UFC on FOX 3: Miller vs. Diaz

Published on May 4 at 2:01 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

The Ultimate Fighting Championship hasn’t made its way into New York yet because of nonsense politics, but the promotion will put on a 12-fight card Saturday at The Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The mixed martial arts fans of NYC and NJ are expected to be treated to a dynamite card.

The main event will feature Jim Miller against Nate Diaz in a showdown between top lightweight contenders. According to UFC President Dana White, Diaz will get a title shot if he prevails vs. the winner of Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar’s rematch, while Miller will still be a win or two away from a chance at the 155-pound belt.

Most betting shops have Miller (21-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) installed as a minus-220 favorite, while Diaz is a plus-180 underdog (risk $100 to win $180).

This is a five-round fight. Several offshore books such as 5Dimes have a proposition wager for the fight to go the distance (minus-195) or not (+160, risk $100 to win $160).

The only losses of Miller’s career have come against the current lightweight champ (Henderson), the former 155-pound kingpin (Edgar) and the former No. 1 contender (Gray Maynard). Miller’s never been finished with all three defeats coming by unanimous decision.

The 28-year-old New Jersey native looked outstanding in his last bout, earning Submission of the Night honors with his first-round rear naked choke of Melvin Guillard. Miller’s seven-fight winning streak was snapped by Henderson last August.

Diaz (15-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) has been extremely impressive since dropping back down to the lightweight division, winning back-to-back fights over Takanori Gomi and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. Diaz displayed brilliant boxing against Gomi and won Submission of the Night with his armbar finish late in the first round.

Next, Diaz handed Cerrone his first loss in the Octagon and halted his six-fight winning streak. The native of Stockton, California, gave Cerrone a boxing lesson and prevailed by unanimous decision.

Diaz fights rarely disappoint, as he’s bagged five Fight of the Night bonuses and three Submission of the Night honors. Diaz won Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter.

Jason Floyd, the host of ‘In the Cage’ on 620 WDAE The Sports Animal in Tampa, is bullish on the underdog. Floyd (twitter handle: @jason_floyd) told BrianEdwardsSports.com, “Jim Miller likes to get the fight to the ground and Diaz has shown some issues in the past with wrestlers. Nate Diaz had his most impressive performance in the UFC this past December and his striking game could cause problems for Miller. I like Nate to win this fight, but he needs to stay away from the wrestling game with his opponent.”

In the co-main event, a pair of welterweight contenders will collide as Josh Koscheck meets Johny Hendricks in a pick ‘em affair (minus-115 either way). Hendricks (12-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) has won three in a row since suffering his only career loss to Rick Story at TUF 12 Finale in Dec. of 2010. He has garnered KO of the Night honors twice, including his 12-second romp through Jon Fitch at UFC 141.

Koscheck (17-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) bounced back from his title-fight loss to Georges St. Pierre by beating Matt Hughes with a first-round KO at UFC 135. He wasn’t as impressive his last time out, needing to go the distance to win a split decision over Mike Pierce.

The winner will remain in the 170-pound title picture. I think it’ll be Koscheck with his hand raised and he’s my favorite pick on this card. When I appeared on Floyd’s show earlier this week, he agreed that Koscheck was the play in this matchup.

Rousimar Palhares and Alan ‘The Talent’ Belcher will collide in a middleweight bout between a pair of fighters on a roll with three-fight winning streaks. Most books are listing Palhares as a minus-290 ‘chalk’ with Belcher available as a plus-230 ‘dog.

Palhares (14-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) has been on both recent cards in his native Brazil and he earned Submission of the Night honors with his first-round finish of Mike Massenzio by heel hook at UFC 142. One of Palhares’s monikers is ‘Mr. Heel Hook’ and he’s used that move in three of his seven UFC victories.

Belcher (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC) has only one loss in the last four years and that came by split decision against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100. He has recent wins over the likes of Jason MacDonald, Patrick Cote and Wilson Gouveia.

In the heavyweight division, Pat ‘HD’ Barry (7-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) and Lavar Johnson will square off in what will almost certainly be a stand-up war with fireworks galore. Barry is a minus-200 ‘chalk,’ while Johnson is a plus-170 underdog (risk $100 to win $170).

Barry’s fights are must-see TV. He didn’t disappoint at UFC on FX 1, escaping from a dangerous position on the ground to KO Christian Morecraft late in Round 1. He also had a dynamic finish of Antoni Hardonk that earned Fight of the Night and KO of the Night honors at UFC 104.

By the same token, Barry has demonstrated a propensity for letting fights get away. He was dominating Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 115 before gassing out in the third round and getting submitted with 30 seconds remaining. Also, Barry had Cheick Kongo in big trouble after connecting with a series of powerful strikes before Kongo landed a desperation uppercut that put Barry to sleep.

With this in mind, I have to recommend a play on Johnson, who is 16-5 overall and 1-0 in the Octagon. Johnson’s UFC debut was nothing short of sensational, as he earned KO of the Night honors with his first-round KO of Joey Beltran, who had never been KO’d in 20 career MMA fights.

As far as props are concerned, there’s a chance to collect nice payouts on Barry and/or Johnson to win by first-round finish. Gamblers can bring home a plus-450 return by backing Johnson to win in Round 1, while Barry offers a plus-250 payout. Even if you went with both fighters in this fashion, you’ll have a nice profit if it ends in the first round like I expect.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Roy Nelson has a new opponent for the third time for his UFC 146 appearance. ‘Big Country’ was initially going to face Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva before Silva was moved up to face Cain Velasquez. Next, Nelson was slotted to square off against Garbriel Gonzaga before the Brazilian had to pull out due to an injury. Now Nelson will take on Dave Herman. As of Thursday, there still weren’t any odds posted for this heavyweight clash.

–Sportsbook.com is currently (as of 5/3) listing Henderson as a minus-125 favorite vs. Edgar (-105). However, 5Dimes has Henderson as an expensive minus-170 ‘chalk’ with Edgar listed as the plus-130 ‘dog. This is expected to be the main event at UFC 150 on August 11 at Pepsi Center in Denver.

–UFC on FX 4 is coming together quickly. This card will be in Atlantic City as the promotion returns to AC for the first time since UFC 53 in 2005. Gray Maynard and Clay Guida will meet in the main event. Most spots have Maynard tabbed as a minus-370 favorite, while Guida is plus-280 on the comeback.

–Rampage Jackson is not happy with the UFC.

–Dana White has hinted this week that a huge event is coming in January of 2013 and there’s a possibility it could be at Cowboys Stadium. We shall see…

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