By Steve Davies – mmabay.co.uk
Miller follows instinct, chokes out Guillard early to enter title contention
Lightweight contender Jim Miller came close to a title shot late in 2011 only to be pipped to the post by Ben Henderson but the gritty New Jersey native might well have reached the finish line this time. The hard-working Miller faced fellow top contender, Melvin Guillard, in the main event in Nashville and took care of business in less than three minutes – pity he doesn’t remember much of it.
Guillard was bombing from the first bell, throwing big knees and dropping the grappler to his backside with a left hook that sent Miller into survival mode. Miller scrambled up and kept the pressure on, taking ‘The Young Assassin’ down and pouncing to take his back in a standing position. Game over.
Miller quickly sunk in the rear-naked choke and dragged Guillard to the deck, forcing the tap at 2:04 of round one. A dejected Guillard sat alone in the centre of the cage as Miller celebrated what could prove to be the biggest win of his career.
Next for Miller: With the lightweight division overflowing with potential title contenders, it would be very surprising to see Miller get a title shot ahead of some of the other names doing the rounds. Now 21-3, the grappling powerhouse is clearly on the shortlist but he should need to get through either Nate Diaz or the winner of the UFC 144 bout between Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon to get the nod.
Next for Guillard: What a difference two losses can make. ‘The Young Assassin’ – now training full-time with the ‘Blackzilians’ camp – still lacks the ground game to make it to the very top and falls a few rungs down the ladder following last night’s debaucle. No longer at Greg Jackson’s camp, Guillard could now face former team-mate Donald Cerrone or veteran kickboxer Sam Stout in the coming months as he starts the long climb to the top once again.
Neer dusts off the ground game, sends Ludwig to sleep in first round
A truly old-school meeting between two welterweights who cut their teeth with the UFC acted as the co-main event and Iowa’s Josh ‘The Dentist’ Neer proved to be the craftier veteran in Nashville as he choked Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig unconscious.
Neer came out on the front-foot but he was being lit up at will by the slick Ludwig, who put some nice combos together to rattle Neer’s brain and buckle his knees at one point. His face already bruised up, ‘The Dentist’ reverted to his back-up plan and bundled Ludwig to the ground – ‘Bang’ scrambled, but left his neck wide open and Neer didn’t need asking twice.
The Pat Miletich student dropped for a sickeningly tight guillotine choke, torquing the hold so tightly that Ludwig actually passed out mid-tap – forcing Neer to tell the referee that ‘Bang’ was out, ending the fight at 3:04 of an entertaining first round.
Next for Neer: ‘The Dentist’ has gone 2-0 since his recall to the big leagues late last year and the wily veteran remains a tough out for anyone at 170lbs. Neer’s wealth of experience should mean he gets handed a big test next time out, possibly in the form of grappling maestro Mike Pyle or in-form Seth Baczynski.
Next for Ludwig: ‘Bang’ sees a two-fight streak broken in devastating fashion and again is let down by his naivety on the mat. The muay thai stylist won’t be given a tune-up fight, instead we’ll see Ludwig throw leather with returning veteran Mike Swick or perhaps even Brazilian prospect Erick Silva later in the year.
Easton and Papazian bring the noise, Easton edges out the newcomer by decision
A sizzling bantamweight affair on the main card saw Alliance MMA standout Mike ‘The Hulk’ Easton go toe-to-toe with Armenian-American newcomer, Jared Papazian, in a brawl to remember. The Nashville crowd loved every minute of the action as the two pocket-sized dynamos partook in what resembled a hockey fight at times – brawling intensely for fifteen minutes.
Easton’s superior speed and technique served him well in rounds one and two as he never stopped coming forward and crashing home legkicks, Papazian slugging right back at him and doing himself proud. ‘The Jackhammer’ even won the final round, taking advantage of a tiring Easton but it wasn’t enough – Easton got the nod from two judges, the third calling it a draw, handing ‘The Hulk’ the majority decision victory.
Next for Easton: The Maryland native looked good again last night, moving to 2-0 in the UFC and 12-1 overall. Easton is ready for a serious challenge to see where he stands among the bigger names of the division but with most of the main players booked up at the moment, expect to see ‘The Hulk’ try to put the hurt on fellow striker Yves Jabouin.
