Sunday, May 6, 2012

UFC ON FOX 3: Jersey tough

On a night when the UFC was on network television and also opposing Floyd Mayweather, it was important that they came strong. Not only that, but fighting in New Jersey the crowd wouldn't have it any other way; I know as I was live on press row and this crowd wanted blood every minute of every round. Simply put, this card and this crowd were Jersey tough.

The main event was a number one contender eliminator that pit lightweights (155 lbs.) Nate Diaz (16-7, 3 KO's 11 subs) and New Jersey's own Jim Miller (21-4, 3 KO's 2 subs). Unfortunately, it wasn't the perfect homecoming Miller and his fans expected.

While Miller looked to be in perfect shape physically, it was mentally where he lost this fight as he let Diaz dictate how and where it was going to go. The Californian Diaz, with his unorthodox boxing style of walking you down using peppering punches was just enough to keep Miller off balance and ineffective. He nullified the Jersey native's wrestling, which would inevitably prove to be Miller's downfall.

After Miller lost the first round based on effective striking by his opponent, it was more of the same in the second until he rushed in for a takedown and got caught. Miller, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but nowhere near the level of Cesar Gracie black belt Diaz, got caught in a tight Guillotine choke. He tried in vain to roll out of it, but it wasn't meant to be as he was eventually forced to tap in the fifth minute of the second round. For Diaz, a former 'Ultimate Fighter' winner, the fight secures him a shot at lightweight champ Ben Henderson.

In the co-main feature, 'Bigg Rigg' Johny Hendricks (13-1, 7 KO's 1 sub) and Josh 'Kos' Koscheck (17-6, 5 KO's 5 subs) put on a three round boxing warfare between two former national wrestling champions. The result was a tough fought, hard earned split decision victory for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy Hendricks.

The fight was close and hard to score as both guys had their moments, but in the end it was the crowd favorite Hendricks who got the nod. He may also have garnered a number one contender spot as that makes four wins in a row now, including two over AKA contenders Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Curious to see how this division plays out with champion Georges St. Pierre still recovering from a knee injury and interim champ Carlos Condit waiting in the wings.

In a middleweight (185 lbs.) contender bout, Rousimar 'Toquinho' Palhares (14-4 1 KO's 10 subs) and Alan 'The Talent' Belcher (18-6, 9 KO's 7 subs) put on a very entertaining round of ground action. Palhares, a leg lock submission specialist, was probably surprised when Belcher decided to take the fight to the ground. Palhares wasted no time in going for one of his patented leg submissions and for about three minutes it was Belcher using his talent to get out of every leg lock Palhares attempted.

Inevitably, Belcher did get out and on top and when he did he made the most of it. Using a deliberate ground and pound attack, including both punches and elbows, he had Palhares all but out. The referee noticed it as well stopping the fight at the end of the first. In his post interview, Belcher said, "That belt is mine and I'm coming for it; you hear me."

Starting things on the right foot, literally, was heavyweight Lavar 'Big' Johnson (17-5, 15 KO's 2 subs). The reason I say literally is because it was a head kick with his right foot to Pat Barry's head that was the beginning of the end for the man known as 'HD'. Barry (7-5, 6 KO's) had an early advantage as he found himself mounted on top of Johnson in the middle of the first round; but unable to finish a submission attempt, Johnson eventually got up and unleashed a barrage of punches after the kick that gave him the TKO win in the first.

On the undercard, bantamweights (135 lbs) Roland Delorme (8-1, 2 KO's 6 subs) and Nick Denis (11-3, 10 KO's 1 sub) quite possibly had the round of the year; that was until flyweights (125 lbs.) Louis Gaudinot (5-2, 2 KO's 2 subs) and John Lineker (19-6, 8 KO's 3 subs) stepped into the cage. The first round of both fights almost mirrored each other as each went back and forth with a rock'em sock'em robots style.

As good as Delorme and Denis were, Gaudinot and Lineker were even better; if you can believe it. In the end, it was Delorme finishing @ exactly 4:59 of round one with a rear naked choke; living up to his nickname of 'Stunning'. However, Gaudinot also lived up to his nickname 'Goodnight', as he literally put Lineker to sleep at the end of round two with a guillotine choke. Both were great fights!

One final note, it was a disappointing turnout from the New York/New Jersey crowd as there were a lot of empty seats in the arena. I think MMA broadcaster Mauro Ranallo summed it up best when he tweeted, "Where are the fans in New York who want MMA? Arent you allowed to cross the Hudson?" 'Nuff said!

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