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UFC on FOX 3 breakdown, betting odds and picks

Nate Diaz drawing support in main event despite underdog status

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Sam Morris

Nate Diaz, Nick Diaz’s brother, listens during a news conference in advance of UFC 143 Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 at Mandalay Bay.

For a favorite of more than 2-to-1, Jim Miller isn’t receiving much support ahead of his UFC on FOX 3 main event bout against Nate Diaz.

An excess of fans and media members are siding with Diaz to pull off an upset over Miller. The Las Vegas Sun’s picks panel is torn on the contest.

Two of the five prognosticators like Diaz to extend his winning streak to three fights in a nationally televised lightweight bout in East Rutherford, N.J., at the Izod Center.

Diaz vs. Miller headlines the main card, which airs on FOX at 5 p.m. Saturday. FUEL TV will televise the preliminary portion of the event at 2 p.m.

Like the main event, there’s plenty of dissension among the five panel members on the rest of the card. They only reached a consensus on four of the 12 bouts, a mark well below average.

Check below for picks from ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto (35-20 year to date), KSNV’s Kevin West (34-21), Las Vegas Sun’s Case Keefer (32-23 year to date), ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield (31-24) and Las Vegas Sun’s Ray Brewer (26-29).

Jim Miller

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’8''
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 10-2
  • MMA record 20-3
  • Out of: Whippany, N.J.
  • Betting line: -225

Nate Diaz

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6’0''
  • Weight: 156
  • UFC record 10-5
  • MMA record 15-7
  • Out of: Stockton, Calif.
  • Betting line: +175

Lightweight Title Eliminator Bout

Main Event

Last fight: First round submission victory over Melvin Guillard at UFC on FX 1.

Punch list: Miller looks bound to spend his career as the fourth- or fifth-best lightweight in the world. He’s beaten everyone thrown in front of him except for the absolute best 155-pound fighters. His three losses have come to champion Ben Henderson, former champion Frankie Edgar and two-time challenger Gray Maynard. The loss to Henderson was the most lopsided, but he’d prefer a rematch with him over Edgar because the two New Jersey natives are acquaintances.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Miller

Cofield: Diaz

Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC 141.

Punch list: The slightly less infamous Diaz brother has rode an elevator of highs and lows over the last year. He’s at the top right now. Diaz upset Cerrone to notch his second straight win since dropping back down to the 155-pound division, where he can use his size and strength to overmatch opponents. Diaz is 8-3 as a lightweight in the UFC, as opposed to 2-2 at welterweight.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Miller

Brewer: Miller

Okamoto: Diaz

Johny Hendricks

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9”
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 7-1
  • MMA record 12-1
  • Out of: Dallas
  • Betting line: -115

Josh Koscheck

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5’10''
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 15-5
  • MMA record 19-5
  • Out of: Fresno, Calif.
  • Betting line: -115

Welterweight Bout

Co-Main Event

Last fight: First round knockout victory over Jon Fitch at UFC 141.

Punch list: No UFC welterweight, not even Koscheck, can claim a stronger wrestling pedigree than Hendricks. “Big Rig” was a four-time All American and two-time national champion at Oklahoma State. His boxing has come along to give him two areas of impenetrable strength. Just ask Koscheck’s friend Fitch, who Hendricks knocked out in 12 seconds. Hendricks has one of the most dangerous left hands in all of mixed martial arts.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Koscheck

Cofield: Hendricks

Last fight: Split decision win over Mike Pierce at UFC 143.

Punch list: Some, including UFC President Dana White, actually thought Pierce deserved to win the decision over Koscheck in February. The former standout wrestler — Koscheck was a four-time All American and won a national championship at Edinboro University — admitted it wasn’t his best performance. Koscheck’s training camp for Pierce was interrupted with a nasty divorce from some of his former coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy. Everything has settled down now, according to Koscheck.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hendricks

Brewer: Koscheck

Okamoto: Koscheck

Alan Belcher

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 186
  • UFC record 8-4
  • MMA record 17-6
  • Out of: Biloxi, Miss.
  • Betting line: +230

Rousimar Palhares

  • Age: 32
  • Height: 5’8’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 7-2
  • MMA record 14-3
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: -290

Middleweight Bout

Featured Fight

Last fight: First round submission victory over Jason MacDonald at UFC Fight Night 25.

