After UFC on Fox 1 in November lasted a New York minute, and the second event in January had as much entertainment as an episode of Jersey Shore, the event in New Jersey on Saturday provided everything that a fan and promoter desires: entertainment, finishes, competition, and balance.
The night’s main card started with Lavar Johnson taking on Pat Barry. With The Avengers opening over the weekend, Johnson played the part of The Hulk. Meanwhile, Barry played the part of Kevin Hart, the comedian/actor in the weekend’s second place movie-Think Like A Man. Both are much smaller in stature, and while their efforts will be respected, they will not be remembered.
Johnson “smashed” his way to a victory over Barry, as Barry stood against the cage for twenty seconds, taking two dozen punches and knees before succumbing to those strikes.
Alan Belcher vs. Rouismar Palhares played out nearly completely opposite of the opening match. Palhares, who is well known for his leg locks, had Belcher right where he wanted him. But Belcher, also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, was able to escape and even put on a few impressive moves of his own. This victory puts Belcher into the top echelon of middleweights. While Belcher, who is known as “The Talent” for a reason, has been around the UFC for nearly six years, he has never put it together completely. He now has, with four consecutive wins, which includes a 14-month layoff due to eye surgeries.
Johny Hendricks also put himself in the upper echelon of his division, as he defeated Josh Koscheck via split decision. After a 12-second knockout of Jon Fitch, Hendricks was looking to prove he belongs as a title contender at welterweight. While he did not land a punch as cleanly as he did on Fitch, he was still able to land enough effective strikes to earn the win. Unfortunately for Hendricks, the division and its title picture remains murky due to Georges St. Pierre’s injury and interim champion Carlos Condit deciding to wait for St. Pierre to return to action.
But all of those victories are secondary compared to the main event and its victor.
Biggest winner: Nate Diaz
Diaz became the first person to ever finish Jim Miller, as he defeated the native of New Jersey via guillotine choke in the second round. And now, he becomes the next contender to wait for a title shot, as he spoke with Dana White after the event, and told him of his intentions to wait for Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar to fight before entering the cage again. We will see if that holds true, though.
Biggest loser: Rousimar Palhares
While there were several devastating losses, including Pat Barry, Jim Miller, and Tony Ferguson, Palhares takes this honor. He had Belcher where he had ended so many matches before. But much like the matchup with Nate Marquardt, he lost that position, and soon found himself on the losing end. While that ending with Marquardt can be debated, this one with Belcher cannot.
Biggest question: Is this the method that the UFC will continue with their cards on Fox?
After a brief preview with the first event, then attempting to stack the event, yet having disastrous results, it seems the UFC is going to try and at least guarantee that they will put on exciting shows on Fox in the future. While Diaz and Miller are certainly not overly well-known names outside of MMA fans’ households, they did provide more entertainment in nine minutes than the entire hour of action from UFC on Fox 2. Perhaps they will continue with that method, knowing that when cards on network television do not go well, they have more people to answer to than the usual fans.
Future matchups to make:
Nate Diaz vs. Benson Henderson/Frankie Edgar winner: Diaz made his intentions known, but will he actually be willing to wait until the end of the year to fight again? Unlikely, given his past. If he does fight before then, a matchup with Anthony Pettis would be perfect.
Johny Hendricks vs. Rory MacDonald: The matchup between Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger has been announced as a number one contender matchup. With that, it seems the next man in line could be determined with a matchup between Hendricks and MacDonald.
Alan Belcher vs. Wanderlei Silva/Vitor Belfort winner: Another division, another winner who very well might be waiting a while before he has an opponent. While a matchup with Silva would certainly be exciting, a Belcher/Belfort matchup would be one of the most anticipated of the year.
Lavar Johnson vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: “Napao” was set to face off against Roy Nelson later this month at UFC 146, but withdrew due to injury. Johnson will likely look to take some time off after fighting for the second time in 2012. A matchup with Gonzaga would test how far his ground game has come along.
Jim Miller vs. Evan Dunham: Miller does not deserve to fall too far after his loss to Diaz. Despite losing two of his last three fights, he is still considered a top contender. A matchup with Dunham would be exciting regardless of where it goes, as both are very strong all-around fighters.
Josh Koscheck vs. Diego Sanchez: With both coming off of tough losses, the two can rematch after Koscheck handed Sanchez his first career loss in 2007. Both are still top names, and would provide them with a last-ditch effort to remain in the upper echelon of the welterweight division.