UFC on Fox 3 is in the books, and the four bouts broadcast to fight fans for free did not disappoint. Though the majority of the preliminary contests ended in decisions, only one of the main card's fights went to the judges.
Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks
Josh Koscheck (19-6) lost a very controversial split decision to Johny Hendricks (13-1) in a co-main event fight he started very well. Hendricks spent the early part of the first round backing up, taking leg kicks and dealing with the distraction of an eye poke.
Koscheck displayed great boxing in the round, slugging and landing some nice bombs. Hendricks did manage to punch back in spots, but he didn't seem to be getting to Koscheck or stopping his advance. He did land a nice left haymaker hook near the end of the round before both men went toe to toe and traded up to the bell.
Koscheck scrambled to get an early takedown in the second round, but Hendricks worked his way back to his feet. He began parrying most of Koscheck's punches, waiting for the perfect opportunity to counter. Much of the round went back and forth with each fighter taking his turn on offense.
With around a minute and a half left, Koscheck landed a couple really nice elbows to the head of Hendricks. The round could have gone either way, but it obviously didn't go to Koscheck on the two score cards that decided the outcome.
Koscheck went into the third round trying to brawl with Hendricks. Koscheck seemed to be landing the cleaner connecting shots, but Hendricks just kept his hands down and bulled forward with wild hooks. He also landed a nice knee in the round before Koscheck took him down and held him there until the round ended.
UFC president Dana White later told a reporter he had the fight tied going into the third and felt that Koscheck would have won if he had done more to damage Hendricks while he was on top for the final seconds.
"It was a good fight. I felt like I ended the fight on top," said Koscheck in the post-fight press conference. He also saw himself winning the first and third rounds but added that he "should have finished the fight." He cited luck as the main factor in Hendricks edging out the win.
Koscheck seemed determine to move on and "fight another day," but it's not likely he'll make it back to title contention any time soon. Hendricks will probably have to put together another impressive win before he earns a chance to scrap for the 171-pound belt.
Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson
Before that fight, the evening's first two bouts ended early.
Pat Barry (7-5) began his heavyweight battle with Lavar Johnson (17-5) by taking the fight to his opponent and landing some awesome strikes. Johnson weathered the storm and came back with his own heavy blows, leading to a post-fight medical suspension for a swollen hand.
Despite injuring himself, Johnson did much worse to Pat Barry, busting up his face as he fell against the cage fence and slumped to the mat in a heap. The end came with just 22 seconds left in the first round. The performance earned Johnson the knockout of the night bonus, making him $65,000 richer and a little more well-known in the MMA landscape now.
Barry's loss means he's 1-3 in his last four bouts, only beating a young and untested Christian Morecraft in that stretch. Though he could still be a great draw because of his name and his history with the UFC, the league might give him his walking papers now that the Strikeforce heavyweights will be moving over to the UFC soon.
Alan Belcher vs. Rousimar Palhares
Alan Belcher (18-6) made even quicker work of Rousimar Palhares (14-4) at 185-pounds. Palhares secured an early single-leg takedown, but he couldn't do much with it. Belcher came in fully prepared for the infamous leg locks and heel hooks of Palhares. The two scrambled and grappled themselves into a few awkward pretzels before Belcher was able to swarm Palhares with relentless ground and pound for the TKO. The end came at the 4:18 mark of the first round.
Belcher will get himself a crack at the title if he continues to fight like he did Saturday. He just needs a match with a more formidable contender to solidify his position in the division and gauge his readiness to face Anderson Silva (31-4), who is slated to battle Chael Sonnen (27-11-1) in their long-awaited rematch at UFC 148 in July.
Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller
The main event showed just how tough and durable the Diaz brothers can be. Nate (16-7), the youngest of the two fighting phenoms, really made a statement by choking out Jim Miller (21-4) for the first time ever. As someone who only has one submission loss himself, Diaz can appreciate what it means to be the first person to tap such a talented fighter out.
Miller had an impressive first round and took advantage of Diaz coming at him with a one-dimensional striking attack. Diaz landed a few 1-2 combos and some key knees to the head and body, but Miller managed to take him down and hammer him with leg kicks in the first frame.
Diaz spent the second round finding his range. He used a constant flow of punches and knees to begin wearing Miller down. Miller rewarded him by getting sloppy and coming in with his hands down to try to go toe-to-toe with Diaz. Miller went for a head kick that missed, and Diaz smacked himself in the face to show his opponent he wasn't hurt. He then bulled Miller against the fence and punished him with strikes as Miller kept to a knee to avoid taking a Diaz knee to the head.
Getting up proved to be futile for Miller as Diaz unleashed some nasty elbows and punches, transitioning into a side-locked Guillotine choke he didn't quite secure until both men went to the mat and rolled over. Miller's mouthpiece fell out in the process of locking the choke in, so tightening the choke made Miller bite down on his tongue harder.
"He had my number," admitted Miller multiple times after the fight was over. Diaz said he is ready for whatever comes next, though White reported at the post-fight press conference that he'll get a title shot if he wants to wait for it. Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar will have to complete their rematch before Diaz finds out who he'll be facing for his chance at strapping on the UFC lightweight belt.
The victory over Miller is Diaz's third in a row after dropping consecutive fights to Rory MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim in early 2011. He looked lean and chiseled for Saturday's fight, and his game is definitely improving. He is turning into a force to be reckoned with in the lightweight division.
Nate Diaz will be doing all the family's professional MMA fighting until his older brother gets cleared from his suspension for testing positive for marijuana metabolites. If he can avoid the same level of controversy Nick seems to find himself in all the time, Nate could become a very formidable champ.
Preliminary Bout Results
185: Karlos Vemola (9-2) beats Mike Massenzio (13-7) via Rear Naked Choke at 1:07 of Round 2
135: Roland Delorme (8-1) wins by Rear Naked Choke over Nick Denis (11-3) at 4:59 of Round 1
145: Dennis Bermudez (8-3) destroys Pablo Garza (11-3) in a unanimous decision victory
155: Danny Castillo (13-4) wins unanimous decision over John Cholish (8-1)
155: Michael Johnson (11-6) defeats Tony Ferguson (13-3) by unanimous decision
125: John Dodson (13-5) edges out a unanimous decision win over Tim Elliott (8-3)
171: John Hathaway (16-1) dominates Pascal Krauss (10-1), winning by unanimous decision
125: Louis Gaudinot (6-2) takes out John Lineker (19-6) with a Guillotine submission