at UFC on FOX 3.

Punch list: Hard to believe that only a year-and-a-half ago fans thought Diaz might lose his job with one more loss. But a drop back down to lightweight cured all ills, as the younger Diaz brother has strung together three wins in a row. Stylistically, Henderson looks like a rough matchup. Diaz’s perceived weak point is his wrestling, a sport Henderson competed in through college.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Henderson

Cofield: Diaz

Last fight: Split-decision victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC 150.

Punch list:Don’t tell Henderson he’s an undeserving champion. Five of the six judges who presided over his two fights against Edgar gave him a victory, which is all that matters. All but one of Bendo’s fights in the UFC have been extremely close. He says his goal is to reach the pound-for-pound mantle, but he’ll need some more decisive victories to get there.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Henderson

Brewer: Diaz

Okamoto: Henderson

Alexander Gustafsson

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 6-1
  • MMA record 14-1
  • Out of: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Betting line: -240

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 5-4
  • MMA record 21-6
  • Out of: Curitbia, Brazil
  • Betting line: +190

Light Heavyweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: Unanimous-decision victory over Thiago Silva at UFC on FUEL TV 2.

Punch list: Some believe Gustafsson poses the last major challenge to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. His only loss in the UFC came to former Division I wrestling champion Phil Davis. But the Swede has gotten much better since that encounter at UFC 110, moving his training to San Diego to train alongside Davis and the world-class Alliance MMA team.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Gustafsson

Cofield: Gustafsson

Last fight: Defeated Brandon Vera by fourth-round TKO at UFC on FOX 4.

Punch list: Conditioning has been Shogun’s biggest obstacle of late. He looks as strong as ever, like the guy who won a PRIDE tournament title and UFC championship, in the early going but gets noticeably drained as the fight goes on. It’s something the Brazilian says he’s addressed, and it’s something he’ll need against an opponent like Gustafsson.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Gustafsson

Brewer: Gustafsson

Okamoto: Rua

Rory MacDonald

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 4-1
  • MMA record 13-1
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -300

B.J. Penn

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 12-7-2
  • MMA record 16-8-2
  • Out of: Hilo, Hawaii
  • Betting line: +240

Welterweight Bout

Featured Contest

Last fight: Demolished Che Mills with a second-round TKO victory at UFC 145.

Punch list: No one can call MacDonald modest heading into this fight with a two-time UFC champion. The promising young fighter is not trying to hide the fact that he thinks he’ll run right over Penn. In fact, MacDonald would say he could beat any 170-pound fighter in the world convincingly, and 185-pounders too. That’s the charisma the UFC wants out of a figure who may go on to star for many years.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: MacDonald

Cofield: MacDonald

Last fight: Dropped a unanimous decision to Nick Diaz at UFC 137.

Punch list: Expect to see Penn, in vintage form, racing towards the octagon with a scowl on his face in Seattle. “The Prodigy” didn’t come back for money or attention. He returned to the UFC because he wants to fight. The size disadvantage against MacDonald doesn’t bother Penn, as he said he trained obsessively over the last few months to make sure he was prepared for a scrap at welterweight.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: MacDonald

Brewer: MacDonald

Okamoto: Penn

Matt Brown

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 8-5
  • MMA record 15-11
  • Out of: Columbus, Ohio
  • Betting line: +115

Mike Swick

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’1''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 10-3
  • MMA record 15-4
  • Out of: San Jose, Calif.
  • Betting line: -145

Welterweight Bout

FOX Opener

Last fight: Second-round TKO victory over Luis Ramos at UFC on FX 4.

Punch list: Four-win years are rare to come by in the UFC. That’s what Brown is looking for at UFC on FOX 5. He’s finished two of his three opponents in 2012, and the third fight was a brutal dismantling in a unanimous-decision against Stephen Thompson at UFC 145.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Swick

Cofield: Swick

Last fight: Knocked out DaMarques Johnson in the second round at UFC on FOX 4.

Punch list: Finally healthy, this will mark the first year since 2009 that Swick has fought twice. He returned to much fanfare on the last FOX card, knocking Johnson out cold with a right hand. Brown marks a reasonable increase in competition as Swick continues his comeback from a variety of injuries.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Brown

Brewer: Swick

Okamoto: Brown

Jeremy Stephens

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 7-7
  • MMA record 20-8
  • Out of: San Diego
  • Betting line: -200

Yves Edwards

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 9-6
  • MMA record 41-18-1
  • Out of: Woodlands, Texas
  • Betting line: +160

Lightweight Bout

FX prelim

Last fight: Lost to Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision at UFC on FUEL TV 3.

Punch list: Dealing with serious outside distractions will determine how Stephens fights in Seattle. This bout was scheduled for UFC on FX 5 in Oct., but scrapped when authorities arrested Stephens on an outstanding assault charge. A loss here would add to “Lil Heathen’s” problems, as it would be his third straight in the UFC and could lead to a termination of his contract.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Stephens

Cofield: Stephens

Last fight: Unanimous-decision loss to Tony Ferguson at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: In a professional mixed martial arts career dating back to 1997, Edwards has averaged four fights per year. This is his first, and only, bout of 2012. The self-described “thug-jitsu” master possesses some of the division’s most technical striking, but has been susceptible against power-punchers like Stephens.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Stephens

Brewer: Stephens

Okamoto: Edwards

Mike Easton

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’5’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 3-0
  • MMA record 13-1
  • Out of: Camp Springs, Md.
  • Betting line: -225

Raphael Assuncao

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 17-4
  • Out of: Atlanta
  • Betting line: +185

Bantamweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Defeated Ivan Menjivar by unanimous decision at UFC 148.

