MMA Insider Alex Donno takes a look at UFC on Fox 3, the perfect way to get a big Cinco de Mayo started.
The UFC returns to network television on Saturday night, with “UFC on Fox 3: Diaz vs. Miller.” Of course, Cinco de Mayo is also a big night for boxing, with Mayweather vs. Cotto airing live on pay per view. But worry not, fight fans. There won’t be any overlap. The UFC main card will air on the big Fox Network from 8-10pm, ending just in time for the Mayweather/Cotto undercard. Consider Saturday’s UFC show to be an appetizer on steroids (one of those giant Applebee’s three-for-all platters, perhaps.) All in all, nights like this are what fight fans live for.
The last time the UFC was on Fox, all three televised bouts went to a decision, and none of them were particularly exciting. With Fox appealing to a far more wide-ranging audience than that of a PPV show, the UFC needs a spark this time. On network television, the mission is to bring new fans to the sport. To do so, they need to showcase a fighter who, win or lose, will leave it all in The Octagon and put on a show for the fans. And that’s why they’ve called upon the services of Nate Diaz.
If you’re new to the sport of MMA, you want to drop whatever it is you’re doing right now, and Google any footage you can possibly find on Nate Diaz and his older brother Nick. Whenever non-MMA fans ask me who they should watch in order to get hooked on the sport, I always tell them to watch the Diaz brothers. Why? First of all, they love to stand and strike. Most new MMA fans are reluctant to embrace the ground game. Although both Diaz brothers are submission wizards on the ground, they’d much rather stand and “scrap.” They are notorious for working at a frantic pace, throwing punches in bunches at a rate that will make your head spin. In Nate’s last fight, he set a Compustrike record by landing 238 significant strikes in his win over Donald Cerrone. The record he broke belonged to his brother, Nick. Punching with such a high output requires an insane amount of cardio, something both Diaz boys possess. The odds of Nate Diaz running out of gas in his fight with Jim Miller on Saturday are about the same as the odds of me getting attacked by a shark in my shower today. To go along with his effective striking and eternal cardio, Nate Diaz has swagger. Don’t be surprised to see and hear him trash talking Miller throughout the entire bout, while occasionally dropping his hands and sticking out his chin to try and bait Miller in. Whether you enjoy his fighting spirit or think he’s overly cocky, you’ll undoubtedly fight Nate Diaz to be entertaining.
Here is a little background on Nate Diaz.
What about Nate’s opponent, Jim Miller? Personality-wise, they are polar opposites. Diaz likes to get in his opponent’s face. Miller is a quiet, respectful martial artist who would prefer to let his performances in the cage speak for themselves. Trash talk is a foreign language to Miller. If you spent time with him away from the UFC, you’d never guess what he does for a living. But once that Octagon door closes, he turns into a mauler. Like Diaz, he has stellar endurance and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Miller is an underrated striker, but usually uses his punches to set up takedowns. Where he differs from Diaz is in his wrestling. That will be Miller’s greatest advantage. His takedowns are relentless. Once he closes the distance, Miller will stick to you in the clinch like glue. When he drags you to the ground, he uses his BJJ background to wear you down and look for submissions. A submission finish will be hard to come by against an opponent at the grappling level of Diaz. However, Diaz has struggled in getting off his back against elite wrestlers in the past. No matter how active his guard, it’s tough to win a fight on the bottom. Miller could be skilled enough on the ground to become a wet blanket on top of Diaz. If Diaz winds up on his back, getting up won’t be easy.
The key for Miller will be scoring those takedowns. In the striking range, it will be impossible for him to match Diaz’ volume or accuracy. Miller has a granite chin, luckily, but I can guarantee you he will take some shots. I’m expecting a five round decision. Both men seem too durable for the other to put away (Miller has never been finished, and Diaz has only been stopped once.) Expect a crowd-pleasing pace throughout the bout, but I think the constant damage from Diaz will wear Miller out. Perhaps the best form of takedown defense for Diaz will be his strikes. He’s the longer, lankier fighter. If he can use his jabs and kicks to establish the range, Miller will have a tough time getting inside. Also, Diaz loves to come forward and walk his opponents down. If Miller is constantly moving backwards, finding takedowns will be extremely difficult. The Diaz brothers have a knack for dragging opponents into their style of fight. If Miller finds himself attempting to scrap with Diaz, he won’t be getting his hand raised.
