By Jaime C. Feal
This Saturday night, live and free on Fox TV, is the third installment of the UFC’s venture on network television. Zuffa brass is certainly hoping the third time’s the charm, after a very brief debut, and an overly long and dull sequel. Furthermore, tomorrow night’s card will go head-to-head with the Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto Pay-Per-View, and ideally a lot of crossover fans will tune in. The card itself is very solid, with Nate Diaz and Jim Miller headlining the event for a potential shot at the lightweight title.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Pat “HD” Barry (7-4, 4-4 UFC) vs. Lavar “Big” Johnson (16-5, 1-0 UFC)
A slugfest between two heavyweights starts off the main card. Expect fireworks, as both men always look for the knockout. Barry, a kick boxer, is very short and stocky for the division, and likes to use his explosive leg kicks. Johnson, who is massive, will counter with incredible power and good boxing. In his UFC Debut, Johnson destroyed Joey Beltran in impressive fashion. Barry, on the other hand, has been a bit of a journeyman with a .500 record in the UFC after eight fights. Expect these two men to stand and bang, with the behemoth Lavar Johnson connecting with some big shots that finish Barry.
Prediction: Lavar “Big” Johnson wins by KO, Round 1.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares (14-3, 7-2 UFC) vs. Alan “The Talent” Belcher (17-6, 8-4 UFC)
The submission master Palhares has been on a tear, and with each victory he is moving himself up the middleweight ladder towards title contention. Standing in his way this time is Alan Belcher, who just returned from a long layoff after surgery to repair a detached retina. “The Talent” performed well in his return, stopping Jason MacDonald in the first round, but this is a huge step up in competition for Belcher. “Toquinho” has been on fire in three straight wins, showing off his explosive leg kicks and takedowns. Then once he gets his opponent to the mat, it seems as just a matter of time before he grabs a leg and applies a vicious lock for the tap. Alan Belcher will have to keep the fight standing to avoid this fate. Palhares, who is stocky and strong for the division, just has to get a hold of Belcher and he shouldn’t have a problem getting him down. Belcher has never been a good wrestler, preferring to use his Muay Thai striking. Palhares comes out fast in this one as he did in his last fight against Mike Massenzio, and quickly dispatches of Belcher with a submission.
Prediction: Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares wins by Submission (heel hook), Round 1.
Welterweight Division (170 lbs.):
Josh “Kos” Koscheck (17-5, 15-5 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (12-1, 7-1 UFC)
Two top-ten welters will get us fired up next, as Koscheck and Hendricks do battle in the co-main event. Hendricks shocked the world when he smashed Jon Fitch with a twelve second KO in December. Koscheck is built in the same mold as Hendricks, a former collegiate All-American wrestler with a crippling right hand. The difference between the two of late, however, is that Hendricks seems to be rising and getting better with each fight, wheras “Kos” has apparently plateaued. Hendricks, at 28 and in the prime of his career, is six years younger than Koscheck. In his last fight, Koscheck won a very controversial decision over Mike Pierce, and may be on the decline of his career. Hendricks will be hungrier and take it to “Kos” on national TV. In doing so, Hendricks could propel himself into the upper echelon of UFC welterweights.
Prediction: Johny Hendricks wins by KO, Round 2.
Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):
Nate Diaz (15-7, 10-5 UFC) vs. Jim Miller (21-3, 10-2 UFC)
What an exciting and meaningful bout the UFC selected for the main event of UFC on Fox 3. The winner of this bout could very well get a title shot. Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar are set to rematch later this year, and currently there are only three legitimate contenders after that: Jim Miller, Nate Diaz, and Anthony Pettis. One contender drops down and the other moves up with this featured matchup.
Diaz has been improving drastically with each fight, particular standing up. His boxing has resembled his older brother of late, with high volume, accurate striking. He seems to always come forward and doesn’t worry about being taken down. Diaz is extremely confident off his back, as he has a lethal guard and triangle choke. Recently promoted to black belt under Cesar Gracie, he has a slight edge in the jiu-jitsu department over Miller.
In his last two fights Diaz has been spectacular, breaking a record for most strikes landed in a three round fight against Donald Cerrone, and decimating Takanori Gomi the fight before. Miller has also been hot, going on a seven-fight win streak inside the promotion before dropping a decision to Ben Henderson. In his latest bout, Miller got back on track by choking out Melvin Guillard.
Against Diaz, Miller’s best hope is to use his wrestling. In a pure jiu-jitsu match, Diaz would win 9 out of 10 times, but Miller needs to ground and pound his way to victory. Diaz is far too rangy and dangerous standing, and one would have to be surprised if he tried to out-strike Diaz. Miller’s only advantage may be his strength and wrestling, so he‘d better muscle Diaz against the cage and hope to wear him out. The problem is, Diaz does triathlon training and has incredible cardio, so that strategy is unlikely to work. While anything is possible in MMA, this appears to be a great stylistic matchup for an exciting fight, but one that should go Diaz’s way.
Prediction: Nate Diaz wins by unanimous decision.