Punch list: Inactivity has been Belcher’s greatest opponent over the last two years. He’s only fought twice sine January 2010, winning both contests. A serious eye injury kept him sidelined for an extended period from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011. After coming back, his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child so he took some more time off after beating MacDonald.

Staff picks:KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Palhares

Cofield: Palhares

Last fight: First-round submission victory over Mike Massenzio at UFC 142.

Punch list: Indiana Jones has his whip. Ronda Rousey has her arm bar. Leonardo has his sword. And Palhares has his heel hook. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has the best leg submissions in all of mixed martial arts. Four of his last six UFC fights have ended with heel hooks — two of them inside of two minutes in the first round. “Toquinho” has won five of six and is on a three-fight win streak.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Belcher

Brewer: Palhares

Okamoto: Palhares

Lavar Johnson

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 6’4''
  • Weight: 252
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 16-5
  • Out of: Fresno, Calif.
  • Betting line: +170

Pat Barry

  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’11''
  • Weight: 242
  • UFC record 4-4
  • MMA record 7-4
  • Out of: Alexandria, Minn.
  • Betting line: -210

Heavyweight Bout

Fox Opener

Last fight: Knocked out Joey Beltran at UFC on FOX 2.

Punch list: Johnson thinks his hands will be the difference. As long as he can use his reach advantage to stay on the outside, Johnson envisions using his boxing to knock Barry out. Fifteen of his 16 wins have come by strikes, and none of his fights have reached the scorecards.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Barry

Cofield: Johnson

Last fight: First round knockout victory over Christian Morecraft at UFC on FX 1.

Punch list: Barry believes his kicks will be the difference. He has the most powerful leg strikes in all of MMA. He regularly chops opponents down with fast, authoritative leg kicks that leave welts resembling grapefruits. Barry will look to tenderize Johnson’s leg in order to leave openings for a knockout.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Barry

Brewer: Barry

Okamoto: Barry

Michael Johnson

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’10’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 2-2
  • MMA record 10-6
  • Out of: Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Betting line: +210

Tony Ferguson

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 3-0
  • MMA record 13-2
  • Out of: Ventura, Calif.
  • Betting line: -270

Lightweight Bout

FUEL TV Prelim

Last fight: Beat Shane Roller by unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 2.

Punch list: Like Ferguson, Johnson has opened eyes with his recent performances. He’s gone 2-1 since losing in the finals of “The Ultimate Fighter” 12, beating Roller and Eddie Faaloloto. But this is a massive undertaking. He accepted the bout with the surging Ferguson on five week’s notice after two opponents, Dennis Hallman and Thiago Tavares, pulled out with injury.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Ferguson

Cofield: Ferguson

Last fight: Defeated Yves Edwards by unanimous decision at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: Ferguson keeps climbing up the lightweight ladder. After knocking out his first two opponents, he outlasted Edwards in a spirited striking battle. Ferguson splits his training time at wrestling-heavy DeathClutch Gym in Alexandria, Minn., and Knuckleheadz Boxing in Ventura, Calif. The proficient mix of those two disciplines make Ferguson a tough matchup for anyone at 155 pounds.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Ferguson

Brewer: Johnson

Okamoto: Ferguson

Tim Elliott

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’7’’
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 8-2
  • Out of: Kansas City, Mo.
  • Betting line: +350

John Dodson

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 125
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 12-5
  • Out of: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Betting line: -500

Flyweight Bout

FUEL TV Opener

Last fight: Choked out Josh Rave at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 2.

