The UFC returns to ‘big’ FOX tomorrow night for the third of it’s series of live events on the network, and we’ve got our preview and predictions for all the fights below.

Main Card:

Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller

The main event will be a five-rounder and it’s certainly a match-up that could benefit from that as on paper this looks like being a close and competitive scrap between two of the division’s best fighters.

Of the two Diaz is certainly the better striker. Like his brother he works well from outside his opponent’s range and he’ll enjoy a 5 inch reach and 4 inch advantage here. He’s also got the same volume-punching style as Nick and in recent fights he’s not only become more fluid with it, but also now packs in some genuine power too.

Miller is solid rather than spectacular on the feet and lacks the power to trouble Diaz so while he’s very durable I suspect he’ll be looking to go to ground in this fight sooner rather than later. He’s well equipped to do that with very good wrestling, a particularly stifling top game and a range of submissions at his disposal.

He’ll need to be wary though because Diaz is also a tried and tested force from his back, staying active with strikes and constantly hunting for submissions. In fact Diaz has just earned his BJJ black belt from Cesar Gracie, an honor that was perhaps overdue. Diaz’s wrestling isn’t the best though, so he probably will have to make use of those skills in this fight.

Cardio will certainly be a factor if this goes five rounds, and while I don’t see either man having a major difficulty with that given that they are both in very good shape, Miller is used to pushing a fast pace and grinding down opponents and I think he could have more energy reserves in the latter stages of the contest.

Prediction:

This is a tough one to call. If this stays standing then it’s going to play into Diaz hands, and if he get’s put on his back he’s still got a genuine chance to produce a finish by submission. On the other hand, Miller has never been a finisher and he’s going to have to go five full rounds to earn a victory here. Miller has the tenacity to keep driving forward though and I think he will be able to get Diaz down and grind him down over 25 minutes to get his hand raised.

Jim Miller to win by decision.

Johny Hendricks vs. Josh Koscheck

For Hendricks this is not only his most high-profile fight to date in the co-main event slot on FOX, but also a potential final hurdle before title contention, while for Koscheck it’s all about proving he’s still a major force to be reckoned with at 170lbs.

In all honesty both fighters have a pretty similar skill-set, delivering a striking threat on top of an excellent wrestling base. Both like to throw fight-ending overhand right attempts, and have been successful in that regard, but of the two I’d give Hendricks the edge in terms of overall power on the feet.

That’ll be a concern for Koscheck who’s defense isn’t the best. However, he has at times shown a little more diversity in his striking arsenal, though lately he’s fallen back on that overhand and little else to his detriment. The indications from his camp are that he has been working on his stand-up, so it’ll be interesting to see what he brings to the Octagon tomorrow night.

Both men are very adept wrestlers which means we could be looking at a stalemate here if that’s how the choose to engage. Koscheck’s a great athlete and very quick with his takedown attempts and is very tricky to take down himself, while Hendricks is powerful, agile and works well in close from the clinch which may be somthing he’ll look to experiment with in the fight.

I don’t see many submission attempts happening here – ground and pound is more likely to be the weapon of choice on the mat, and if either is given the opportunity to do so they can certainly capitalize on it.

Prediction:

Another very close fight, but while Koscheck has the experience edge in his favor he’s not looked all that great in his recent outings. Hendricks on the other hand is on the up, and if this fight does prove to be largely stand-up based as I think it might then I think he’s going to have an advantage and catch Kosheck with something big before the 15 minutes is up.

Johny Hendricks to win by TKO in Rd2.

Alan Belcher vs. Rousimar Palhares

Belcher and Palhares are two fighters who could be potential title contenders at 185lbs some time down the line so not only is this an interesting match-up, it’s also a very relevant one too.

Striking wise Belcher is the technician of the two here. He’s a slick stand-up fighter who pieces his combinations of punches and kicks together very nicely indeed. He’s not a devastating one-punch hitter, but opponents can and have wilted under a continued barrage of blows. Meanwhile Palhares is aggressive and powerful, but while he can hang on the feet it’s not his forte.

What Palhares is far better known for is his devastating submission game, becoming something a limb-collector in the UFC with his nasty selection of leg locks. The fact that even when striking with him his opponents can suddenly find themselves dragged to the ground with a leg in jeopardy makes him very dangerous, and he’s immensely strong so escaping from those attempts is exceptionally difficult.

That’s the threat that Belcher will have to be wary of all night long, but let’s not forget he is skilled on the ground too, particularly offensively with submissions of his own, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that the fight is over if it hits the mat. He’d be wise to try to avoid doing so if he possibly can though.

Both these fighters are proven finishers, so it’d be somewhat of a surprise if they go the full three rounds, so cardio might not be a huge issue here.

Prediction:

There’s certainly a case to be made for Belcher to outmaneuver, outstrike and outsmart his opponent in this fight, but the stronger argument is that Palhares will yet again have his way with an opponent on the mat, and that’s what I’m predicting will happen here, strengthening his case for a title shot.

Rousimar Palhares to win by submission in Rd2.

Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson

The UFC will be hoping to open the main card on FOX with a bang as these two heavyweight strikers go at it in the Octagon.

Both fighter’s are no great shakes on the ground and have a weakness to being submitted so we can be fairly certain that this is going to be pretty much entirely a striking showdown.

Barry is a kickboxer with a particular penchant for heavy leg kicks, though he has the potential to knock out opponents with both his fists or his feet. He also moves around the Octagon well, but if there’s a criticism of him it’s that at times he can be a little over-cautious and he doesn’t engage as frequently as he should.

Johnson is less technical and more of a boxer, but he has serious stopping power with 14 of his 16 wins coming by some form of knockout. He’s also going to enjoy some major physical advantages here, including 6.5 inches in reach and 5 inches in height, though that’s nothing new to Barry.

Prediction:

You’d have to imagine someone’s going to get finished here, but who will it be? I cast my mind back to Barry’s fight with Cheick Kongo – a man of similar stature to Johnson and a more dangerous striker. Barry was winning that fight until he got careless, and I think he’ll have learnt his lesson and be more measured this time out, chopping him down with leg kicks before laying down some fight-ending hands.

Pat Barry to win by TKO in Rd2.

Prelims:

Tony Ferguson vs. Michael Johnson

John Dodson vs. Darren Uyenoyama

Danny Castillo vs. John Cholish

John Hathaway vs. Pascal Krauss

Karlos Vemola vs. Mike Massenzio

Dennis Bermudez Vs Pablo Garza

Louis Gaudinot vs. John Lineker

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