UFC: Nate Diaz brings ‘Stockton slap’ to New Jersey
As the Jersey shore prepares for the anticipated arrival of Nate Diaz we take a look at a packed UFC on Fox card this weekend. We also run our eyes over some intriguing match-ups announced this week and compare the performances of Cruz and Faber thus far to some of their more animated predecessors…
The younger Diaz brother’s arrival from the sunny confines of Stockton to America’s East coast to fight grizzled local Jim Miller pits two of the lightweight division’s most mentally tough combatants against each other. Even though it’s a five round affair and both protagonists set a hectic pace I don’t think on this occasion stamina will be a factor. Both men have exemplary cardio. Miller’s ju-jitsu is under-rated and following a rear-naked-choke win over Melvin Guillard last time out he will not fear Diaz’ vaunted ground game. It’s on the feet where this fight will be won and lost. Diaz’ ability to address his wrestling achilles heel will be tested in this one. Miller can be suffocating when he is able to get up close and personal and Diaz’ use of range and movement will be critical as the bout wears on. Diaz’ five inch reach advantage over the three time submission of the night winner simply cannot be ignored. Whilst I am a fan of Miller’s blue collar work ethic and grinding style I can’t look past the always improving Caesar Gracie student by a decision victory not unlike his stand-up clinic against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Pat Barry’s tussle with Lavar Johnson looks set to be a blink and miss it affair. With Barry’s penchant for trading exchange’s and Johnson’s monstrous power punching someone could hit the deck early and hard. Barry’s striking is crisp but Christian Morecraft gave him too much trouble last time out to indicate a win against the 6’4” Johnson. I see the likeable Barry getting entrenched in a fire-fight with his larger foe and eating one too many big shots en route to a first round KO defeat. “HD” may give further thought to campaigning at 205lbs after this one.
Belcher to leave New Jersey in one piece?
Alan Belcher has taken the fight which few middleweights wanted. Getting locked inside the octagon with Rousimar Palhares is not the best way to keep all of your limbs intact but Belcher has manfully accepted the challenge. Prior to his serious eye injury the Duke Roufus mentored Arkansas native looked like he could be ready to challenge Anderson Silva for the middleweight strap. He will look to build on the momentum from his defeat of Jason MacDonald in September against the submission savvy Palhares. He will certainly give the Brazilian plenty to think about in the stand-up exchanges. It’s when this bout hits the mat that Belcher will be instant and considerable peril. Whilst he is no slouch on the ground himself I can’t look past a win for the South American in one of those now customary, “that really had to hurt” Palhares moments.
Revenge on Koscheck’s mind?
Johny Hendricks’ quick fire defeat of AKA’s Jon Fitch certainly got him noticed both by fans and Zuffa execs alike. Fitch’s grinding style had proven to be an aesthetically displeasing but supremely effective way to remain in the upper echelons of the 170lb division. Hendricks twelve second, one punch knockout of Fitch was heard throughout the welterweight division. Whilst Koscheck has left AKA and will of course be fighting primarily to retain his place amongst the welterweight elite, a victory over his friend’s conqueror will be an added incentive in a nip and tuck co-main event. These men are basically mirror images of each other in fighting terms. Koscheck has the edge in refined striking but Hendrick’s power punching has been amply exemplified. I believe Koscheck’s edge in experience will see him finish Hendricks at some stage in the third stanza.
Hathaway to emerge from crowded welterweight mid-tier?
Our own John Hathaway’s tussle with tough German up and comer Pascal Krauss hasn’t garnered much attention stateside. It could turn out to be one of the fights of the night however. I feel the Brighton scrapper will have too much for Krauss and will utilise his incessant wrestling and furious scrambling en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Upcoming match-ups announced
A busy week has seen a number of interesting fights slated for the months ahead. Ed Herman will welcome Jake Shields to the promotions 185lb division. It may well prove to be a better fit for Shields given that some of his better performances have been at middleweight in the past. Ryan Bader’s reward for a solid performance against the always dangerous “Rampage” Jackson will take the form of an altogether more puzzling challenge in the unorthodox Lyoto Machida. The marauding Travis Browne has been pencilled in to face “Big” Ben Rothwell next as Joe Silva seeks to separate the pretenders from the contenders in the land of the giants. All three are intriguing match-ups and we will be examining them in more detail prior to fight time.
TUF Cruz v Faber : Drama vs coaching
Final word this week must go to Messrs Cruz and Faber on TUF Live. Television ratings haven’t lived up to some pre-show predictions but there may be a singular reason for that. Whereas previous series involving Jackson/Evans and Tito/Shamrock have been high on the drama factor this may have been somewhat to the detriment of the coaching on the respective seasons. Cruz and Faber whilst not exactly must see tv in the pantomime stakes are putting every effort into coaching their charges and it appears to be paying dividends. The fight quality and intensity is being cranked up as each week passes. All we need now is for Cruz to criticise Faber’s year round tan and we may yet have a bona fide feud on our hands…
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