Welterweights with the cumulative experience of 73-fights will battle on the main card of Friday's UFC on FX 3 event in the Mike Pyle vs. Josh Neer encounter. The show, which begins at 9:00 p.m. ET on FX, is headlined by the semifinal-round rematch between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall for the UFC's inaugural Flyweight Tournament.
Longtime Miletich product Josh Neer (33-10) always reminds me of the "skinny guys fight 'til they're burger" quote from Fight Club. He's a gangly, all-business scrapper who wears a perma-sneer and is guaranteed to be in your face from bell to bell. "The Dentist" started out as a boxer but has gradually rounded out his arsenal over the years, specifically with his clinch technique, wrestling and submission grappling, as reflected in his balanced finishing ratio (17 TKOs, 12 subs). This sequence marks Neer's 3rd tour of duty in the Octagon and he chalked up some relevant wins in his last (as a lightweight) over Melvin Guillard (submission) and Joe Stevenson (decision).
More UFC on FX 3 Dissections
Xtreme Couture's Mike "Quicksand" Pyle (22-8) was often touted as a phenomenal "gym-fighter" who struggled to translate his abilities in the cage. Entering the UFC with a decade of pro MMA under his belt, Pyle started flat at 1-2 but has since pieced together a 4-1 streak with only top prospect Rory MacDonald getting the better of him. Pyle is a well-rounded grappler who gets strong marks across the board in takedown prowess, position knowledge, sweeps, scrambles and submissions. Improving his boxing and wrestling seems to have facilitated his recent surge but those aspects are still his weakest when compared to his high-level ground game.
Continued in the full entry.
As with many of the match ups on this card, Pyle is clearly the superior grappler while Neer will have the edge standing, though neither are inept or clueless in their opponent's area of specialty.
Pyle typically looks to clinch up and work trips or drop for double legs against the fence, but Neer's deadly clinch arsenal might inspire him to shoot from a distance in open space. Neer isn't a strong wrestler and can be caught off-guard with sudden level changes, particularly during striking exchanges; his height and skinny frame almost work against him in this scenario because he stays long on the feet and doesn't always have the low base to defend.
When Neer has his balance and gets a good grip in the clinch, his takedown defense is quite feisty. He slips in an underhook and clasps his hands together to impose leverage on the shoulder, alleviating much of the downward force during takedown attempts. When his opponent is upright with him, Neer has a phenomenal knack for combining his vice-like wrist control, intelligent medley of holds and breaking up the rhythm by cracking short and stiff elbows.
I'm of the opinion that the vast library of Thai elbows are an under-used resource when "hand fighting" and pummeling for position in the clinch, and Neer's shellacking of Keith Wisniewski is a perfect example. When Wisniewski locked horns and they began to battle for underhooks and alternate circling one another against the fence, Neer would aggressively change to a more advantageous grip and then blast Wisniewski in the face with a series of a short horizontal elbows. Instead of winding up and committing to a home-run blow, Neer kept a strong base and unleashed rapid-fire combinations of 4-6" elbows that bloodied Wisniewski up and forced him to disengage.
Neer's spidery frame comes in handy with submission attempts in the clinch as well. He's gotten quite comfortable with attacking the neck, snaking his arms deep to hunt for guillotines and D'arce chokes as another form of takedown defense. The way he consistently slips in that rigid underhook when his opponent drops levels makes for an easy and fast transition to these neck-focused sub attempts and Pyle, while a talented offensive submissionist, has tapped out in 4 of his 8 defeats.
The tides can turn the moment that Pyle adheres himself to Neer. Once he's off his feet and latched on, his ability to advance to a dominant position, set up submissions and chain attempts together or otherwise assume control absolutely skyrockets. Pyle is also an extremely crafty grappler who excels at baiting opponents into traps and always seems a few steps ahead. He's not the type to chase low-percentage submissions or sacrifice his position either -- he has an excellent grasp of both position and submissions (an under-appreciated talent), which are equally important.
Standing, Pyle's basic striking mechanics have looked sharper: he's starting to return his hands to his chin after throwing, his balance has been better, his punching form is tighter and he's using more head movement and angles. Though Neer is much more of a threat in the striking department, he's not really an artful kickboxer but more of a rugged brawler who actually does more damage with in-fighting, which is a bit odd considering his length. He has a nice jab, a nasty one-two and swings big uppercuts when his foe is pressing forward with his head down. Neer packs a lot of power in his right hand and with his knees in the clinch; he's basically a straight boxer from outside and a human blender in tie-ups.
Pyle comes in as the steady favorite in the range of -180 to -200, which is understandable -- he has good momentum right now and his recent experience is better than Neer's, who's been off in the regional scene. Also, Pyle can probably contest Neer better on the feet than Neer can match his grappling, mostly because Neer has somewhat of an unorthodox striking style and doesn't capitalize on his range. I'm taking Neer in this one, thinking that his raw toughness and sheer determination are his biggest advantages and that he can overcome the grappling deficit with his frenetic pressure and thorny clinch assault.
My Prediction: Josh Neer by TKO.