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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Newark: Covington vs. Lawler - Main card preview

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Get the dirt on the main card of UFC Newark, featuring a contest of longtime organization stalwarts Jim Miller and Clay Guida square off in lightweight action.

Y’all remember the quality of the early FOX cards? The big FOX cards. Not the Fight Night cards – which technically still run under the UFC on ESPN+ banner – but the UFC on FOX cards. They dropped off in quality after a few years, but initially were dependably badass… at least as far as the main card was concerned.

For instance, UFC on FOX 5 – headlined by Benson Henderson defending his lightweight title against Nate Diaz – had Alexander Gustafsson square off with Shogun Rua in the co-main event. That was Gustafsson’s last fight before his epic contest with Jon Jones and Shogun was less than two years removed from his title reign. UFC on ESPN 5 has… Jim Miller and Clay Guida in the co-main event. Around 2011, that would have been a gangbusters co-main. It’s now 2019 and both are well past their prime. I haven’t even compared the rest of the main card of the two cards. I’m not surprised the UFC would drop the quality of the ESPN cards after a while. But only five events in and we’re getting this? That was a very fast drop in quality.

I will note that a big reason for the low quality of the card is the UFC booking Newark less than two months before the card was expected to take place, leaving fighters reluctant to accept a booking when they don’t know where the card is taking place. Regardless, that’s still poor planning on behalf of the organization, not a legit excuse.

The main card of UFC Newark begins at 3:00 PM ET/12:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Jim Miller (30-13, 1 NC) vs. Clay Guida (35-18), Lightweight

I can’t help but lament the fact this contest didn’t happen about seven or eight years ago when these two were in their prime. I suppose better late than never….

If you had asked fight fans after Miller’s loss to Diego Sanchez if he would still be in the UFC over three years later, they would have laughed at the notion. Miller then discovered he was suffering from Lyme disease, began treating it, and wrote an exciting and mostly successful new chapter to his career. Sure, he’s only .500 since that time, but those losses have all come against opponents who have been ranked at some point in the last year.

Never a great athlete to begin with, Miller has always gotten by on guile and guts. Though he’s always been considered technically sound and functional in all phases of the fight game, his nose for submissions has always been his biggest strength. Witness his kneebar of Charles Oliveira or his armbar of Fabricio Camoes, two fighters noted for their own grappling abilities. What has eroded is Miller’s durability, making getting into a striking battle a far riskier proposition than what it used to be.

Fortunately for Miller, Guida isn’t a major striking threat. Some may point to Guida’s 67 second TKO of Joe Lauzon as proof he’s gained power in the latter stages of his career, but just as strong of an argument could be made that Lauzon’s chin had completely eroded. It leaves open the question just how much Guida’s striking performance has actually improved. Nonetheless, Guida’s attack has always been about pressure and takedowns, grinding out his opposition with his endless gas tank. Miller’s takedown defense has always been questionable, meaning there is a road to victory for the Team Alpha Male representative.

Even though Guida has a clear road to victory, the route for Miller is even more obvious. Guida’s aggression has led to him walking into a submission on several occasions and he has seemingly grown more prone to getting caught in precarious positions as he advances into the late stages of his career. I can see Guida exhausting Miller for a decision as Miller doesn’t have the endurance of Guida. Regardless, Miller snagging a sub seems like a more likely outcome. Miller via submission of RD1

Joaquim Silva (11-1) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (10-2), Lightweight

Even though there is a good chance you aren’t familiar with him, Silva has quietly transformed himself into one of the better action fighters at 155… provided he is lined up with an opponent who will allow him to exercise his preference to fight off his back foot. Possessing plenty of power in his fists in addition to being a hell of an athlete, Silva has been adding pieces to his arsenal, landing the first takedown of his UFC career against a solid wrestler in Jared Gordon. If Silva can continue to diversify his attack, he could become more than just an action fighter.

There are few who don’t believe that Haqparast won’t become a contender someday. Only 23, the German export has shown proficiency in all areas thus far. First, he hung tough with submission specialist Marcin Held on the ground. Then he stuffed Marc Diakiese’s takedowns and pieced up the British powerhouse on the feet. He then did the same thing to precision striker Thibault Gouti, going to town on his body like a madman. Haqparast doesn’t yet excel in a single area, but his striking defense still has some holes that can be exposed.

The knee jerk reaction when seeing this contest put together is to pick Haqparast. He’s got the higher ceiling and more rounded attack. However, he hasn’t faced a technical striking sniper like Silva who can hang with him athletically. I’m still sticking with my initial instinct and take Haqparast, but I’m not nearly as confident in that pick as I was before breaking down this contest. Haqparast via decision

As for the rest….

  • Many are second guessing whether Trevin Giles is on his way to becoming a major player at 185 after his disappointing showing against Zak Cummings. Giles struggled with Cummings counter punching and savvy ground game. His opponent in this contest, Gerald Meerschaert, has some similarities to Cummings. Meerschaert isn’t quite the stout wrestler Cummings is, but he is more creative on the ground. If Giles has learned from his loss to Cummings, his athletic ability and simplistic boxing could be enough to overwhelm Meerschaert. However, I favor the savvy Meerschaert to outwit Giles and snap a two-fight losing streak in the process. Meerschaert via submission of RD2
  • I always find it amusing when I hear observers refer to the 35-year old Scott Holtzman as an up-and-comer or a prospect. Maybe if he was a heavyweight…. Regardless, due to a late start on his career, the former hockey player is still improving and presents a hell of a physical presence in the cage. The one thing he has yet to fully address: his takedown defense. Fortunately for him, Dong Hyun Ma, isn’t much of a wrestler either. Many have labeled Ma as a brawler after his classic with Polo Reyes in 2016, but the Korean representative is more of a counter puncher who can be dragged into a brawl. Regardless, Holtzman is more durable and a stronger physical presence. He shouldn’t have too much trouble disposing of Ma. Holtzman via decision
  • Prior to disappointing performances in their most recent contests, Darko Stosic and Kennedy Nzechukwu were thought to be important pieces to the light heavyweight future. Nnechukwu particularly looks promising with his 6’5” frame and 83” reach cutting an imposing figure that will probably end up at heavyweight sooner than later. Regardless, the big man from Nigeria has a major edge in the athletic department than the bricked up Stosic. Nzechukwu’s chin hasn’t been tested in a meaningful way, leaving open the possibility of Stosic putting him to sleep. More likely though is Nzechukwu using his massive size advantage to pick apart the plodding Serb in a yawner. Nzechukwu via decision