Two of MMA’s best flyweights will take center stage on Friday at the BankAtlantic Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., as Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson square off in their highly anticipated rematch. In addition, top bantamweight talents Eddie Wineland and Scott Jorgensen will collide, while Erick Silva and Mike Pyle lock horns with fellow welterweights Charlie Brenneman and Josh Neer.
Prior to the four-fight main draw on the FX network, a slew of undercard attractions will be contested on Fuel TV. Here are five reasons to tune into the Red Bull Network and peep the sweet undercard action at UFC on FX 3:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on FX 3 Free Fan Pick’Em
Despite owning a reputation as one of the most solid welterweights on the planet, poor Mike Pierce just cannot buy a decision when he needs one the most.
The Oregonian’s resume is undoubtedly eye-catching, but his losses speak more about his abilities than do his victories. Since joining the UFC, Pierce has lost just three fights, giving contenders Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks all they could handle before coming up short on the judges’ scorecards.
The latter two were especially close calls and ended up as split decisions, knocking Pierce back down the welterweight ladder. Had the judges seen those fights differently, we would likely be talking about Pierce in the same breath as Martin Kampmann when discussing the worthiest of challengers for Carlos Condit’s interim belt.
In his return to the Octagon, the hard-punching wrestler faces another chance to right his ship and gather steam for another run at the UFC’s 170-pound elite. Standing across the cage will be Carlos Eduardo Rocha, a potent grappler who finds himself back in the cage after spending 16 months on the shelf. The Brazilian suffered his lone career defeat at the hands of contender Jake Ellenberger in his most recent outing, dropping a split verdict to “The Juggernaut” at UFC 126.
Can Pierce avoid the dangerous submission game of Rocha and start his climb back toward the top of the division, or will Rocha slip inside of Pierce’s offense and lock up a submission on the man who has never before been finished?
Fun on the Fringe
If I had to guess, I think Hank Hill would probably describe Seth Baczynski’s pairing with Lance Benoist as “a keg of dynamite.”
When you think of contenders in the welterweight division, the names Baczynski and Benoist probably are not the ones that immediately spring to mind. Nevertheless, both men have performed impressively in their UFC careers to date, and the winner could find himself in some bigger fights if he continues that trend.
A middleweight finalist on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11, Baczynski was outpointed by Brad Tavares at the live finale and received his walking papers as a result. Following consecutive wins outside of the Octagon, “The Polish Pistola” was called back to the promotion as a welterweight, stepping in for an injured DaMarques Johnson to face Clay Harvison in September; he dominated “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 alum en route to a second-round submission. Baczynski maintained his momentum in his next in-cage appearance, finishing Matt Brown with a second-round guillotine choke at UFC 139.
Just 23 years old, Benoist entered the Octagon as a virtual unknown in his promotional debut against Matt Riddle, but he did not exit the cage as one. Benoist went toe-to-toe with his durable foe, getting the better of Riddle in the first two rounds en route to a unanimous decision and a “Fight of the Night” bonus.
Both Baczynski and Benoist throw heavy leather and share a pleasingly aggressive attitude toward submissions. Benoist will likely find himself at a size disadvantage on fight night, but the crafty southpaw could very well make up for it with his quickness and scrambling ability. Who will take another step toward relevance in the ultra-competitive UFC welterweight division?
Guilty Pleasure Garcia
Love him or hate him, you have to hand it to Leonard Garcia.
His offense may be wild at times -- OK, all the time -- but it is hard to deny the simple pleasure involved in watching a man walk forward and wing bombs for 15 minutes. You always know what to expect from Garcia, even if the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product has become notorious for winning controversial decisions based on his aggression, regardless of its actual effectiveness.
That notwithstanding, Garcia’s power cannot be overlooked. If one of those haymakers finds the chin of his opponent, it is pretty much night-night time. This is a hypothetical that Matt Grice should avoid at all costs.
While Garcia is certainly a dangerous opponent, he has also proved to be a predicable one for the same reason he is so exciting. Grice should use Garcia’s aggression against him and rely on his solid wrestling base to put the former WEC title contender on his back, where his power will be nullified.
Of course, there is always a chance that Grice will be drawn into a firefight, and for that reason, this fight is worth a watch.
I bet Dustin Pague wants a do-over.
After introducing himself to the UFC audience as an early favorite on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Pague was outwrestled by T.J. Dillashaw in the show’s semifinals, receiving a full-blown beating while on his back. More “TUF” times would follow for the fighter in his meeting with castmate John Albert at the live finale, as Pague was knocked out in just 69 seconds by the “Prince.”
Still searching for his first official win in the UFC’s growing bantamweight division, Pague takes on Jared Papazian, another 24-year-old with serious potential. A former King of the Cage 135-pound champion, Papazian showed some sharp standup skills against veteran Mike Easton at UFC on FX 1 before ultimately coming up short in a majority decision.
Papazian needs to avoid engaging in the same type of controlled slugfest with Pague, a long and dangerous striker who should be able to land shots from much farther away than Easton. Papazian’s ticket to ride relies on head movement and explosiveness. “The Jackhammer” needs to stay either inside or outside against “The Disciple” and avoid exchanging within his punching range. Hanging out in the clinch would also be a mistake for Papazian, who should immediately look to put Pague on his back upon closing the distance.
Will Pague return to the form that saw him demolish Louis Gaudinot in the Season 14 quarterfinals, or can Papazian snatch his first Octagon victory and show his excellent performance against Easton was no fluke?
Hecht’s Heart vs. Pierson’s Perseverance
Many say you can learn more from a loss than from a victory. I do not know if that is true, but I do know you can learn a lot about a man from how performs in his next fight after getting his butt whipped.
Some guys take a loss and shrink from it. Others will use the setback as motivation to improve and come back better for it. Both Jake Hecht and Sean Pierson will enter the Octagon carrying with them the need for a win.
After an impressive UFC debut against Rich Attonito, Hecht made a critical error against T.J. Waldburger by offering his arm to the submission ace during a first-round scramble. Likewise, Pierson has suffered back-to-back defeats since his solid debut against Riddle, suffering a criminally brutal knockout at the hands of Jake Ellenberger before being outpointed by Dong Hyun Kim.
Though not an exact science, consecutive losses in the UFC often leads to a pink slip, the worst-case scenario for any fighter. Those welterweight waters are deep, boys; time to sink or swim.