A preview of this weekends UFC on FOX 3 card, which may not feature any big names, but does feature a lot of potentially good fights.
Jim Miller vs. Nate Diaz: Even though this doesn’t feel like a fight that should headline a FOX show, it should be a hell of a scrap regardless. You know what you’re getting with Diaz. He’s going to throw a ton of punches to the head and body, never stop moving forward, use his reach relatively well, ignore head movement and footwork, and do some taunting. It’s a simple yet effective strategy that he and his brother have mastered over the years. Miller is an underrated striker, but when Diaz puts that pressure on, even the best strikers get sucked into their game and become glorified punching bags. Miller does have a wrestling advantage though, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t use it. Diaz’s takedown defense is better than people think, but it’s not good enough to stop Miller’s attempts. On the ground is where this fight will be won and lost. If Diaz is too content on staying on his back and playing a grappling game like he did against Dong Hyun Kim, he’ll end up losing a decision because it’s nearly impossible to win a fight from your back on the judges scorecards. If Diaz uses his grappling to create scrambles and get to his feet though, then it’ll be a blow to Miller’s confidence, and Diaz has the advantage on the feet. Miller is a very good grappler and no slouch in the scrambles himself though and even if Diaz can get to his feet, it’s possible that Miller just sticks to him in the clinch. The weakest part of Diaz’s game is his clinch work. He either gets planted on his back or tries to defend the takedown with a kimura that never materializes. Either way, he loses the clinch battle because it’s clear that his opponent is always in control while Diaz is constantly defending. I expect this to be a 25-minute war with a ton of close rounds and momentum swings. In the end though, I think Miller edges out more rounds than Diaz thanks to his superior wrestling.
Prediction: Miller, Decision
Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks: This is a big fight for the welterweight division. Hendricks is a rising star who just knocked out Koscheck’s teammate and longstanding top ranked welterweight Jon Fitch. Koscheck is a former title challenger who has been at the top of the division for years. Even though Koscheck didn’t look great against Mike Pierce and even struggled against Matt Hughes before the late round finish. I’m willing to give Koscheck the benefit of the doubt in both fights though as he took the Hughes fight on short notice and was he fight bout back after a serious eye injury and Pierce was a mental letdown after thinking he would be fighting Carlos Condit. Plus there’s the whole camp issue. Koscheck will have to be at his best in this fight though, because Hendricks has power in his hands that Hughes and Pierce combined don’t possess. Koscheck is a better MMA wrestler and his power double is nearly unstoppable, but Hendricks is tough to keep down and it’s not like Koscheck has a dominant and controlling top game unless he’s facing vastly inferior wrestling competition. On the feet, the fight is basically Hendrick’s left against Koscheck’s right. Koscheck gets hit way too much and his chin is questionable while Hendricks has a pretty stout beard on him. While this could be a very close fight, not unlike Pierce vs. Koscheck, I think Hendricks will be able to stifle the wrestling of Koscheck and eventually land his big left hand on Koscheck’s chin, putting Koscheck down and possibly out.
Prediction: Hendricks, TKO, Round 2
Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher: If you’re looking for a mentally questionable killer, look no further than Palhares. I’d say, “when Palhares is in the right mindset, he’s a top notch fighter” but I don’t think he’s ever in the right mindset and he’s still a top notch fighter. He has underrated takedowns and I liked that he came out throwing heavy leg kicks in his last fight, but we all know that Palhares’s bread and butter is his leg locks. He can snatch a leg from out of nowhere, and unless he thinks you’re greased, he’s probably going home with that leg. Belcher will obviously want no part of Palhares’s ground game, so expect him to keep the distance well and play a safe kickboxing game. When Belcher kicks, he obviously risks getting put on his back, but his takedown defense is solid and if he disguises his kicks well, it won’t be a problem. This fight could be exciting is Palhares snatches a limb or Belcher lands a flurry of strikes, but it would also be lackluster if Belcher fights safe and just tries to out-point Palhares. Unfortunately, I’m going with the latter.
Prediction: Belcher, Decision
Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson: Barry and Johnson may never contend for the UFC heavyweight title due to their obvious grappling flaws, but they’re two heavyweights who rarely have a boring fight due to their striking and power. I think everyone would be shocked if these two didn’t stand and trade until someone goes down. While both men hit very hard, Barry is the much better technical striker. If gets his leg kicks going, he’ll be able to negate some of Johnson’s power and movement, thus rendering him nearly ineffective. As always with Barry though, you never know what you’re going to get with him. He puts himself in positions that he should never be in and a lot of times it ends up costing him the fight. While Johnson may not be a very complete fighter, he has one punch KO power, and if Barry has one of those mental lapses, he could find himself unconscious. However, if Barry is ever going to submit an opponent, like he claims he wants to do, Johnson is the perfect opponent.
Prediction: Barry, TKO, Round 1