Consider this bout to be a sort of quasi number-one contenders fight. Nate Diaz has been guaranteed by UFC President Dana White that a victory over Miller will earn him a lightweight title bout against the Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar winner. However, Miller has been told that he’s two wins away from fighting for the title.
The co-main event is a pivotal welterweight bout between Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks. Koscheck is the established star, having competed on the historic first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and once challenging for the UFC’s welterweight title. He needs this win to stay relevant, and continue blazing the trail for another shot at the title. His opponent, Hendricks, is a young star on the rise. A two-time Division 1 National Collegiate Wrestling Champion at Oklahoma State University, Hendricks is on a 3-fight winning streak in the UFC. In his last bout, he knocked out Koscheck’s former training partner Jon Fitch with a left hook early in the first round, scoring one of the biggest upsets of 2011. Hendricks has earned Knockout of the Night bonuses twice in the UFC, but it’s tough to say whether or not he’ll have a striking advantage over Koscheck. Koscheck has a dangerous overhand right, but doesn’t throw his hands with great volume or accuracy. Hendricks is a neophyte to the striking game, but has shown improving combinations and head movement (along with vicious power.) From a wrestling standpoint, for as good as Hendricks is, Koscheck may cancel him out. Koscheck was a Division 1 National Champ at Edinboro University. Often times, two elite wrestlers end up in a striking match, as both men acknowledge the fact that they can’t take the other down. With the clubbing right hand of Koscheck and the anvil left hand of Hendricks, somebody’s getting knocked out here. I could go either way, but if you put a gun to my head for a pick, I expect Hendricks to be the one standing at the end.
As much as I look forward to the main and co-main events, no fight on the Fox broadcast has me more excited than Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher. Both are top 10 fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division, and both have the ability to create jaw dropping finishes. Palhares is among the most explosive submission specialists I’ve ever seen. I call him “the leg collector.” He’s so skilled with heel hook submissions, that once he grabs hold of one of your legs, you have about 1.5 seconds to tap out before he starts shredding your ligaments. Nicknamed “Toquinho,” (meaning tree trunk in Portuguese), Palhares loves to charge forward aggressively with strikes in the early seconds. He uses his punches and kicks to set up quick, explosive takedowns. Once he gets you to the canvas, he’s able to scramble and improvise before snatching one of your legs from any angle. The key to this fight will be whether or not his opponent, Belcher, who also happens to be a black belt in BJJ, can keep his limbs out of harm’s way. Despite his grappling credentials, Belcher is known primarily as a kickboxer. He throws a far more polished and diverse set of strikes than Palhares. If he can stay at range and create a rhythm in the standup, he can pick Palhares apart. On the ground, Belcher excels at creating scrambles. His ground and pound from top control is lethal. He’s capable of KO’ing opponents from their guard. If Belcher can survive Palhares’ first round blitz, he’ll likely have the bigger gas tank and take control later in the fight. If Palhares doesn’t find a finish in the first two rounds, expect things to get very ugly for him in the cardio department in round three.
The first Fox televised bout should bring fans a guaranteed knockout finish, no matter who wins. Fan favorite Pat Barry takes on big, strong, powerful former Strikeforce Heavyweight Lavar Johnson. Barry is a polished kickboxer with formidable KO power and violent leg kicks. Johnson will try to match his technique with superior size and power. In his UFC debut, Johnson became the first man to ever knock out the durable Joey Beltran. Johnson was a victim of multiple gunshot wounds in 2009, so you can’t question his toughness. His uppercuts are especially dangerous. Nicknamed “Big,” Johnson is 6’4 and around 250 lbs. Barry is the shortest heavyweight in the UFC at 5’11” (about 240lbs) so he’ll have to us his speed to dart in and out of the pocket effectively to land punches. It’s also likely we’ll see Barry use his low and high kicks effectively at range. Expect to see Barry score more points with his strikes, but it might only take one landed punch from Johnson to end the fight. Either way, you shouldn’t expect this fight to go three full rounds.
The main card for UFX on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller begins at 8:00pm EST on the Fox Network. Prior to that, you can watch three hours of preliminary fights on Fuel TV from 5-8. And if that’s not enough for you, the very first two bouts will stream live on Facebook, beginning at 4:00. It’ll be a marathon of fights, and I won’t miss a second of it.