The UFC on Fox 3 card is in the books, and I had a terrible night of predictions. I was totally wrong about Nate Diaz, and my undercard picks were straight up pathetic. Nevertheless, the event delivered as advertised and the main card was a good mix of devastating striking and slick technical submission grappling. The main event between Nate Diaz and Jim Miller showed that Nate most definitely belongs at the top of the lightweight division and is clearly NOT overrated (as I stated before - sorry 209).
Nate Diaz: As I said above, I was wrong. I have no problem admitting that. Diaz looked superb in New Jersey tonight, establishing his boxing game and outworking Miller in the clinch, which was a huge surprise to me. The finishing sequence was ultra-slick, and he proved that he can deal with the relentless pace of the 155 grinders. He apparently earned a title shot with the win, and the Nate Diaz we saw tonight could definitely give Ben Henderson or Frankie Edgar fits. Who would have thought that it'd be Nate and not Nick that would probably be headlining another card in late 2012?
Johny Hendricks: It wasn't exactly the dominant win he pulled off in his last bout, but "Bigg Rigg" (terrible nickname) has now taken out two of 170's best gatekeepers in successive bouts. Carlos Condit vs. Georges St. Pierre won't be happening until at least November, but Hendricks is definitely in the drivers seat in regards to the next title challenger. The only question now is whether he sits out and waits, or fights a guy like Jake Ellenberger to solidify his hold on the elusive title shot.
Alan Belcher: I'll be up front and say that I've never been a big Belcher fan, but he proved his mettle tonight. He played Toquinho's game and beat him at it, which is more than pretty much any other middleweight can boast about. His submission defense was picture-perfect and he showed patience, something he has lacked in the past. I still don't think he's exactly in the title hunt (you should have to beat at least one top-ten opponent to earn that consideration), but it was undoubtedly the biggest win of Belcher's career and definitely something to build on.
Lavar Johnson: The big man was clearly a fish out of water on the ground, but his opponent was as well so he survived. Johnson proved to be a killer on the feet once again though, totally brutalizing Pat Barry against the cage to the point that I sat on my couch cringing at each right hook. He's way too one-dimensional to challenge for any titles anytime soon, but god damn is that one dimension devastating or what? I don't think the stars will align the way I want them to, but how good would Mark Hunt vs. Lavar Johnson be?
Michael Johnson: I can honestly say that I didn't expect to be writing about him tonight, but he looked excellent against a tough opponent last night. Goldberg kept harping on his improvement since he joined the Blackzillians, and that might be true. To me though, he just looked truly comfortable on the feet for the first time since The Ultimate Fighter. It might have been because he didn't have to worry about getting taken down by El Cucuy, but that was undoubtedly the best performance of Johnson's career. I don't think we'll see him in title contention anytime soon, but that was a huge win for him.
The Flyweight division: UFC fans had seen exactly two flyweight bouts coming into tonight's show - Joe Benavidez destroying Yasuhiro Urushitani, and the weird draw between Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson. If they had any doubts about the little guys coming into tonight, I think John Lineker vs. Louis Gaudinot and John Dodson vs. Tim Elliott made them believers. Both were awesome bouts full of non-stop action, and I'm excited about the future of the division going forward. You should be too.
Jim Miller: I hated seeing one of my favorite fighters go out like that, but he was classy in defeat and said what we were all thinking - Diaz had his number. A lot of people (including myself) believed that Miller wasn't himself against Ben Henderson, and it came out later that he fighting a kidney infection at the time. That made sense. I don't know or care if he had some sort of reason for his performance tonight - the bottom line is that he got beat by the better fighter. This is undoubtedly a huge step back for Miller, and he'll need to rack up at least three more wins before he could even be considered for a title bout again.
Josh Koscheck: Let's face it, he barely lost. A lot of people think he deserved the W. Throwing him in the losers column seems harsh, but it is what it is. The biggest thing coming out of the fight was the status of his eye, which was swollen up badly once again. Many are suspecting that he had re-injured his orbital bone, which would be very bad for his future in the sport if it's serious. Honestly though, how much did Kos really lose here? He wasn't getting a title shot with a win. He narrowly lost to a serious contender. He has nothing to be ashamed of and I hope he continues to get top-tier welterweights. It's easy to hate Kos, but he's damn good.
Rousimar Palhares: How does someone with such devastating submission skills have such a terrible guard? Props to Toquinho for getting to exactly where he needed to be to finish the fight. But when it didn't go according to plan and Belcher ended up on top, why did he just eat GnP like Fedor eats ice cream? It's been proven time and time again that being one-dimensional won't fly in today's MMA world and while Palhares will always retain a big fan base based on his finishing skills, it's clear he's not a title challenger.
Pat Barry: Everyone loves HD. But let's face it, he's not someone that deserves main card slots on national TV. I respect any guy that is willing to round out their game, but he had no clue what to do after he got the takedown and the americana didn't work out. He was lost. And if he isn't a world-beater on the feet, he isn't going to be competitive in the division with such a one-dimensional skill set. Again, I love the guy as much as anyone. He's a warrior. But he's not UFC-caliber, as much as that sucks to say.
Tony Ferguson: What the hell man? El Cucuy has been dynamite in the UFC thus far and it was sort of embarrassing to see him get completely shut down like that last night. Props to Michael Johnson, he fought a great fight. But Ferguson didn't fight his fight at all and he looked totally lost all night. No urgency, no ability to adapt, and no answer. Plus, it's quite clear where Johnson's weaknesses are - on the ground. Other than one halfhearted attempt late in the fight, El Cucuy never tried to take it down at all. This was a gigantic setback for Ferguson, and anyone that would tell you otherwise is a liar.