Punch list: This looks like a bout to keep Easton busy. The intense, Lloyd Irvin-trained fighter put his name in the elite of the division with a victory over Menjivar this summer. But with injuries and other holdups in the 135-pound class, Easton needed another fight while things got settled. Assuncao will suffice.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Easton

Cofield: Easton

Last fight: Beat Issei Tamura by second-round TKO at UFC on FUEL TV 4.

Punch list: Assuncao receives a golden opportunity here. Most rankings would place Easton far above him, meaning Assuncao could steal an awful lot of momentum with an upset. He’s undefeated since dropping to bantamweight, showcasing improved striking in wins over Tamura and Johnny Eduardo.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Easton

Brewer: Easton

Okamoto: Easton

Joe Proctor

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 8-1
  • Out of: Bridgewater, Mass.
  • Betting line: +145

Ramsey Nijem

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5’11’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 6-2
  • Out of: Orem, Utah
  • Betting line: -175

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Jeremy Larsen at “The Ultimate Fighter Live” finale.

Punch list: Proctor was considered one of the favorites on his season of “TUF” but lost in the semifinals. He’s an outstanding grappler who trains alongside the likes of Joe Lauzon outside of Boston.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Nijem

Cofield: Nijem

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over C.J. Keith at UFC on FX 4.

Punch list: UFC President Dana White usually cringes when Nijem goes through his stripper routine at weigh-ins. It’s all smiles when Nijem gets into the octagon. In two fights since he finished as the runner-up on “TUF” 13, Nijem has dominated.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Nijem

Brewer: Proctor

Okamoto: Nijem

Henry Martinez

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-1
  • MMA record 9-2
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: +110

Daron Cruickshank

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 156
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 11-2
  • Out of: Wayne, Mich.
  • Betting line: -140

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Split-decision victory against Bernardo Magalhaes.

Punch list: The win over Magalhaes came in one of the most unexciting fights of the year. Martinez’s fight before that, a split-decision loss to Matt Riddle, was full of big hits and momentum swings. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter will look to find a balance between the two this weekend.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Cruickshank

Cofield: Martinez

Last fight: Beat Chris Tickle by unanimous decision at “The Ultimate Fighter Live” finale.

Punch list: Cruickshank can use the worn-out “fighting is in my blood” phrase literally. His mother was a professional kick boxer. His father was a black belt in karate. He’s a natural striker, but can use his size advantage at lightweight to also throw around his opponents.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Cruickshank

Brewer: Martinez

Okamoto: Martinez

Abel Trujillo

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 9-4
  • Out of: Delray Beach, Fla.
  • Betting line: +275

Tim Means

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-0
  • MMA record 18-3-1
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -345

Lightweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Beat Frank Carrillo by unanimous decision at Championship Fighting Alliance 7.

Punch list: The biggest underdog on the card, Trujillo makes his promotional debut in Seattle. He’s on a four-fight win streak, but the level of competition hasn’t exactly been UFC-caliber.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Means

Cofield: Means

Last fight: First-round TKO victory over Justin Salas at UFC on FX 3.

Punch list: “The Dirty Bird” needs one more victory to graduate from the bottom of the card. He’s impressed in two wins since signing with the promotion, but neither Salas nor Bernardo Magalhaes count as particularly tough opponents.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Means

Brewer: Trujillo

Okamoto: Means

Nam Phan

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-3
  • MMA record 18-10
  • Out of: Garden Grove, Calif.
  • Betting line: +235

Dennis Siver

  • Age: 33
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 9-5
  • MMA record 20-8
  • Out of: Mannheim, Germany
  • Betting line: -295

Featherweight Bout

FX Prelim

Last fight: Split-decision victory over Cole Miller at UFC on FOX 4.

Punch list: Seems like Phan takes a beating in every fight. But he can also administer one. The high-volume striker is never in a dull affair.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Siver

Cofield: Phan

Last fight: Beat Diego Nunes by unanimous decision at UFC on FUEL TV 2.

Punch list: Opponents find it tough to prepare for a fighter like Siver. He comes from all different directions — throwing spin kicks, superman punches and other irregular strikes constantly.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Phan

Brewer: Siver

Okamoto: Siver

John Albert

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 7-3
  • Out of: Puyallup, Wash.
  • Betting line: +225

Scott Jorgensen

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 5’4’’
  • Weight: 136
  • UFC record 2-2
  • MMA record 13-6
  • Out of: Boise, Idaho
  • Betting line: -285

Bantamweight Bout

Facebook Prelim

Last fight: Lost by submission in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter Live” finale against Erik Perez.

Punch list: The controversial nature of Albert’s last fight — he never tapped out but the referee considered his shrieking a verbal submission — gives the “TUF” 14 alum one more chance in the UFC. If he loses here, it’s a third straight loss with little hope of another fight in the octagon.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Jorgensen

Cofield: Jorgensen

Last fight: Second-round knockout loss to Eddie Wineland at UFC on FX 3.

Punch list: With a two-fight losing streak, “Young Guns” finds himself in a must-win situation. It’s quite the fall from a fighter who challenged Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title almost exactly two years ago. It’s no secret what Jorgensen will try to do to Albert — take him down, repeatedly.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Jorgensen

Brewer: Jorgensen

Okamoto: Jorgensen

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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