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UFC on FOX 3 blog: Nate Diaz continues title push by choking out Jim Miller

Decision goes Johny Hendricks’ way in co-main event against Josh Koscheck

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Gregory Payan / AP Photo

Nate Diaz celebrates his win against Jim Miller after their lightweight bout at UFC on Fox at the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Diaz won via tapout due to a choke in round 2.

Updated Saturday, May 5, 2012 | 7:20 p.m.

UFC on Fox 3

Nate Diaz, bottom, sinks in the fight-winning choke against Jim Miller during the second round of their lightweight bout at UFC on Fox at the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Diaz won via tapout due to the choke in round 2. Launch slideshow »

Note: Scroll to the bottom for full results from the preliminary card.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A Diaz brother may soon fight for a UFC title.

It's just not the one everyone would have expected a few months ago. Nate Diaz won his third straight fight since dropping back to lightweight in the main event of UFC on FOX 3 Saturday at the Izod Center, forcing Jim Miller to tap out to a guillotine choke at 4:09 of the second round.

"I'm trying to be No. 1 in this world," Diaz exclaimed after the victory.

The Stockton, Calif. native regularly calls his brother, UFC welterweight Nick Diaz, "the best fighter in the world". But Nate is the one who may soon have an opportunity to prove his superiority.

Diaz earned the No. 1 contender distinction with the victory over Miller. He will either face the winner of a lightweight championship rematch between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar or take another fight against one of top fighters in the division in the interim.

"He deserves that shot," Miller said. "There shouldn't be any step in his way."

Diaz frustrated Miller by keeping his distance and teeing off in the nine minutes their fight lasted. A significant strike that rocked Miller forced him to shoot in for a takedown, which led to his submission loss.

It was the third upset in four main-card fights that aired on FOX. Alan Belcher also stunned Rousimar Palhares in middleweight action, earning a TKO win due to ground-and-pound strikes at 4:18 of the first round. Lavar Johnson knocked out Pat Barry in the first round of heavyweight action, using a combination to end things at 4:38.

The bout that will draw the most post-fight discussion, however, was Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks. Hendricks eked out a split-decision victory (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) in a fight that could have gone either way.

Hendricks hurt Koscheck — whose suffered severe swelling around his right eye — with strikes in the second round, but spent two minutes of the third round trapped on his back and eating punches. It came down to who the judges thought won in the first round.

“I knew he was a tough fighter," Hendricks said. "You’re not a top contender for as long as he’s been if you’re not good. I’ve actually been a little under the weather for the last few weeks, so I’m thrilled to have gotten through all that and still picked up the win."

Check below for full results from UFC on FOX 3 and check back later for more coverage.

Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller

Second Round They exchange to start the round, but Diaz's strikes seem to have more oomph behind them. Miller clinches up, but Diaz reverses and pushes him into the fence. Short right hands fly into Miller's temple. Back in the middle now and it looks like Miller's nose is bleeding. It's nothing serious, though. Miller comes in and follows a right hand with a knee. "Let's go Miller" chants start from the hometown crowd, as Diaz keeps up his hectic pace. He taunts Miller after landing his biggest strike yet, a left hand. Miller flies in with a knee that misses. Diaz taunts some more and Miller lands a soft kick to the chin. They're clinched up and Diaz hurts Miller with two straight knees to the head. Miller is on his knees. Back up now, he's taking more knees from Diaz. Miller can't figure out Diaz, who is keeping him at range with the jab. Now Diaz lands elbows, which makes Miller shoot desperately for a takedown. He gets it, but Diaz sinks in a choke. Miller tries to get out, but Diaz tightens the hold on his guillotine. Miller is forced to tap out. Nate Diaz beats Jim Miller by second-round submission with a guillotine at 4:09.

First Round Miller puts up his gloves for Diaz to touch, but the Stockton, Calif. refuses. He's mean-mugging Miller with the same intensity as any other opponent, despite the fact that they carry no animosity. Miller kicks Diaz to the body early. Diaz clinches up, but Miller pushes him into the fence. They trade knees. Miller looks to lift up for a slam, but Diaz is too strong to let that happen. Miller keeps firing his knees. He loses balance after one and falls to the mat. Diaz kicks him as he works his way back to his feet. Diaz is in rhythm from a distance, but Miller clinches up again. They're out and Diaz is out-landing Miller for a solid 30-second stretch. They clinch up against after a few exchanges. Miller is in the better position, but Diaz won't go to the ground. Diaz fires a knee into Miller's face and throws a combination as they back out. Miller throws an elbow and an uppercut. He backs up and Diaz drops him with a right hand. He pounces and goes for a choke, but Miller recovers. He gets in position and tries to choke out Diaz. But they're both OK. Some wild scrambling finishes off the round, which Diaz wins 10-9.

Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks

Third Round Hendricks is the aggressor, tossing a leg kick after a few jabs. The time of Koscheck moving forward is over, as it's now Hendricks who is stalking the two-time No. 1 contender. Koscheck shoots and presses Hendricks against the fence. The referee breaks them up after no action materializes. They get into a wild striking exchange on the other side of the cage. It continues further and Hendricks hurts Koscheck. His face is swollen badly now. Koscheck hasn't given up, though. After taking punishment for 10 straight seconds, he sends Hendricks crashing into the fence with a right hand. Hendricks ties Koscheck up before they're broken apart again. Koscheck's face is starting to look worse and Hendricks is holding nothing bad. He fires a knee into Koscheck's bruised orbital area, which clearly hurts "The Ultimate Fighter" 1 veteran. He secures a takedown to get away from Hendricks' power. Koscheck passes into half guard. He's throwing strikes from the top while he can. Koscheck finds some success going to Hendricks' body. Bell rings and Koscheck has stolen this one, 29-28, on this scorecard. Johny Hendricks defeats Josh Koscheck by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).

Second Round Koscheck jabs early, before Hendricks rushes in and pushes him back with an overhand right. Hendricks tries a couple leg kicks before pushing forward again. Koscheck counters on one of the advances with an abbreviated uppercut. Hendricks shoots for a takedown, but Koscheck sprawls. He spins around and nearly takes Hendricks' back. But he abandons that plan as Hendricks turns into a better position. Back on their feet, Koscheck lands a combination. Hendricks shoots again and gets Koscheck pressed against the cage on the ground. Koscheck elbows Hendricks to the side before working his way to his feet. Hendricks throws knees into Koscheck, who is not in a good position. The crowd boos as action has slowed. Referee breaks them apart and Koscheck comes right out swinging hard again. Hendricks is now finding his rhythm, however, and tags Koscheck with a left hand coming forward. There's another. Koscheck looks for a takedown, but Hendricks stuffs it. They exchange strikes from the clinch. It looks like they came out about even. Koscheck has some swelling under his right eye, the same place his orbital bone was broken against Georges St. Pierre in 2010. He's not quite as aggressive as he was in the opening round. Hendricks presses Koscheck against the fence as the round ends. Hendricks takes the second and it's tied at 19 going to the third.

First Round Koscheck has already lasted longer than his good friend Jon Fitch with Hendricks as the 12-second mark passes and Koscheck throws a kick to the body. They are exchanging kicks with Koscheck going up top for one. Koscheck comes forward and connects with a right hand. Hendricks counters. It looks like Koscheck may have poked him in the eye, but there's no pause from the referee. Koscheck continues to stalk Hendricks and swings hard. Hendricks shoots for a takedown, but Koscheck uses his speed to get away. Hendricks finally touches Koscheck with a left hand, forcing him to back into the fence. Hendricks takes Koscheck down, but only for a second. He pops back up. Hendricks throws repeated knees to Koscheck's side and thigh. The referee breaks them apart around the midway point of the round. Koscheck jabs, but Hendricks moves in and fires a left hand. Koscheck's turn now, who lands successive hooks to Hendrick's temple. Hendricks shoots again, but Koscheck stays on his feet. He pummels Hendricks against the fence with a combination. Speed is a huge factor for Koscheck, as he's using his feet to get away from Hendricks' advances. Hendricks grazes Koscheck with an uppercut as the crowd cheers against the hated veteran. Spinning back fist from Koscheck scores some points as round expires. Koscheck wins the first 10-9.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher

First Round Belcher moves forwards and jabs at Palhares, who is taking a patient approach. Palhares throws a front kick that Belcher easily backs away from. Palhares shoots right in and gets Belcher down. This is not good for the Biloxi, Miss., native. Palhares grabs a hold of Belcher's leg, looking for a heel hook. Belcher passes. He's safe for now. Palhares is still in top position until Belcher sweeps, but that gives Palhares a better grip on his opponent's leg. The audience gasps as Palhares tries another leg lock. Belcher is out and throws some ground-and-pound while continuing to attempt to get back to his feet. The same sequence repeats with Palhares unable to make much progress on his submission attempt and Belcher making him pay. Belcher is now in Palhares' guard and raining elbows. Palhares is covering up. He's in trouble. The official waves Belcher off. That's it. Alan Belcher defeats Rousimar Palhares by TKO at 4:18 of the first round.

Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson

First Round They touch gloves and Johnson swings first. Nice head movement from Barry, who is elusive from the start. Barry fires one of his patented leg kicks and it staggers Johnson. Barry backs Johnson into the fence and they swing away at each other when they break out of a clinch. Barry hits Johnson's leg with another whipping kick. They clinch up against the cage and Johnson is throwing knees into Barry's face. After a wild exchange, Barry shoots for a surprising takedown. Johnson sprawls to get away and briefly looks for a choke. Barry transitions and now he's in side control. Everyone said this fight had no chance to go to the ground. But that's where it is with three minutes to go. Barry gets a hold of Johnson's arm. He's cranking a kimura. Johnson grimaces, but refuses to tap. He's free, but Barry still has dominant position. He's in the crucifix now. Barry throws ground-and-pound when he can. The referee warns him to stay busy. Johnson gets to a knee and eventually to his feet. "Big" eats two right hands from Barry. But he throws a knee from the clinch to hurt Barry. There's a head kick. Now, Johnson is teeing off on Barry against the fence. Barry is trying to hold on for 30 more seconds, but falls to the ground. Lavar Johnson knocks out Pat Barry at 4:38 of the first round.

Pre-main card

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When no one can agree on which main card fight they’re most looking forward to, the UFC can feel confident that it put together an intriguing event.

UFC on FOX 3 comes off as a card high on the action level on paper. The four fights that will air on network television beginning in a few minutes all hold about the same level of significance.

Three of them have polarized UFC fans when it comes to predictions. The main event between Nate Diaz and Jim Miller, the co-main event pairing Josh Koscheck with Johny Hendricks and a heavyweight slugfest with Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson are close to pick’em fights.

That’s yet another sign of good matchmaking on the UFC’s part. Diaz vs. Miller is the kind of fight that shapes up as can’t-miss based on styles.

Diaz constantly trudges forward in his bouts, while Miller is also used to being the aggressor. Diaz has more relentless boxing. Both are exceptional when it comes to submissions. But Diaz has traditionally run into trouble with wrestlers, so Miller’s advantage in that area is what makes him a slight favorite.

Koscheck and Hendricks are eerily similar fighters. Both were decorated wrestlers before getting into mixed martial arts, and have takedown ability that few can match. Except each other. Their wrestling acumen makes it likely the fight will take place on the feet, where both have undeniable knockout power.

Even so, a stoppage would go down as a minor surprise in Koscheck vs. Hendricks. The lack of a stoppage would register stunning in Barry vs. Johnson.

The two heavy-handed men are expected to go at each other with a ferociousness that can only be expected in a bout featuring two guys who nearly weigh 500 pounds combined.

Rousimar Palhares is a 3-to-1 favorite over Alan Belcher in a middleweight bout, the final of the four matchups on FOX. But no one is counting Belcher out. Belcher has an advantage standing, but Palhares is expected to submit him with one of his feared leg locks if the fight hits the ground.

Stay tuned for a live round-by-round blog of the main card on lasvegassun.com and look below for full results from the preliminary card.

The final fight on the preliminary card may have fit better at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto. Tony Ferguson and Michael Johnson initiated a full-fledged boxing match. It was to Johnson's advantage. Johnson beat Ferguson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in their lightweight bout to hand the "TUF" 13 champion his first loss in the octagon.

John Dodson ensured "The Ultimate Fighter" 14 veterans went undefeated at the Izod Center. Dodson defeated UFC newcomer Tim Elliott by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in their flyweight fight to improve "TUF" 14 fighters to 4-0 on the night. Dodson may have broken his left hand during the bout.

John Hathaway won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over Pascal Krauss in a welterweight bout. Krauss fought through a slew of punishment, including a knee to the face that floored him in the first round and several kicks to the chin in the final stanza, to reach the scorecards.

Louis Gaudinot upset John Lineker in a catchweight (127) bout. The two stood toe-to-toe and swung at each other for the majority of the opening nine minutes. Lineker, who missed the flyweight limit of 126 pounds at yesterday's weigh-in, was getting the best of Gaudinot until "The Ultimate Fighter" 14 veteran got a hold of his neck. "I knew I had it," Gaudinot said. "Once I'm under the chin, they're done." Gaudinot choked Lineker unconscious with a guillotine at 4:54 of the second round.

Danny Castillo got past John Cholish in a plodding lightweight affair that was not popular among the fans in attendance. All three judges scored it 30-27 to give Castillo a unanimous decision victory over Cholish.

Dennis Bermudez defeated Pablo Garza via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) in their featherweight contest. Bermudez was able to control Garza on the ground for the duration of the fight after using body slams to get there.

In a bantamweight fight that got the Izod Center crowd on their feet early, Roland Delorme submitted Nick Denis at 4:59 of the first round. Denis rocked Delorme several times early with a combination of knees and right hands, but the submission artist endured the punishment to get the fight to the ground where he wanted it.

Karlos Vemola defeated Mike Massenzio by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:07 of the second round in their middleweight bout. The finish followed a spirited first round that featured each man securing a takedown and staggering the other with strikes.

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

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