Punch list: Elliott fills in for Darren Uyenoyama, who bowed out of the event with an injury two weeks ago. With four first-round finishes in his last eight fights, Elliot is a talented flyweight prospect. But he’s getting thrown into a new class of competition here. Elliot’s most notable win came via second-round submission over former UFC champion Jens Pulver.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Dodson

Cofield: Dodson

Last fight: Knocked out T.J. Dillashaw in the first round at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: The always-animated Dodson takes his show from reality television, where he won the 14th season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, to the real octagon this weekend. As a veteran of the regional circuit, it’s a long time coming for Dodson. He speaks of aspirations to hold a UFC title in three different weight classes — flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Dodson

Brewer: Dodson

Okamoto: Dodson

Pascal Krauss

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 10-0
  • Out of: Milwaukee
  • Betting line:+200

John Hathaway

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 170
  • UFC record 5-1
  • MMA record 15-1
  • Out of: Brighton, England
  • Betting line: -250

Welterweight Bout

FUEL TV prelim

Last fight: Unanimous decision win against Mark Scanlon at UFC 122.

Punch list: The UFC attempted to pair Krauss with Hathaway last year, but injuries kept both men from fighting. The German-born fighter is primarily a submission artist, forcing seven opponents to tap out. But he trains under renowned striking coach Duke Roufus to develop his stand-up game.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Hathaway

Cofield: Hathaway

Last fight: Took a split decision win over Kris McCray at UFC Fight Night 24.

Punch list: Because Hathaway signed with the UFC in late 2008, it’s difficult to remember he’s still developing as a young fighter. He looked like a surefire future contender in wins over Diego Sanchez, Paul Taylor and Rick Story. But his hype has stalled a bit with a loss to Mike Pyle and a forgettable performance against McCray.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Hathaway

Brewer: Hathaway

Okamoto: Hathaway

John Lineker

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 136
  • UFC record 0-0
  • MMA record 19-5
  • Out of: Rio de Janeiro
  • Betting line: -325

Louis Gaudinot

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5’3’’
  • Weight: 136
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 5-2
  • Out of: Yonkers, N.Y.
  • Betting line: +250

Flyweight Bout

FUEL TV Prelim

Last fight: Split decision victory over Iliarde Sabino Belo dos Santos at Jungle Fights 32.

Punch list: UFC officials have long spoke of the talent pool for the 125-pound division in Brazil. That’s where they found Lineker, who was one of the best flyweights in the country. He’s won his last 13 fights, capturing the Jungle Fights bantamweight championship in the process. A contract with the UFC allows Lineker to compete at his natural flyweight division.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Lineker

Cofield: Gaudinot

Last fight: Third-round TKO loss to Johnny Bedford at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: Gaudinot was Michael Bisping’s first pick on the last season of “The Ultimate Fighter” because of his knockout power. But fighting well above his natural weight class at 135 pounds proved too much for the green-haired Gaudinot to overcome. He’ll get more of a fair shake with the UFC’s implementation of the flyweight class.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Lineker

Brewer: Gaudinot

Okamoto: Gaudinot

John Cholish

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 8-1
  • Out of: New York City
  • Betting line: Even

Danny Castillo

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 155
  • UFC record 3-1
  • MMA record 12-4
  • Out of: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Betting line: -130

Lightweight Bout

FUEL TV Prelim

Last fight: Second-round TKO win over Mitch Clarke at UFC 140.

Punch list: Many are fascinated by Cholish’s story. The Cornell graduate works on Wall Street as a commodities broker, training during lunch breaks and before work with renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and former UFC fighter Renzo Gracie. Predictably, submissions are the strongest part of his game.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Castillo

Cofield: Castillo

Last fight: Defeated Anthony Njokuani by split decision at UFC 141.

