Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 | 3:15 p.m.
The matchup between UFC lightweights Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard comes at the perfect time because the two fighters are in the exact same spot in their careers.
Miller (20-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) and Guillard (28-9-2 MMA, 10-5 UFC) were each one victory away from a 155-pound title shot last year, but stumbled when it mattered most.
Ben Henderson upset Miller with a unanimous decision victory at UFC on Versus 6. Joe Lauzon stunned Guillard by catching the "Young Assassin” with a right hand and submitting him in the first round at UFC 136.
One of the two men will fight themselves right back into championship contention Friday night in Nashville, Tenn. The other will take a major step back.
Guillard and Miller meet in the first UFC on FX main event.
“We’re two of the best guys in the division and we’re hungry for wins,” Miller said after making weight Thursday. “We’re going to put on a show.”
Guillard is feared on his feet. He uses his speed to outstrike opponents. Guillard had won five straight before succumbing to Lauzon, which registered as one of the biggest upsets of 2011.
Miller was on a seven-fight winning streak before Henderson battered him in every way. Oddsmakers favor Miller in the bout, as he’s a -180 (risking $1.80 to win $1) favorite. Guillard comes back at a price of +150.
“He’s a top guy, maybe the No. 3 or No. 4 in the division,” Guillard said, “and if I perform like I can, I think it will be hard for people to say I didn’t deserve a UFC title shot.”
Pick: Miller by submission
Check below for a breakdown, betting odds and picks for the other 10 fights on the card, which will start at 3 on FUEL and switch to FX at 6 for the main card.
Welterweight Bout: Duane Ludwig (21-11 MMA, 4-2 UFC) vs. Josh Neer (32-10-1 MMA, 5-6 UFC)
Line: Ludwig -115, Neer -115
Matchup: “Bang” Ludwig has the fastest knockout in UFC history, dating back five years to when he defeated Jonathan Goulet in six seconds. He may have to work to stay on his feet against “The Dentist.” The veteran Neer could look to wrestle.
Pick: Ludwig by decision
Bantamweight Bout: Mike Easton (11-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Jared Papazian (14-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Easton -400, Papazian +300
Matchup: The well-rounded Easton prefers to strike, but holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Papazian, who considers himself a natural flyweight and will likely to move down to the 125-pound division when the UFC fully implements it, has seen five straight fights go to decision.
Pick: Easton by TKO
Heavyweight Bout: Pat Barry (6-4 MMA, 3-4 UFC) vs. Christian Morecraft (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC)
Line: Barry -180, Morecraft +140
Matchup: These two talkative big guys are desperate for a win. Barry, who has lost two straight, is known for his championship-level kickboxing. Morecraft, who lost in a lopsided TKO to Matt Mitrione his last time out, wants to avoid striking with Barry and says he derived his gameplan from WWE’s “WrestleMania”.
Pick: Barry by TKO
Middleweight Bout: Jorge Rivera (19-9 MMA, 7-7 UFC) vs. Eric Schafer (12-6-2 MMA, 3-5 UFC)
Line: Rivera +115, Schafer -145
Matchup: Rivera contemplated retirement following his UFC 133 split-decision loss to Constantinos Philippou, but ultimately decided to keep fighting. The 39-year-old Rivera seems to have lost some of his foot speed in recent fights, which is a criticism that also could apply to the 34-year old Schafer after his unanimous decision loss to Aaron Simpson at UFC 136.
Pick: Rivera by decision
Lightweight Bout: Kamal Shalorus (7-1-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Habib Nurmagomedov (16-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Shalorus -130, Nurmagomedov Even
Matchup: Shalorus was undefeated before running into Jim Miller last March. The prospect is unquestionably talented, but also reckless at times. The 23-year-old Nurmagomedov has never lost because of his grappling ability. He’ll have an advantage in everything except the standup against Shalorus.
Pick: Nurmagomedov by decision
Welterweight Bout: Charlie Brenneman (14-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) vs. Daniel Roberts (12-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC)
Line: Brenneman -340, Roberts +260
Matchup: Both of these fighters squandered considerable momentum last year. Brenneman was nearing contender status before Anthony Johnson knocked him out in the first round. Roberts has lost two in a row to make a three-fight winning streak in 2010 a distant memory.
Pick: Brenneman by decision
Lightweight Bout: Fabricio Camoes (13-6-1 MMA, 0-1-1 UFC) vs. Tommy Hayden (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Camoes -325, Hayden +250
Matchup: Two grapplers meet in this contest. The San Diego-based Camoes gets a second opportunity in the octagon, while Cincinnati-based Hayden will make his first appearance outside of regional promotions.
Pick: Camoes by TKO
Featherweight Bout: Daniel Pineda (15-7 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Pat Schilling (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Pineda -125, Schilling -105
Matchup: “Thrilling” Schilling has looked unstoppable since turning professional two years ago, stopping all five opponents in the first round. Only one of Pineda’s fights have ever gone to a decision, which resulted in a Bellator loss.
Pick: Schilling by submission
Lightweight Bout: Joseph Sandoval (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Nick Denis (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Sandoval +180, Denis -230
Matchup: Sandoval’s UFC debut didn’t go swimmingly. Walel Watson knocked him out in less than 80 seconds. Sandoval is up against another striker here, as the Montreal-based Denis has nine wins by knockouts.
Pick: Denis by knockout