UFC Hoping for Action-Packed Return to FOX

Back in January, big names didn’t equal big excitement for the UFC’s first full card on the FOX television network.

For this weekend’s event at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the organization has shifted to smaller names with more explosive potential, in hopes of delivering the kind of explosive event they’ve been trying to put together with their new broadcast partners from Jump Street.

After well-known stars like Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen, and Michael Bisping failed to captivate the fans with a trio of grappling-heavy fights that went the distance three months ago, the UFC has opted instead to roll the dice with a collection of fighters with a history of finishes for their second complete fight card on FOX.

UFC on FOX 3 Fight Card

  • Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller
  • Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks
  • Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher
  • Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson

Heavyweight sluggers artists Pat Barry (7-4) and Lavar Johnson (16-5) collide in the opening bout of the televised main card, bringing a combined 22 finishes in 23 victories into the cage. Last time out, Johnson became the first man to knock out Joey Beltran, while Barry smashed on Christian Morecraft. While these two aren’t top of the food chain contenders at this point, they’re two guys capable of starting the show off with a serious bang.

Though they’re the least talked about pairing on the main card, middleweights Alan Belcher (17-6) and Rousimar Palhares (14-3) might be the coolest stylistic match-up of the night.

Palhares, a Brazilain submission machine who is built like a fire hydrant, will be looking to take this fight to the ground from the opening second. He’s put together a 7-2 record in the UFC to date, including three-straight wins, two of which have come by submission.

Simple and plain: the dude loves catching people in leg locks, and even though you know it’s coming, not many people have been able to stop him.

Belcher has also won three straight, dating back to December 2009, getting back in the win column in September after missing more than a year due to an eye injury. While he’s talked about going to the ground with Palhares, Belcher is the far superior striker of the two, and should be doing everything in his power to keep this fight standing.

Chances are somebody is getting finished.

If there’s one fight on the main card that looks most likely to go the distance, it’s the welterweight battle between former collegiate wrestling standouts Josh Koscheck  (17-5) and Johny Hendricks (12-1). That being said, Hendricks needed just 12 seconds to stop Koscheck’s close friend and long-time teammate Jon Fitch in his last outing, and he could certainly repeat the feat here.

This is an interesting match-up from a divisional standpoint as Hendricks is working his way up the rankings, and could put himself in the title picture with a win. Koscheck has already fought for the title, and probably won’t get another chance to do so again as long as Georges St-Pierre continues to wear the welterweight belt. Personally, I’d like to see him embrace a gatekeeper role in the 170-pound ranks, as it’s one that he’s perfectly suited for both inside and outside of the cage.

A lightweight contest between Nathan Diaz (15-7) and Jim Miller (21-3) headlines Saturday’s event, with UFC President Dana White confirming that Diaz will earn a title shot with a victory.

Diaz has looked outstanding since returning to lightweight at UFC 135 in September. He submitted Takanori Gomi in that effort, and then followed it up with a dominant decision win over Donald Cerrone three months later at UFC 141. Looking more and more like his brother Nick inside the cage with every appearance, this is the former Ultimate Fighter winner’s best chance to earn a title shot to date, but he’s got a tough task ahead of him.

While Diaz has been assured a title shot with a win, Miller has not, and you can be sure the Whippany, New Jersey native will be out to prove he’s deserving of the opportunity here. He’s racked up a 10-2 record in the UFC, with his only losses coming against current champ Benson Henderson, and two-time title challenger Gray Maynard.

Miller has a similar grappling background as the five men who have bested Diaz in the lightweight division to date, and will undoubtedly look to see if the younger Diaz brother has improve his takedown defense, and ability to be successful off his back.

Even if he hasn’t, we’re in for a great fight in this one, as most fights involving these two turn out to be. Scheduled for five rounds, this one will be entertaining whether it goes the full 25 minutes or just 25 seconds.

At least that’s what the UFC is hoping.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance mixed martial arts journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. He's a frequent contributor to ufc.com, Fight Magazine and UFC Magazine, and is the creative force behind the MMA blog Keyboard Kimura. Follow him on Twitter: @spencerkyte