The lastest installment of the UFC on Fox was broadcast on network TV, live from New Jersey on Saturday night. The partnership between Fox and the UFC has already seen some highlights, but you could certainly argue that this event raised the bar even further. Let's take a look at what happened, just in case you missed the action.
Lavar Johnson TKO'd Pat Barry in the first round. Journalists are supposed to stay neutral, but as much as I like Pat Barry, I have to admit I was rooting for Johnson in this one. Mostly because he comes from the same part of California that I do and I've been following his career since he was fighting in regional promotions, but also because he survived a gunshot wound a couple of years ago and has not only recovered, but made himself a better fighter than he was before. With that being said, I was worried, because Barry is the biggest name Johnson has faced and a very dangerous striker in his own right. As expected, the fight started with both of those big trees trying to chop each other down. Johnson was getting a few punches and knees through, but Barry looked more technically sound, as you would expect from an accomplished kick boxer. Barry took Johnson down and mounted him about halfway through the round, which came as a bit of a surprise. Even more surprising, he nearly submitted Johnson, before the latter finally escaped late in the round. With about a minute remaining, Johnson landed a few strikes that backed Barry up against the cage and had him looking a little wobbly. With few precious seconds to go, Johnson unloaded with everything he had. Barry dropped and the ref stopped the fight, completing the latest chapter in Johnson's dramatic comeback.
Alan Belcher TKO'd Rousimar Palhares in the first round. Although this fight pitted two BJJ black belts against each other, Palhares was probably considered the bigger ground threat by most fight fans. His violently efficient style of jiu jitsu has been devastating to opponents during his tenure in the UFC, but as the first round got going and Palhares grabbed a single leg to put Belcher on his back, it was clear that the latter wanted to prove his skills. Palhares quickly started trying for leg locks, but Belcher defended and was trying to go for submissions himself. After a couple of minutes in "danger," Belcher got his legs free. Instead of getting up, he stayed in Palhares' guard, as if to prove the point that he wasn't intimidated. Belcher avoided the arm bars Palhares was going for and started landing some nice elbows and strikes from the top. After a few of those, Palhares seemed completely befuddled to find himself in such unfamiliar territory. Belcher continued to land heavy ground strikes until the ref stepped in and stopped it.
Johny Hendricks defeated Josh Koscheck by split decision. I've always had a soft spot for perennial bad boy, Josh Koscheck, because he lives and trains in my home town. But I had a feeling he might be in trouble in this fight. Johny Hendricks was coming off of a 12-second knockout of John Fitch (who is one of Koshceck's training partners). That was actually a motivating factor for Koscheck, but let's face it, Hendricks' hands have been doing damage in the UFC and Koscheck's chin has been exposed in the past. Add to that the fact that Hendricks was an All American wrestler at powerhouse Oklahoma State and you just took the advantage that Koscheck has over most of his opponents away. If Koscheck was going to win this fight, his striking would have to be better than ever and he'd have to stay away from Hendrick's power for three rounds. That's a tough ask. The first two rounds were really good. Both fighters had their moments in each round. They stayed on their feet and exchanged for most of both rounds. The stats showed Hendricks throwing about twice as many strikes as Koscheck, but you never know how the judges are seeing it. Koscheck was looking a little worse for wear by the third round. His right eye was closing up and Hendricks looked like he was picking up steam. Koscheck smartly got a take down against the cage and spent the final two minutes on top. He definitely won the third round, but ultimately, it wasn't enough. Hendricks won two rounds on two of the judges' score cards.
Nate Diaz submitted Jim Miller with a guillotine choke in the third round. I was really interested in this fight. I've always liked what Nate Diaz brings to the cage, but I like Jim Miller's skill set as well. Diaz has had trouble with fighters similar to Miller. Clay Miller was able to grind him out. Miller is kind of like a better version of Guida. He's maybe not quite as good a wrestler, but much better with submissions, which happen to be Diaz's strength. I'd say they're both pretty even in striking, so it was really going to come down to which guy was able to dicate where the fight went. Miller spent most of the first round trying to overcome Diaz's range advantage with leg kicks and by clinching. He was doing a pretty good job, but Diaz was picking his spots well and getting off some nice strikes of his own. He caught Miller and dropped him in the last minute of the round, but the Jersey native was able to survive to the bell. Diaz looked fresh to start the third, but Miller was looking a little ragged. Diaz continued with the pressure and eventually it went to the ground. Miller actually initiated the take down, but Diaz grabbed on with a guillotine. Miller wasn't able to escape and ended up tapping.