By Raphael Garcia
This Saturday, the UFC will once again return to network television when it broadcasts UFC on Fox 3 from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The card hosts a number of big fights, and when you look at the event docket as a whole, you can make the case that this may be the biggest event the UFC has put together for free television since its partnership with the Fox broadcast network.
We’ve seen event cards in the past that have been loaded down with an important main event, but numerous undercard bouts that are not as enticing for whatever reason. That is not the case with the UFC on Fox 3. From top to bottom, multiple fights are set that hold importance within their respective divisions. Not only that, but UFC matchmakers placed some interesting fighting styles against each other when they put together the matchups on this card.
At the top, we have two lightweight contenders that are attempting to stake a claim to number one contendership, and a chance to face the winner of Benson Henderson versus Frankie Edgar later on this year. Jim Miller and Nate Diaz are two competitors that never shy away from bringing the pressure in multiple areas of the cage. Not only does this bout hold interest by potentially setting up the next title challenger; the anticipation of a high-intensity bout across 15 minutes has kept people excited about Diaz versus Miller since its announcement. Look back to their past fights for examples. Diaz constantly chases and pressures his opponents, such as he did to Donald Cerrone at UFC 141, while Miller will do the same, like he did to Kamal Shalorus at UFC 128. Even in losses to Benson Henderson and Rory MacDonald, they still put on exciting bouts the whole way through.
When pitted against each other, Miller and Diaz pose interesting style questions. Both Miller and Diaz are black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and hold a combined 22 victories by submission. It’s hard to place which fighter will have an advantage on the ground, as Diaz has shown a technical acumen that few can match, while Miller uses more strength in his grappling due to his wrestling background. This will truly be a battle of positioning at any moment on the mat. On the feet Diaz will have a vast advantage over his opponent due to his ability to throw multiple combinations back to back while staying very accurate the entire time. Miller has shown a propensity to tire in past bouts, and doing so against Diaz would be very detrimental. Nate Diaz will pull out a decision victory in what is expected to be a very intense confrontation.
The co-main event for the evening may be just as important as the fight at the top of the card. Surging welterweight Johny Hendricks will fight title contention mainstay Josh Koscheck for an opportunity to place himself amongst the highest tier of the division.
Both Hendricks and Koscheck bring wrestling pedigrees that are tough to match. As former NCAA champions, they both consistently display the ability to score and stuff takedowns at will. However, this is not a wrestling match, and what tends to be the norm when fighters of this ilk face each other is that the bout becomes a standup contest. Koscheck and Hendricks have developed into strike first type fighters. Hendricks throws heavy power with each of his shots, earning seven stoppages by knockout, such as that against Jon Fitch at UFC 141. Koscheck’s five knockout victories come from his looping style of punching that has slowly become his calling card over recent years.
When this bout was announced, many individuals jumped on Hendricks as the favorite in this bout. Coming off of that highlight reel finish of Fitch, he seems poised to become the number contender by the end of the year. Koscheck, on the other hand, looked shaky against Mike Pierce at UFC 143, in a bout that many people feel he lost. He looked very apprehensive during exchanges, and acting in similar fashion against Hendricks is a dangerous idea. Koscheck’s eye injury is very well known, and that can play exactly into Hendricks’s hands, as he looks to unload a bomb against his opponent. The question around this fight is which fighter will impose his will on the feet first and hold that position throughout the entire bout. Positioning will be important, as I see few takedowns being scored; the majority of the points will come from whichever fighter can be more effective on the feet, and that fact will be a strong reason to why Hendricks will pull out a decision win.
Before Hendricks and Koscheck lock up in the cage, Rousimar Palhares and Alan Belcher will meet in a middleweight contest. Both of these two competitors are a few key victories away from being considered a top contender to the 185-pound crown, and going through each other is the start of that push.
Everyone knows what Palhares is going to do when he enters the Octagon; the question is if his opponent can stop it. The leg lock specialist goes in with the intention of snatching someone’s leg and ending the fight, which he has done on seven different occasions. Belcher can find himself in trouble with this bout, because he is known for standing in the pocket and exchanging strikes, which can open up the opportunity for Palhares to attack his legs. On the other hand, Belcher does have the power to rock an opponent and earn the stoppage victory. To win this fight, he will have to continue moving while striking from various angles. He must avoid clinching with the powerful Brazilian at any moment if he is to come out of this bout not only with the victory, but with the ability to walk correctly.
Even beyond these three bouts, UFC on Fox 3 will showcase a number of additional important contests. While they may not be top heavyweight contenders, Lavar Johnson vs. Pat Barry is the type of fight in which expectations for a big knockout could not be any higher. John Dodson will also be in action, as he takes on Timothy Elliot in an attempt to make a run in the newly-introduced bantamweight division. John Hathaway and Pascal Krauss are two young European fighters placed against each other in a bout that can help build some momentum for the rest of the year.
From top to bottom, UFC on Fox 3 is a card on free television that is well worth any mixed martial arts fan's attention. Where other events may have failed due to the lack of “exciting” bouts throughout the evening, this card has the potential to be one of the best events on free TV in recent memory.
May 3, 2012
By Raphael Garcia