And just like that, the new season is upon us! It’s a fresh start for everyone, and we’ve got a very interesting main card to kick things off. UFC on Fox 3 takes place on Saturday, May 5th. The first two fights will be on Facebook, followed by 6 fights on FuelTV starting at 5:00pm est, and the main card on Fox at 8:00pm est.
Nate Diaz (15-7) vs Jim Miller (21-3)
Diaz is coming off the biggest win of his career, and he is looking better than ever. Likewise, Miller has been steamrolling everyone in his path, with the exception of current champion Ben Henderson. Miller’s scrappy on his feet, and he can hold his own against anyone, but Diaz will definitely be the more technical striker. Diaz will have a 5 inch reach advantage, and he also throws a higher volume of punches, which will make it very tough for Miller to win the standup battle – short of getting a knockout. The wrestling advantage definitely goes to Miller, and although Diaz has great submission skills, that’s where Miller should be looking to take the fight. Historically, Diaz has struggled against dominant wrestlers who were able to shut down his submission game. I see Diaz spending most of the fight on his back, with Miller playing it safe and grinding out a clear decision victory.
Winner: Jim Miller
Josh Koscheck (17-5) vs Johny Hendricks (12-1)
Koscheck is making a quick turnaround, fighting almost exactly 3 months ago and winning a decision against Mike Pierce. Hendricks has looked great for a while now, but he really made a statement in his last fight, knocking out Koscheck’s former teammate Jon Fitch in only 12 seconds. These two are very evenly matched, with both fighters being accomplished collegiate wrestlers who made great strides in their striking abilities. Koscheck is the more athletic fighter, and he fought far tougher opponents in his career than Hendricks did. Although, he recently left his old training camp at AKA, which may adversely affect his performance on Saturday night. Hendricks has got dynamite in his hands, and Koscheck has been knocked out in the past. I see this fight being essentially a striking battle, and at some point, Koscheck will find himself on the wrong end of a hard exchange, as Hendricks picks up a huge win and solidifies his spot as a top 5 welterweight.
Winner: Johny Hendricks
Rousimar Palhares (14-3) vs Alan Belcher (17-6)
Palhares is a submission specialist who’s built like a sherman tank. He’s coming off an early 1st round submission victory over Mike Massenzio, whom he finished with his signature heel hook. Belcher also forced his previous opponent to tap out in the 1st round, but due to strikes. The striking advantage here goes to Belcher for the more technical skills, and the longer reach, but Palhares is incredibly strong and dangerous with his unorthodox strikes. Palhares should have a clear advantage in the grappling department, both in the clinch with his throws, and on the ground with his deadly leg locks. I see Belcher controlling the fight early from long range, but it won’t be long before Palhares is able to latch on to him, drag him to the ground, and force him to slap the canvas.
Winner: Rousimar Palhares
Pat Barry (7-4) vs Lavar Johnson (16-5)
Barry ends a two fight skid with a 1st round knockout of Christian Morecraft with one of the best left hook counters I’ve ever seen in MMA, while at the same time showcasing his improved ground game. Johnson won his UFC debut in incredible fashion, becoming the first fighter to ever knock out Joey Beltran. In the striking department… well, let’s face it, that’s going to be the only department in this one. Barry is the more technical striker, but he will definitely be the smaller man in the cage. Johnson is a large heavyweight, he has big knockout power in his hands, and he will have a 6 inch reach advantage. One thing I noticed about Johnson, is that he is a very static fighter who doesn’t move his head much, which could spell trouble against a guy like Barry. I really am torn on this one, Johnson may be able to overpower Barry against the cage like he did Beltran, but Barry is also able to unload some ridiculously powerful legs kicks and punches which could turn the tide in his favor. I’m going with Barry, I see him countering an overextended jab from Johnson, and putting him away with some big punches.
Winner: Pat Barry
Reminder: This is the first event of the season, so try and get off to a good start. Don’t forget to make your picks on the playground, and good luck to you all.