As MMA fans are still discussing the fireworks of last Saturdays event in Rio, the Zuffa train keeps on rolling. Business as usual for Dana & Co as the UFC puts on its inaugural UFC on FX event this Saturday. The event takes place in Nashville, Tennessee and is headlined by a lightweight clash between Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller, with both men look to get back on track following losses. In the stacked 155lb division, two losses in a row push you way back down the title shot ladder so there is a lot at stake for both fighters, who prior to their losses were looking like potential contenders for a title shot.
The card isn’t exactly stacked with marquee names, but – with the UFC putting on so many events now – even the most demanding UFC fan can understand why it just isn’t possible to fill every card with the biggest stars. Nevertheless the rest of the main card should see some nice battles and also the debut of former King of the Cage champion Jared Papazian at bantamweight, who squares off against Mike Easton.
So in a shorter than normal preview post, I will break down the main card as I see it. Let’s get it on!
Christian Morecraft 7-2-0 vs. Pat Barry 6-4-0 – Heavyweight
Despite a less-than-stellar 3-4 record in the UFC, Pat Barry remains a crowd favourite due to his go for broke style. The stocky heavyweight is one of the shorter men competing in the division and often finds himself dealing with a pretty significant height and reach disadvantage. He is a banger, with big power in his hands and heavy leg-kicks. He desperately needs a win in this one or it’s 3 L’s in a row and with a new influx of Heavyweights due from Strikeforce anytime soon, he may find himself cut if he can’t pull out a win here.
Morecraft also has a losing record in the UFC, going 1-2 with a guillotine win over Sean McCorkle sandwiched between KO losses to Mitrione and Struve. Unsurprisingly he will tower over Barry by 7 inches and will have a 5 inch reach advantage. Whilst Morecraft is unlikely to be able to match Barry on the feet, he will fancy his chances on the ground, especially as Barry is proven to be susceptible to submissions.
Barry is more than happy to stand in the pocket and trade, and that is a war Morecraft needs to avoid at all costs. His big problem is going to be how to close on Barry without getting his legs kicked to pieces. I don’t think Morecraft’s wrestling is good enough to able to get Barry on the ground safely and without sustaining too much damage and I can see him getting lit up on the feet. My pick is for Barry to get a stay of execution for now in the UFC with a KO win on Friday night. With the Heavyweight roster growing all the time though, it might be an idea for Barry to look to lose some of his bulk and consider whether he can make 205 – or even 185 – safely if he wants to stay with the promotion. Barry TKO rd 2
Jared Papazian 14-6-0 vs. Mike Easton 11-1-0 – Bantamweight
Papazian takes his UFC bow on very short notice following an injury to Eastons original opponent, Ken Stone. Two weeks to prepare for your UFC debut is a big ask for anyone and the former KOTC Bantamweight Champ has it all to do in this match. Easton, A BJJ and Taekwondo blackbelt, is on a 6 fight tear and can finish a fight standing or by submission. HE went five hard rounds with Chase Beebe in defending his UWC belt back in 2009 and then waited two years between fights before making an impressive UFC debut against Byron Bloodworth. Easton also holds a win over recent TUF winner John Dodson.
Papazian has a Muay Thai background and Easton will be more than happy to indulge him in the stand-up phase of the fight. However it is on the ground that Easton should be able to assert himself and with four of Papazians 6 losses coming by way of submission, you have to favour the blackbelt skills of Easton to come up trumps. After some back and forth battles on the feet, Easton should eventually look to take this to the mat and with a bit of GnP to soften his tiring opponent up, he will latch hold of something and take the submission late-on. Easton submission rd 3
Duane Ludwig 21-11-0 vs. Josh Neer 32-10-1 – Welterweight
The elite muay-thai of Duane Ludwig will grace the octagon once again as he faces off against fellow veteran Josh Neer. After back-to-back losses at Lightweight culminating in a pretty horrific ankle injury against Darren Elkins, Ludwig is back at 170lbs and has posted two decision wins against Osipczak and Sadollah.
Neer is on a 5 fight win streak, with only one loss in 8 since being cut from the UFC for the second time back in 2009. 5 years Ludwigs junior, he has had 43 fights in just shy of 9 years and that is a pretty impressive work-rate. He is happy to trade wherever the fight goes and the styles of these two men should make this a fan-friendly matchup.
The onus will be on Neer to close the distance on Ludwig and move the fight out of ‘Bangs’ favoured range into a clinch phase where he can set up takedowns and employ some dirty boxing. Taking it to the mat has to be the best strategy against a fighter like Ludwig, who although pretty light on skills in the grappling department is wily enough to lure his opponents into fighting his fight on the feet. A disciplined approach from Neer and a solid game plan should see him navigate the stand-up phase relatively unscathed and he should be able to pound Ludwig out here. Neer TKO rd 2
Melvin Guillard 29-9-2 (1 NC) vs. Jim Miller 20-3-0 – Lightweight
With both men looking to get back on track and into title contention, there is a lot at stake for the fighters involved in the main event on Friday night. Guillard has moved camp for this fight and now trains out of Blackzillians with Rashad Evans and Rumble Johnson as his team mates. The massive improvements he made as a Greg Jackson protégé have given him the platform to be a legit contender in the stacked division but he can lack discipline and that cost him dear against Lauzon last time out. Not to detract from Lauzons performance but an on-point Guillard should have ploughed through him. I genuinely believe that Guillard got cocky and paid for his negligence. He cannot afford to fight like that against Miller.
Miller is a BJJ blackbelt who tore through the 155lbs division but was overlooked for a title shot and then hit a wall when he fought Ben Henderson. He has a devastating array of high percentage submissions and his kneebar against Charles Oliveria was a thing of beauty. He has never been stopped in 23 fights, but in Guillard he fights potentially one of the most physically gifted lightweights out there right now. His three losses have come to guys with great wrestling and Guillard, has that, as well as some serious explosive power in his hands. Guillard cannot match Miller in the submissions department, but his athleticism may just be enough to see him survive any scares and he needs to employ his wrestling effectively to avoid getting dragged to the mat.
Miller will have seen the Lauzon fight and will look to press forward and not let Guillard dictate the pace in this match. Guillard needs to avoid being on the mat at all costs. Submission losses in 8 of his 9 career defeats show that Miller is exactly the sort of fighter who can ruin his night. If gets frustrated and starts head-hunting, Miller is savvy enough to capitalise on that and impose his will by dragging him to the mat and tying him up like a pretzel. If Guillard stays focussed, uses his wrestling to stay stood up and employs his speed and power on the feet effectively, it is his fight to lose. I’m betting on sensible Melvin turning up and whilst I’m sure he’d love to finish. I think we will see a bit of game-planning here where he racks up the points on the feet, avoids the ground and takes a comfortable decision win, only Millers toughness will see him through to the final bell. Guillard decision
*********************** Updated with results **************************
Pat Barry vs Christian Morecraft – My Pick:Barry TKO rd 2 Actual: Barry KO rd 1
Jared Papazian vs Mike Easton – My Pick:Easton Sub rd 3 Actual: Easton Decision
Duane Ludwig vs Josh Neer – My Pick:Neer TKO rd2 Actual: Neer Submission rd 1
Melvin Guillard vs Jim Miller – My Pick: Actual: Miller Submission rd 1