UFC’s first free show of the year is this Friday the 20th. With a new year comes a new channel as UFC debuts on the FX Network. BlackSportsOnline.com MMA Insider Alex Donno Takes a look at Friday’s card and at changes to UFC on FX2.
Earlier this week, the UFC was forced to alter the fight card for their sophomore effort on network television. The original co-main event for “UFC on Fox 2” on January 28th was set to feature veteran trash talker and former top contender Chael Sonnen taking on former National Champion wrestler Mark Munoz. Unfortunately for Munoz, he suffered an elbow injury and had to withdraw. It’s a big let down for him, as he would have earned a middleweight title shot with a victory over Sonnen. The good news for fans, though, is the fact that Sonnen remains on the card, and will still be fighting in a title eliminator. The new fight may be even better than the original. The new co-feature will be Chael Sonnen vs. loud mouth Brit Michael Bisping. Sonnen is one of the best functional wrestlers in the sport, while Bisping is a crisp and accurate striker. But more importantly, they are two of the best trash talkers that the sport of MMA has to offer. It’s a pity that the UFC only has 10 days to promote this one (from the day it was signed). Bisping was scheduled to face former top contender Demian Maia on the first televised bout. Maia will remain on the fight card, but will now face young 7-0 dynamo Chris Weidman. It’s a big step up in competition for the inexperienced Weidman, but the chance at a victory over an established star like Maia is worth the gamble of accepting a fight on short notice.
So to recap, the network televised fight card for UFC on Fox 2 now looks like this:
Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis (for a shot at the light heavyweight title)
Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping (for a shot at the middleweight title)
Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman
On Friday (January 20th), the UFC will put on its first free event of 2012. It’s also their official debut on the FX network. “UFC on FX 1” originates from Nashville, TN, and features a lightweight main event between Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller. There are a couple of obvious parallels between the two. Both men come off a loss, and both had been on impressive winning streaks prior to their last fight. Before his October loss to Joe Lauzon, Guillard had rattled off five consecutive wins. Miller, who fell to current top contender Benson Henderson last August, had been on a seven-fight win streak. For a pair of fighters who recently saw their title hopes put on the back burner, this fight means a lot. A second consecutive loss would send either man down to the middle of the very deep lightweight division. But a victory would keep either in the conversation for title contention. While this fight is unlikely to decide the next contender for the belt, whoever emerges victorious may very well sit only one win away from a title shot.
When the actual fight starts, it’s hard to envision anything other than excitement. Both Guillard and Miller are fun to watch, even though their styles differ greatly. Guillard is among the most athletic members of the UFC’s lightweight division. His speed and pure physicality have contributed to his emergence as a dynamic striker. However, it’s a completely different story for him when the fight goes to the ground. When Guillard gets planted on his back, it’s usually the beginning of the end. And that weakness plays perfectly into Jim Miller’s strength. While he’s not a bad striker by any means, Miller’s clear advantage in this bout lies with the ground game. 11 of his 20 wins have come by submission. Meanwhile, Guillard has been tapped out in eight of his nine losses. Miller is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and very active on the canvas with constant scrambles and submission attempts.
Another issue for Melvin Guillard has been his mental game. Overall during his career, he’s had trouble sticking to a game plan. Those problems seemed to have been rectified during his recent five-fight win streak, but were a visible issue in his loss to Joe Lauzon. Rather then test the waters slowly in the early minutes, Guillard came out recklessly, was caught by a stiff Lauzon jab, and then quickly finished on the ground by submission. Conversely, Miller is known as a cerebral fighter, who compensates for any physical disadvantages with hard work and meticulous game-planning. If fights were won strictly through athleticism, Guillard would have little to worry about against Miller, or anyone else in the lightweight division. If Guillard fights with sound strategy and defends Miller’s takedowns, he should enjoy great success. His footwork and hand speed make him very dangerous in the standup. But if Miller brings the fight into “his world,” as Joe Rogan would say, it will be his fight to win. This bout will be a three round main event, not five, but don’t be surprised if Guillard’s cardio is more suspect then Miller’s if this one goes the distance.
In the co-main event, Josh “The Dentist” Neer meets Duane “Bang” Ludwig at welterweight. This matchup has fight of the night potential, as both guys love to stand and throw heavy punches. Ludwig happens to hold the UFC record for fastest KO at four seconds. He will likely be the better technical striker of the two, but Neer loves to brawl. As was evident in his victory over Amir Sadollah at UFC Live 5, Ludwig can pick apart even a competent striker if they choose to stand and trade with him. Neer’s best game plan would be to force the fight to the clinch where he can use his superior size and dangerous elbows inside a close distance. Whatever the result is, both men are likely to hit each other very, very hard.
The remaining fights on the main card will be a heavyweight tilt between Pat Barry and Christian Morecraft, and a bantamweight fight between Mike Easton and Jared Papazian. Both Barry and Morecraft are potentially in danger of being cut by the UFC with a loss. Barry has lost 2-straight fights. Morecraft has lost 2 of 3. Barry is the UFC’s shortest heavyweight at 5’11”. Morecraft will hold a notable height and reach advantage at 6’6,” but will be at a serious speed disadvantage. Barry is among the best strikers in the weight class His leg kicks are lethal and his punch combinations are fluid. Expect him to kick frequently in order to dictate the distance, while darting in and out of the pocket quickly to pick Morecraft apart standing. Morecraft throws punches with power, but won’t be able to match Barry’s volume or accuracy. If Morecraft doesn’t work the fight to the ground (where he should hold an advantage,) he will provide little more than target practice for Pat. Meanwhile, Easton vs. Papazian should be an enjoyable affair, as both bantamweights are fast and love to strike. Easton is a training partner of UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
“UFC on FX 1: Guillard vs. Miller” starts at 9:00pm Eastern time on Friday, January 20th on the FX network. Prior to the main card, you can watch all the preliminaries on Fuel TV beginnin