Time to preview UFC on Fox!
265 lbs: Pat Barry (7-4, 3-4 UFC) vs. Lavar Johnson (16-5, 1-0 UFC)
If you were a high-ranking person in the UFC somewhere, you might think it a good idea to put fights you think will be exciting to watch on the main card, even if the participants themselves aren’t the best fighters in the organization. That’s basically what we have with Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson. Johnson debuted against Joey Beltran on the preliminaries of UFC on Fox 2, and looked impressive, battering Beltran with huge punches and stopping him in the first round. That’s particularly impressive because, up until that point, I firmly believed Beltran was a zombie.
Surely in anticipation of a slobberknocker, the UFC has matched Johnson against Pat Barry, who crushed Christian Morecraft with strikes at UFC on FX. There’s not much use in breaking this fight down a whole lot. Both guys are going to look to pummel each other with punches. What I will say is that Johnson will likely be stronger early in the fight, but as the fight goes on, Johnson is likely to fade fast. At the same time, it’s really hard to see this fight lasting all that long.
SILVA PREDICTION: PAT BARRY (44.73) OVER LAVAR JOHNSON (39.02)
185 lbs: Alan Belcher (17-6, 8-4 UFC) vs. Rousimar Palhares (14-3, 7-2 UFC)
This fight is a stylistic clash. Alan Belcher will want to keep it standing at all costs, batter Palhares with strikes, and hopefully win by TKO. Palhares will want to take the fight to the ground, either going for his famous heel hook, or taking Belcher down and blasting him with powerful ground and pound. The big question is one of who will be able to impose their game on the other.
In that respect, things don’t look good for Belcher. Belcher is a big, strong middleweight, but he’s shown a susceptibility to being taken down often in his fights. If Belcher doesn’t get taken down by his opponent simply landing a double-leg takedown, he’ll throw a kick that will be caught by his opponent and used to take him down that way. Meanwhile, Palhares isn’t really a pure wrestler, but he’s such a powerful human being that he’s capable of just lifting his opponent in the air and throwing them to the ground. And if Belcher throws one of his kicks against Palhares… let’s just say that would represent more of an invitation than an actual threat.
Ultimately, I expect Palhares to be able to dictate where this fight goes, and therefore ultimately win by submission or decision.
SILVA PREDICTION: ROUSIMAR PALHARES (74.47) OVER ALAN BELCHER (54.49)
170 lbs: Johny Hendricks (12-1, 7-1 UFC) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-5, 15-5 UFC)
After knocking out the then #2 welterweight in the world, Jon Fitch, in 12 seconds, Johny Hendricks’s profile has risen significantly. Even with his considerable UFC success before, Hendricks had a difficult time getting noticed, but now with that win, he’s been promised a shot at the welterweight title if he can beat Josh Koscheck. Hendricks has a number of things going for him. One is that SILVA loves Hendricks, rating him as the #2 welterweight in the world behind Georges St-Pierre. Another is that Hendricks has tremendous knockout power, as he showed against Jon Fitch, and T.J. Waldburger, and Charlie Brenneman, and Amir Sadollah. On top of that, Hendricks has a very strong amateur wrestling background.
Koscheck is known for having great knockout power himself, and while it is respectable, I don’t think it’s as great as hyped up to be. Koscheck is, however, a terrific wrestler, and has shown a little more success with his wrestling in MMA than Hendricks has. For Koscheck, the key to winning will be to avoid Hendricks’s left hook, get inside, and make it an ugly wrestling battle. It still won’t be easy since Hendricks is no pushover in the wrestling game, but that’s the one facet of MMA that I feel favors Koscheck.
Since neither guy is known for being a high-volume striker, I feel this is a very competitive fight. But I also feel that Hendricks should be the favorite overall, since he possesses more potential to end the fight by KO than Koscheck does in my opinion. It’s close, but Hendricks is the pick.
SILVA PREDICTION: JOHNY HENDRICKS (94.53) OVER JOSH KOSCHECK (74.83)
155 lbs: Nate Diaz (15-7, 10-5 UFC) vs. Jim Miller (21-3, 10-2 UFC)
The main event of the evening will feature Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller, and like Hendricks, Nate Diaz has been promised a title shot if he can win on Saturday evening. With Jim Miller as his opponent, it won’t be easy. Miller is a very strong 21-3, and his three career losses are to Benson Henderson, Gray Maynard, and Frankie Edgar. So not only has Miller lost only to the very best fighters in the lightweight division, he’s never been finished in a fight. Since Miller is a well-rounded fighter with good striking, decent wrestling, and a terrific ground game, it generally takes an elite competitor to defeat him.
Diaz is not an elite lightweight fighter, and his 5-5 record in ten fights holds the reason why. Diaz does have an excellent high-volume boxing attack and a very slick ground game with a terrific guard, but his wrestling is just sub-par. When Diaz moved up to 170 pounds, he was taken down with ease by both Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald. When Diaz fought wrestlers at lightweight, he was repeatedly taken down by Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida. And before you mention Gray Maynard, consider that according to Fight Metric, Maynard never even attempted a takedown against Diaz.
The question is: can Jim Miller have that same kind of wrestling success as guys like Stevenson and Guida? I believe the answer is yes. Miller is not a great wrestler by any means, and has been taken down by opponents like Gleison Tibau and Mark Bocek, but he’s good enough that he can land takedowns against an opponent who is a poor wrestler. Diaz definitely qualifies as a poor wrestler. And with Miller’s strength as a fighter being on the ground, I don’t see Diaz catching him in a submission from bottom position. Ultimately, I see Miller regularly landing takedowns against Diaz, and having enough success with strikes and even submissions on the ground to win a decision.
SILVA PREDICTION: JIM MILLER (77.70) OVER NATE DIAZ (52.33)