Punch list: As part of Urijah Faber’s coaching staff on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Castillo has been spending time in Las Vegas leading up to the fight with Cholish. The Team Alpha Male member should have his way with Cholish when it comes to wrestling. Castillo was an All American at Melo College in Northern California.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Castillo

Brewer: Castillo

Okamoto: Castillo

Pablo Garza

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6’1’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 2-1
  • MMA record 11-2
  • Out of: Fargo, N.D.
  • Betting line: +145

Dennis Bermudez

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5’6’’
  • Weight: 145
  • UFC record 0-1
  • MMA record 7-3
  • Out of: Lindenhurst, N.Y.
  • Betting line: -175

Featherweight Bout

FUEL TV Prelim

Last fight: Second-round submission loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC on FOX 1.

Punch list: The rangy Garza has a reach advantage over virtually anyone in the 145-pound division. He’s susceptible to submissions on the ground, however, as seen when he tapped out to chokes in two of his last four fights. “The Scarecrow” has an offensive submission game of his own, highlighted by the flying triangle choke he used to beat Yves Jabouin at UFC 129 last year.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Bermudez

Cofield: Bermudez

Last fight: Lost by submission to Diego Brandao at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale in the first round.

Punch list: “The Menace” won four fights in “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 to reach the finals against Brandao. Since those reality-television victories count as exhibitions, however, Bermudez’s record shows he’s on a three-fight losing streak. All the losses have come by submissions, which has to sound troubling for a dominant wrestler. Bermudez’s greatest strength is getting opponents to the ground, but he needs to improve his defense for how he responds when he gets there.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Bermudez

Brewer: Bermudez

Okamoto: Garza

Nick Denis

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 135
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 11-2
  • Out of: Montreal
  • Betting line: -250

Roland Delorme

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 5’9’’
  • Weight: 134
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 7-1
  • Out of: Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Betting line: +200

Bantamweight Bout

Preliminary Dark Match

Last fight: Knocked out Joseph Sandoval in the first round at UFC on FX 1.

Punch list: Before the elbows Jon Jones threw at Rashad Evans while standing at UFC 145 became the talk of MMA, Denis did the same thing with an even more brutal result. Denis unloaded successful elbows to put Sandoval to sleep in 22 seconds four months ago. “The Ninja Of Love” has 10 career victories by knockout.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Denis

Cofield: Denis

Last fight: Defeated Josh Ferguson by third-round submission at “The Ultimate Fighter” 14 finale.

Punch list: It seems like an unwritten rule that every card must have a classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Delorme vs. Denis is UFC on FOX 3’s version. Delorme is the grappler. He’s lethal when fights get to the ground, registering five submission victories with four of them coming inside of the first round.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Denis

Brewer: Denis

Okamoto: Denis

Karlos Vemola

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6’0’’
  • Weight: 205
  • UFC record 1-2
  • MMA record 8-2
  • Out of: London
  • Betting line: -130

Mike Massenzio

  • Age: 29
  • Height: 6’2’’
  • Weight: 185
  • UFC record 1-0
  • MMA record 2-4
  • Out of: Paterson, N.J.
  • Betting line: Even

Middleweight Bout

Preliminary Dark Match

Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Rony Markes at UFC on Versus 5.

Punch list: If Vemola was ever regarded as an up-and-coming prospect, that time has ended. He’s failed to live up to the undefeated pedigree he brought into the UFC. Vemola will fight in his third weight class at UFC on FOX 3. He signed with the UFC as a heavyweight before moving to light heavyweight after a loss to Jon Madsen. Now, he’s down to 185 pounds.

Staff picks: KSNV and ESPN Radio

West: Vemola

Cofield: Massenzio

Last fight: Submitted by Rousimar Palhares in the first round at UFC 142.

Punch list: Stylistically, Massenzio has to like the matchup with Vemola. The New Jersey native is a standout wrestler, and Vemola also prefers jockeying against an opponent for takedowns. This is probably a must-win for both fighters to keep their job, but it’s especially true for Massenzio. He’s gone only 1-2 since the UFC re-signed him as a late replacement at UFC 131 last summer.

Staff picks: Las Vegas Sun and ESPN.com

Keefer: Vemola

Brewer: Vemola

Okamoto: Vemola

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

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