Another day, another fledgling network with a quirky name that’s supposed to catch the eye of the coveted 18-34 male demographic. FX! Get it? Like “effects”, but spelled in a totally badass way. FX! And no, the two members of 90’s rap duo Das EFX don’t really mind, thanks for asking. It’s not the first time they’ve had their style biggedy-bitten.
Fortunately, besides a different watermark in the corner of your screen, it’s the same old UFC-on-basic-cable event we’ve grown accustomed to over the years: some quality fights between athletes that we “serious” fans (wink, wink) are pretty pumped to see but that won’t necessarily inspire your usual PPV-watching group to scurry to your house to watch, nachos and beer in hand. As usual, I’m here to prepare you for another entertaining night of controlled violence with my UFC on FX 1 picks.
Pat Barry vs. Christian Morecraft
Both of these men are on the chopping block, with Barry sporting a 3-4 UFC record and Morecraft at 1-2. Or are they? Lorenzo Fertitta likes guys “that WAR!!!“, after all, and Barry has had six of his seven fights end conclusively without any need for the judges. Of course, with four losses by KO, TKO or submission in the Octagon, it may be time for Barry to stop worrying about entertaining the fans and start worrying about getting on the winning end of the ledger. I like Barry, and I’d hate to see him go because he fell for that whole “if you fight hard and entertain the fans, you’ll have a job here forever” schtick.
Barry will need to be focused against Morecraft, who’s a real “meat and potatoes” kind of guy. He’s not going to match flashy techniques with Barry, and will instead look to grasp at whatever he can on Barry and sort of awkwardly fall to the mat with him. From there, Barry will be in trouble as he doesn’t have the best submission defense and Morecraft is a stifling, frustrating fighter to have on top of you.
What I’m thinking will happen, however, is that Barry will use his footwork to keep his back off the cage and pepper Morecraft with leg kicks until the bigger man is no longer a real threat to stalk him and drag him down to the mat. Barry’s cardio is suspect itself, but if he can be the hammer and not the nail throughout the bout he can outlast Morecraft in that respect. Call me crazy, but I’m a believer here.
Prediction: Barry by KO/TKO
Mike Easton vs. Jared Papazian
Papazian takes the place of Ken Stone (no, not Keith Stone), Easton’s original opponent. Papazian is making his UFC debut three and a half years into his MMA career, which has most recently seen him achieve success in King of the Cage while winning eight of his last nine fights. Meanwhile, Easton is a training partner of Dominick Cruz’s and recently defeated Byron Bloodworth (who is not a rich socialite vampire, despite his name) in his UFC debut.
Of the two, Papazian has a greater preference of where the fight takes place, as he likes to conduct his business standing. His takedown defense isn’t top-notch, but he’s a good grappler when the fight hits the mat and can sweep opponents who aren’t careful with their positioning and balance.
However, I still think Easton is the better striker by a close margin. What really puts him over the top is precise counter-striking and the kind of power that Papazian seems to lack in his hands. Papazian may look to work leg kicks to maintain some distance and settle into the fight, anyway. He’ll also be ready to go the entire fifteen minutes, as he got some experience in five-round fights as a title-holder in King of the Cage. Still, I think Easton will be better all around and eventually hurt Papazian with punches, leading to a TKO stoppage.
Prediction: Easton by KO/TKO
Duane “Bang” Ludwig vs. Josh Neer
Neer is not only the owner of one of the best nicknames in MMA (“The Dentist”), but is a tough fight for anybody. Since coming back to the UFC after a 6-1 stint in his two years away from the Octagon, he’s gotten off to a good start with a doctor stoppage win over Keith Wisniewski last October. Meanwhile, Bang also has had multiple stints in the UFC and has won two in a row in his current run after dropping his first two fights back under the Zuffa banner.
Both veterans of the sport, it’s pretty easy to know what to expect from each guy. Bang will give you pinpoint counter-striking, a nice mix of techniques, good combinations, and controlled aggression. Neer at times seems to have been a misplaced Diaz brother, always seeming to have a chip on his shoulder and dangerous in all areas of the fight. In fact, he showed off his all-around game well in a split decision loss to Nate Diaz a couple of years back.
Another thing he showed in that fight, as well as a couple of others, is the willingness to go for takedowns when the opportunity presents itself. He isn’t an incredibly strong wrestler, but Bang’s weaknesses in both defensive wrestling and on the mat in general are fairly well-documented. Actually, Bang has improved in both areas but in comparison to his world class striking, those areas will continue to be what smart opponents look to exploit.
If Neer was to stand in front of Bang all night, I’d go with Ludwig all the way. However, I think Neer will do the smart thing before he gets cracked too many times and the threat of the takedown will also make Ludwig’s striking less decisive and efficient, as it did against Jim Miller. Neer will fight a smart all-around fight en route to the win.
Prediction: Neer by submission
Melvin Guillard vs. Jim Miller
This fight will continue the never-ending process of whittling down the expansive pool of talented lightweights on the UFC roster into a manageable number of title contenders. In a perfect world, these two would have already had title shots at some point, but with previous champion BJ Penn’s long periods of inactivity as well as current champ Frankie Edgar’s tendency to get involved with immediate rematches, the contender train hasn’t been chugging along like it should have been in recent years.
There are a lot of moving parts in this matchup, most of which have to do with Guillard. What’s his mindset? Will he remain focused throughout the fight, as he says he will? Has his recent change in training camps become a distraction, and will he be as prepared as he had been when training at Jackson’s MMA?
Here’s what we do know: Guillard is perhaps the quickest and most powerful fighter in the division, has great hands and has developed very good takedown defense. Meanwhile, Miller is more likely to give you a consistent effort. He is good everywhere, as he’s a talented striker, although without a surplus of power, and can grapple with all but the elite of the division.
Central to this fight in my mind is the question, “Can Jim Miller take Melvin Guillard down?” I don’t question whether Miller intends to because I think he will be smart enough to mix takedown attempts into his gameplan even if he is comfortable standing with Guillard. It’s not about fearing Guillard’s standup as much as it is about exploiting his biggest weakness.
I’ve gone back and forth on this one in my head and while I am tempted to say that Guillard has what it takes to stay upright and scramble Miller’s brains at some point, I trust Miller more to not let me down in the cage and think he will be resilient enough to wear out Guillard over time. Miller will be stronger than Guillard later in the fight, and I think he wins a competitive decision here.
Prediction: Miller by decision