Next for Papazian: Rumour has it that ‘The Jackhammer’ was always intending to cut to the newly-formed flyweight division and simply wanted to get a foot in the door – safe to say, Papazian has made an impression and it’ll be intriguing to see how this talented prospect does at 125lbs.
New and improved ‘HD’ lays it on Morecraft, starches the big man in first round
Under-pressure heavyweight Pat ‘HD’ Barry was fighting for his job last night and the crowd-pleasing kickboxer responded impressively, showing marked improvements in his all-round game to survive some hairy moments before punishing Christian Morecraft in what was awarded ‘Fight of the Night’ honours.
Morecraft, eight inches taller and much heavier than Barry, rushed the smaller man and had him mounted in less than 40-seconds but Barry kept his cool and returned to his feet only to be taken down again and put in another desperate situation. Morecraft, showing surprising flexibility for a big man, rolled into a nice armbar but Barry shocked us by escaping the hold impeccably and once again enticing the bigger man to trade shots.
Barry flicked off a clean left hook to the jaw that sent Morecraft flopping to his back and ‘HD’ did not show mercy – diving onto the big man with right hooks that left him out cold, 3:38 into the first round. Morecraft lay stricken for quite some time as Barry straddled the cage and suggested that he might be taking this MMA lark seriously, after all.
Next for Barry: ‘HD’s training with the massive wrestlers at Death Clutch seems to be paying off, as Barry looked visibly more composed and confident off his back last night. The prospect’s knockout power was again on show and his personal highlight-reel is growing – don’t throw ‘HD’ to the wolves just yet, let him at the winner of next month’s tilt between Stipe Miocic and Phil De Fries.
Next for Morecraft: The promising youngster falls to 7-3 and 1-3 inside the Octagon – with all three of his losses being brutal stoppages. Morecraft needs to be released to hone his game, but a recall in the future is definitely possible.
Preliminary Card round-up
All six preliminary card fights were broadcast on FUEL TV in a slick new package to mark the FOX deal and the show was topped-off in style by seasoned middleweight veteran Jorge Rivera who announced that, win or lose, his fight with Eric Schafer would be the last of his career. ‘El Conquistador’ did not start well, spending much of round one underneath ‘Red’ who worked his BJJ well and dominated the striker to take the first frame. But in round two, a bloodied Schafer simply folded – failing with a takedown attempt and winding up on the deck against the cage as Rivera pummeled away to a stoppage at 1:31 of the second round. The entire arena sang Jorge’s name as he strolled around the cage showing his gratitude, giving an emotional farewell speech after the fight – another veteran hangs ‘em up for good.
Next for Rivera: Before he embarassed himself with his little video-making efforts last year, this writer used to root for Rivera in a big way. It was good to see the veteran get such a hearty send-off from the fans in Nashville and we’ll always remember ‘El Conquistador’ as being a born fighter. Good luck in the future, Jorge.
Next for Schafer: ‘Red’ had that fight won, but simply collapsed in the second round and the experienced grappler might have seen the last of the big stage also. Schafer is 0-2 in his latest run with the promotion and after an unspirited showing like that, he won’t get a third chance.
Ladies and gentleman, we truly do have a new player at 155lbs and his name is unpronouncable, well almost. Chechnyan lightweight sensation Khabib Nurmagomedov made his UFC debut on the undercard against elite wrestler Kamal Shalorus and to say the newcomer was impressive is an understatement. Nurmagomedov, a decorated sambo and BJJ practitioner, completely owned Shalorus – winning the striking exchanges with his admittedly awkward and wild swinging and bossing the usually immovable wrestler on the mat. In the final round, the debutant mounted an exhausted Shalorus and sunk in the rear-naked choke from an awkward angle, getting the tap at 2:08 of the final round. Welcome to the big leagues, my son.
