Before a national television audience, in front of a fan base that will include many from a city and state starving for legally sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts action, eight main card fighters will put nearly everything on the line.
For Jim Miller and Nate Diaz, one will be in position to reportedly fight Anthony Pettis for the right to be called No. 1 contender in the lightweight division. The other will experience a steep fall down to the middle of the pack with no telling when he’ll taste a shot at gold again.
For Josh Koscheck, who saluted those who ran the age vs. youth angle to hype his fight with Johny Hendricks with a rain of expletives, there’s a determination to prove he’s still got it and his new Dethrone Base Camp will add youth to his years. For Hendricks, a win would be the biggest of his career and in all likelihood secure a welterweight title shot at the winner of champion Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit.
Risking it all is old hat to Alan Belcher, who’s made it all the way back from eye surgery and may be crowned top middleweight contender if he can get past deadly submission expert Rousimar Palhares in just his second fight after an 18-month layoff.
For the UFC, the mission to sanction MMA eight miles from the IZOD Center and invade Madison Square Garden continues. FOX gives them the platform to make the biggest case yet. Will it be Miller time in the Garden State? Or will Diaz ruin the homecoming? And who out of Pat Barry or Lavar Johnson will march up the heavyweight ladder?
MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas shares his take. I analyze and predict the Fox Four here:
Jim Miller vs. Nate Diaz
The classic irresistible force (Diaz) versus immovable object (Miller) matchup. Miller may have been schooled by eventual lightweight champion Benson Henderson, but at the press conference announcing the Diaz bout he admitted to competing at less than 100 percent. Miller returned to form with a wipeout of Melvin Guillard and is a winner of 16 of his last 18. No health issues are plaguing the native of Sparta, N.J., who brings his Spartan approach to the main event in an attempt to slow down the surging Diaz. The last three opponents to grind it out against Diaz (Rory MacDonald, Dong-Hyun Kim and Gray Maynard) emerged victorious. After being peppered early, Miller gets inside and takes the fight to the mat, where Diaz is completely neutralized. Miller unanimous decision.
Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks
Koscheck has had a good career – a very good career – and it’s far from over. In fact, his departure from AKA coming off a lethargic win over Mike Pierce appears to have given him second life. But whenever Koscheck is about to reach to grab the star, he’s slipped and fell down the mountain. Hendricks faces his greatest challenge, one who has competed in big fights and won many of them. Though Pierce provided Hendricks with similar headaches, Hendricks pulverized Jon Fitch in 12 seconds in his next contest. Perhaps that ends up as his career’s launch point. He earns his check on Saturday, and then some. Hendricks unanimous decision.
Alan Belcher vs. Rousimar Palhares
On intimidation and psychology alone, Palhares has won many battles before they were fought. His next opponent, Belcher, stared down a cruel twist of fate – and won. Arguably, Belcher was screwed out of a win at UFC 100. He responded by winning his next three, the last a blitzkrieg of Jason MacDonald in his first fight in 16 months. There’s nothing that scares Belcher, not even the middleweight division’s answer to Frank Mir. Belcher TKO 2.
Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson
The first time I saw Johnson compete was last February in the same IZOD Center that hosted the opening bracket of the Heavyweight Grand Prix. The slugger failed to make it out of Round 1, tapping to Shane del Rosario. Johnson’s first-round knockout of Joey Beltran scored him an extra bonus and made a dynamite first impression with the UFC. Barry has experienced both highs and lows. The time is now for him to make his move in an open heavyweight division. He’ll avoid Johnson’s wicked power long enough to cash in on the one opening he needs. Barry KO 3.
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