UFC on FOX 3: Nate Diaz scores impressive finish
The UFC on FOX 3 was a fire burner from preliminaries to headliners. The featherweights stood and traded like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, and a couple of title contenders emerged in the main card. UFC president Dana White can be sure the UFC came out of this event with a lot more fans than it went in with.
Lightweights Nate Diaz v Jim Miller
Nate Diaz became the first man to finish Jim Miller. The technique was a power guillotine, but what got him there was an overwhelming array of strikes and far superior boxing. Taunts and showboating are all patented tricks of the Diaz brothers, who aren’t satisfied just wining. Arms down, slapping his own head, Diaz goaded Miller to the finish.
Dana White had said a Miller win would not mean a title shot, but a Diaz win would. The ‘right’ Nate Diaz showed up tonight, and if the ‘right’ Nate Diaz shows up to a title fight with the winner of Benson Henderson v. Frankie Edgar, look out.
Both Diaz brothers are lanky, skinny dudes, and consistently out strike beefier opponents, which underscores the importance of technique, footwork and distance, in a sport where lean, cut, tattooed athletes are the norm.
Welterweights Johnny Hendricks v. Josh Koscheck
Because Josh Koscheck is a division 1 NCAA wrestling champion and Johny Hendricks a two time champion, this welterweight tilt was expected to go the distance in a stand and trade war. These wrestler matchups often stalemate on the ground---if it ever gets there---and that was the case in this fight.
Hendricks's KO of perennial top five fighter Jon Fitch last December had all eyes on him tonight, and what we saw was a stellar wrestler with a big left hand and not much else. It was enough, though. Koscheck’s stand-up, which had appeared dangerous till he was picked apart by Georges St. Pierre in 2010, had no answer for Hendricks’s left, which came hard and came often, as indicated by Koscheck’s puffed right orbital bone.
Koscheck did win the first round and had Hendricks in trouble. In the end, the judge’s final tallies had Hendricks with a split decision, which was fair. Hendricks moves up the ladder while Koscheck slides down, but Hendricks did nothing to help fans or UFC brass imagine him in a title fight.
Middleweights Rousimar Pulhares v. Alan Belcher
Alan Belcher strode into the octagon looking calm, cool and collected, sporting a terrible, bloated tattoo of Johnny Cash and the best fight shorts in the biz---these ones black and silver.
Few fans gave Belcher mush of a chance in this fight. Brazilian Rousimar Pulhares is a violent submission fighter with brutal leg locks. While Belcher is a black belt in BJJ, he is known as a heavy striker trained by the famed Duke Roufus. Belcher went right into the fire in this one, though, and was totally unafraid to roll with Pulhares on the mat. Talk about cahones.
Belcher twisted and pulled easily out of Pulhares’s leg lock and heel hook attempts, the look on his face like mine is when I’m opening the mail. When Belcher got on top, in Pulhares's guard, he rained down horrific ground and pound and won via piunches and elbows at 4:18 of the first.
Belcher recently underwent eye surgery and his career was almost finished. Although he has only lost twice since 2008, questions remained about his ability on the ground. No more. His name will now be on the lips of anyone suggesting a contender to square off with Anderson Silva once he knocks out Chael Sonnen this summer.
Heavyweights Lavar Johnson v. Pat Barry
Prior to his two impressive wins in the UFC---versus Joey Beltran and Pat Barry tonight---Lavar Johnson had lost two straight in Strikeforce. He is a formidable looking man, but Barry is no pushover. Since early in his kickboxing career, Barry has been stunnning people with his power and technique in the art of kicking and punching.
Somehow, Barry’s kickboxing prowess never really translated into success in the UFC, as his 4-5 record in the promotion suggests. It was a significant, early test for Johnson, though, and a necessary one to see if his stoppage of Beltran was fluke. It wasn’t. And the 6’4”, 254 pound Johnson never gassed as he pummeled Barry into oblivion against the fence.
In a preliminary bout, Canadian Roland Delorme beat fellow Canuck Nick Denis in an amazing turnaround. After being rocked early, Delorme finished Denis with a rear-naked choke while on top rather than on his back. I was sorry to see a Canadian lose, but another one won.
Play by play man Mike Goldberg commented that the lighter weight classes stand and bang like the heavyweights never could. That’s true, for the most part, but few UFC fans would doubt a Roy Nelson v. the new and improved Ben Rothwell would come close. Nelson went the distance with former champ Frank Mir and current champ Junior dos Santos. Rothwell took everything former champ Cain Velasquez had, and even though the fight was stopped, Big Ben looked as though he was still capable of solving complex math problems afterwards. I predict Nelson v. Rothwell could last well into the 20th round.
Many fighters get in trouble when they can’t or won’t move. Footwork , distance and timing are crucial. It seems simian if all you do is stand and trade. It causes exciting fights, but so do Junior dos Santos or Anderson Silva when they control the fight with their feet.
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