Next for Nurmagomedov: The 17-0 lightweight seems to be a legitimate addition to the division and, now training in the USA, Nurmagomedov has the tools and raw aggression to make some serious waves – few have handled Shalorus that decisively. Let’s see how the Chechnyan responds to a bump in competition – give him surging wrestler Jacob Volkmann for a real grappling war.
Next for Shalorus: The 39-year old falls to 0-2 in the UFC and has looked below-par in all fairness – add to this the veteran’s patchy injury record and we’ll probably see ‘The Prince of Persia’ trimmed from the roster in the coming weeks.
A stop-start welterweight battle saw decorated NCAA wrestler Charlie Brenneman bounce back from defeat by out-working submission specialist Daniel Roberts over three close rounds. ‘The Spaniard’ spent much of the fight working from the top and caught ‘Ninja’ in a crucifix on several occasions but did little with the position. The wrestler had to dig deep as the final seconds wound down with Roberts cranking a kimura off his back but Brenneman did enough to warrant the unanimous decision.
Next for Brenneman: ‘The Spaniard’ climbs to 15-3 and remains a solid contender at 170lbs but he’ll struggle to get a televised fight with a lack of urgency and will probably be back on the prelims later in the year against a top grappler such as Dong Hyun Kim.
Next for Roberts: The Cesar Gracie fighter falls to 3-4 in the UFC but Roberts is a good fighter, make no mistake. ‘Ninja’ should get a final shot as there are many lower-level welterweights he is capable of clowning – expect to see him get a last shot against Mike Stumpf.
Another impressive finish on the undercard was delivered by Brazilian returnee Fabricio Camoes who came from behind to take care of UFC newcomer Tommy Hayden in Nashville. Hayden gamely traded with ‘Morango’ and held his own on the mat but a slight opening proved his downfall as Camoes took his back in the scramble and sunk in the rear-naked choke from the bottom. Hayden flailed and seemed to tap a couple of times, eventually stiffening up at 4:03 and calling it a day.
Next for Camoes: The BJJ powerhouse makes a successful return to the big stage and Camoes will be quick to return to action you’d think, perhaps facing the winner of next weekend’s scrap between wrestlers Shane Roller and Michael Johnson.
Next for Hayden: The Jorge Gurgel student took this fight on short notice and usually fights at 145lbs, so expect to see Hayden get a chance to impress at his natural weight-class. A bout with recent TUF runner-up Dennis Bermudez would make sense.
Featherweight newcomers Daniel Pineda and Pat Schilling put on a show, but it was a one-sided beatdown of a show and Pineda was the one swinging the hammer. ‘The Pit’ absolutely mauled the 5-0 prospect, taking him down hard and roughing him up from mount before sinking in a standing rear-naked choke and dragging Schilling to the mat where he tapped out just 1:37 into the fight.
Next for Pineda: The experienced all-rounder looked sensational last night but we need to see how Pineda fairs against a more seasoned foe – give him Team Alpha Male wrestler Bryan Caraway to gauge his ceiling.
Next for Schilling: ‘Thrilling’ falls to 5-1 and that was a humbling reality check for the Minnesota native. If Schilling get a second chance, expect it to come against a less experienced foe such as Josh Clopton.
The first fight of the night lasted all of 22-seconds, as bantamweight newcomer Nick Denis came out blazing and mopped the floor with Joseph Sandoval. ‘The Ninja of Love’ was lighting up Sandoval with one-twos from the first bell, then clinched and delivered a series of vicious elbow strikes to the dome that dropped Sandoval to his back and ended the fight spectacularly.
Next for Denis: The Canadian picked up ‘Knockout of the Night’ bonuses for that stunning finish and at 11-2, seems to be a solid addition to the 135lb bracket. Expect to see more of Denis in the near future, perhaps facing Jeff Hougland in the coming months.
Next for Sandoval: The Texan falls to 6-2 and 0-2 in the UFC, suffering two early knockouts to boot. The rookie needs to go back to basics and hone his skills against a lower level of fighter.
That’s a wrap folks as another great night of action is in the bag. Next weekend sees ‘UFC on FOX 2? hit our screens and that looks set to be another guaranteed belter of a fight card. Stay tuned to MMABay in the coming days for more on that fight card as we get it.
By Steve Davies