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UFC on Fox 3: Looking at the card up next

Lightweight title eliminator headlines New Jersey event in two weeks

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Sam Morris

Nate Diaz flexes before his fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Diaz won the three-round bout by unanimous decision.

Through four fights aired on Fox, the UFC has yet to strike gold with a bout that captivated the casual viewing masses.

The heavyweight championship fight the UFC chose to introduce its network television contract with barely lasted a minute. The three contests at January’s UFC on Fox 2 proved plodding, all ending with a decision.

“So the first fight went too quick and the second one went too long?” White asked mockingly at a press conference earlier this year. “There’s nothing I can say when people say one knockout went too quick and the other went too long.”

White can’t do anything to ensure the perfect event, but the UFC can book fights with specific stylistic matchups to give cards a higher probability of delivering excitement.

That’s what the Las Vegas-based promotion has done with UFC on Fox 3, scheduled for May 5 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Four fights that feature some of the UFC’s most electrifying finishers fill the main card.

A good example of what to expect comes in the main event, where Jim Miller (21-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and Nate Diaz (15-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) meet with a lightweight title shot on the line. Miller and Diaz have combined to stop 60 percent of their opponents and have won 13 end-of-the-night bonuses in the UFC.

“Nate and I match up very well together,” Miller said. “It should be an exciting fight. I’m pretty amped up already.”

Both Miller and Diaz are black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Miller has gone 8-1 in the last three years while Diaz has bounced back from a failed experiment at welterweight to win two in a row at 155 pounds.

The outspoken Diaz feels Miller is a perfect matchup.

“Sometimes you get those guys who sit there and hold on or guys who run and get away with it for five rounds or three rounds, whatever,” Diaz said. “It will be great to have someone who wants to come in and fight.”

Judges may not be necessary in two other main card bouts. Middleweights Rousimar Palhares (14-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Alan Belcher (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC) have rarely gotten to the scorecards throughout their careers.

Pat Barry (7-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) has joked that he and fellow heavyweight knockout artist Lavar Johnson (16-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) are “allergic” to any round outside of the first.

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Johny Hendricks reacts after knocking out Jon Fitch in the first round of their fight at UFC 141 Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

In the co-main event, the UFC has put together a bout with some hostility. Two-time welterweight top contender Josh Koscheck (19-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) meets Johny Hendricks (12-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) in what oddsmakers see as a pick ’em fight.

Hendricks knocked out one of Koscheck’s best friends, Jon Fitch, in 12 seconds at UFC 141.

“The fight didn’t last very long, so I really couldn’t judge how good he is,” Koscheck said. “I watched the fight, and it looked like he threw a lucky punch with his eyes closed and it landed.”

Here's a look at the fights slated for the UFC on Fox 3 preliminary card.

Lightweight Bout: Tony Ferguson (13-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC) vs. Michael Johnson (10-6 MMA, 2-2 UFC) With a potential fourth straight win in the UFC, “TUF” 13 champion Ferguson could be in line for a major step-up in competition.

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Bantamweight fighter John Dodson celebrates after defeating T.J. Dillashaw during the TUF 14 Finale at the Palms December 3, 2011.

Flyweight Bout: John Dodson (12-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Tim Elliot (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Depth is still developing in the 125-pound division, so a win could put “TUF” 14 champion Dodson in line for a title shot.

Welterweight Bout: John Hathaway (15-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) vs. Pascal Krauss (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) Injuries have kept these fighters out for prolonged periods of time, as Hathaway hasn’t fought in 14 months and Kraus last appeared in the octagon 18 months ago.

Flyweight Bout: Louis Gaudinot (5-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. John Lineker (19-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) Lineker comes over to the UFC from Brazil’s Jungle Fights, where he won the promotion’s bantamweight championship.

Lightweight Bout: Danny Castillo (12-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. John Cholish (8-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) Cholish is a bright prospect who doubles as a Wall Street commodities broker, but he’ll be at a serious experience disadvantage against WEC veteran Castillo.

Featherweight Bout: Dennis Bermudez (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Pablo Garza (11-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) Bermudez is a standout wrestler, but all of his defeats have come by submission, which is Garza’s strength.

Bantamweight Bout: Roland Delorme (7-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Nick Denis (11-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) Both burst onto the UFC scene with memorable wins in their debut, as Delorme submitted Josh Ferguson at the “TUF” 14 finale and Denis knocked out Joseph Sandoval with elbows at UFC on FX 1.

Middleweight Bout: Mike Massenzio (13-6 MMA, 2-4 UFC) vs. Karlos Vemola (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) These two wrestlers will look to keep their jobs with a victory.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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